Photo by Shaheen Peer
Tushar is a theatre maker, actor, and teaching artist.
He has a Bachelor's in Mass Media from Mumbai University,
a degree in Acting and Theatre Making from Drama School Mumbai and an MFA in Ensemble Based Physical Theatre from the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California.
From 2017-19, he worked at Dell’Arte as an Instructor (co-teaching games and sports, and the adaptation project) and Marketing Director, and was part of the Dell’Arte Company. He conceived, directed, and was one of the performers of the recurring annual event Stories in the Tent, a free-of-cost immersive night of storytelling that brought to life stories written by members of the community. He was also a mainstay at Dell’Arte’s cabarets, often as an MC.
In 2018, he co-founded the Otherland Theatre Ensemble with whom he has since created and performed two original shows: Eli and The Bear which toured to the California State Summer School for the Arts in L.A. in early 2018, and Forgive us, Gustavito; which won “Best of Fringe” at the Charm City Fringe Festival in Baltimore later that year.
Tushar is currently based in Bengaluru where he is the Associate Course Leader and a Faculty member at the Drama School Mumbai, is a facilitator with Paani Foundation, and continues to explore the intersection between environmentalism and theatre making/actor training. His current preoccupations include a dark comedy about an insect, dystopian worlds, and the story of a superhero who doesn’t fight.
At the outset, I admit that I do not have all the answers. I reject the age-old Indian tradition of “guru-shishya” or, in the West, the genius teacher and their disciples.
And so, I extend an invitation to the class to quest together while recognizing and addressing the inherent hierarchies and power dynamics present in the room. It is my responsibility to articulate to the class how I choose to wield authority and the avenues available to them to consistently be in dialogue with me about our work together*. Together we articulate the class’ brave space agreements so that we have the opportunity to engage with each other in the classroom using consent-based best practices. It is my hope that in beginning our work this way, we set a precedent for being able to define how we can bring our best selves to our creative practices, and do it in a way that acknowledges every voice in the room.
Over the last few years, my creative research in theatre classrooms, rehearsal rooms, and performance spaces has been inexorably linked to my interest in the relationships we have with the environment and my work addressing and responding to climate change.
In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer describes the idea of “restoryation,” the act of telling stories that highlight the fact that humans and the natural world can indeed co-exist in harmony, and have a long history of doing so.
It proposes a shift in gaze.
My teaching philosophy is inspired by this idea. While teaching games, movement, ensemble dynamics, and character development, I propose to the class an adoption of an external gaze. Existing in the second circle*, seeing the world around us (our environment) and seeing each other (the ensemble).
The objective of engaging in this kind of work isn’t to produce athletes but to train actors to be aware of their bodies (in isolation, and with others), to be present in the moment, to play, and to be available and responsive. We are working with “athletes of the heart”* to be able to see the world and each other with a renewed sense of awe. To quote late performance artist Takuzo Kubikukuri, “to see as if you were seeing for the first and last time.”
When we practice this way of seeing, and this way of being, we allow ourselves the possibility of gazing inwards with as much curiosity, wonder, and love. This, I believe, is the first step towards becoming a transformative actor.
By fostering a culture of discovery, the students learn to see for themselves rather than seek approval from an authority figure. My work is also to celebrate the discoveries of the group and the individual, and to instill a culture of celebrating the self. Through our work together, students must feel a sense of ownership about what they discover, and must not turn back to me to validate their work or their worth. I believe this is a small but significant step in countering a culture that insists that validation must be bestowed upon us by another. We are training artists who must be self-possessed and must believe in themselves and their stories. This practice begins in our classroom.
How do we make sense of a rapidly changing world? I believe we do this much like we did in the beginning: Around a bonfire (metaphorical in case a literal one isn’t always available), embodying the ‘other’ that is different from us, yet brings us closer to understanding ourselves. We are interested in embodying the spirit of the other, while investing in physical movement that inspires us, and stillness that moves us.
All of that being said, I accept that nothing is set in stone. Ideas and beliefs are subject to change and must be challenged with compassion. “The light of any poet is contradiction. I haven’t tried to force my position on anyone -- that would be unworthy of poetry.”*
Photo by Becca Finney
Photo by Joan Schirle
Photo by Robi Arce
* Inspired by the work of Dr. Sylvia Spears.
* From Patsy Rodenburg’s 3 Circles of Energy.
* Antonin Artaud, The Theatre and Its Double.
* Federico Garcia Lorca, The Irresistible Beauty of All Things.