Showtime Folks

By- Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, The Hindu

A group of five women are creating ripples in Gurgaon through their theatre company USP

An all-women theatre group! Yes, that’s what makes this bunch of perky five from Gurgaon — Ruby Kapoor, Aarti Singh, Vanessa Ojha, Sumita Tayal and Farah Singh — stand out. Two years ago they set up Urban Suburban Productions (USP), purely because of where they all were geographically. USP came about through a need, a passion.

“When we moved to Gurgaon some 15 years ago, there was no cultural activity there. For any play, music or dance recital, we had to come to Delhi. To fill the gap we started an organisation called Aravali Centre for Art and Culture. By and by, the Centre drew interested people and that is how we got to know each other,” says Ruby. After some time they realised that they share a craze for theatre. And before they knew it they had USP in their hands.

But USP is not all about women, all the time. “Though we are an all-women group, we have consciously decided not to confine ourselves to women-centric drama only. Simply because it would be then limiting us and also, theatre is everybody’s medium.”

This past Saturday and Sunday, they had a reason to stage a women-centric play, “Vexed in the City”, at Epicentre, Gurgaon to celebrate International Women’s Day. The play — its title a spoof on the popular tele-series “Sex And The City” — was an entertaining portrayal of the real woman, her quirks, insecurities, strengths and the power of resilience. “The play had four vignettes — three of 10-minute duration and one of 40 minutes. We have scripted one of the four 10-minuters, the rest were from published plays,” says Vanessa, the play’s director. Last March, USP staged a play on menopause; this year a vignette on mammogram.” The proceeds from the production went towards breast cancer awareness.

The group works alongside constant family and job demands, between kids’ homework, picking and dropping them at their extra-curricular activities classes, absent maids, visiting in-laws, long office meetings. Each one’s role is cut out. “While Ruby looks after production and sponsorship, Sumita does the costume, Aarti designs the stage, Farah scripts and I direct or vice versa. It is besides the point that we all also act in our plays.” While Sumita has taken a sabbatical from work, the rest have a full-time job in corporate organisations. “I look forward to 6 P.M. most days when my working hours would get over and I could meet up with the rest in my basement for rehearsals,” says Ruby.

So what’s their USP? “To present memorable theatrical experiences with high quality sets and innovative lighting to a suburban audience. We emphasise on talented actors,” says Vanessa. To create a pool of good actors particularly in a place which has more malls than auditoriums, they hold auditions before every production.

“Today, we have actors from a huge stretch of age span. While our youngest is a 13 year old, the oldest is a 65 year old. We even have a CEO of a multinational in our recent cast.”

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