If you want to establish yourself in a field as unconventional as theater, doing what you like may not be easy. It does not matter which part of the world you belong to, pursuing your passion most of the time can be extremely challenging. But Akanchha Karki was ready to confront any kind of challenges when she established Katha Ghera, a self-sustaining theater circuit, with her friend, Gunjan Dixit.
Katha Ghera is a group entirely run, organized, and conducted by women. This is their attempt to create a ‘women-only’ theatrical space in order to explore the hidden stories of women in Nepal. This group not only aims to produce women storytellers but they also intend to bring out those voices that have been suppressed since generations. They love listening to, enacting, and working with stories.
How it all started
Akanchha Karki was just in the fourth grade when she knowingly or unknowingly fell in love with something that eventually became an inseparable part of her life. It was for a school play that her teachers made her read a script in Nepali. Luckily, she was better in Nepali language than most of her classmates and was given the lead role.
“Ever since then I became an integral part of every theatrical performance at school,” says Karki. Having said that, Karki was not among one of those famous and sociable kids who liked being in the limelight. She was actually an introvert and confesses that she still is one. But on stage she is a completely different person.
“I have two different personalities, one onstage and the other offstage,” says Karki adding that even till date she is not very comfortable talking to people. She is very reserved and talks only when required. But on stage, she is bold, confident. and charismatic.
Her passion for theater drove her to establish Kausi theater that is a black box theater on the rooftop of Karki’s own house.
The journey of Kausi theater
Dixit and Karki were friends who studied theater, psychology, and English at Bangalore in India. After coming back to Nepal both of them did try finding secure jobs for themselves.
However, they were not satisfied with their lives. They did not find the happiness they were looking for in their stable jobs. Hence, in order to pursue what they actually loved, this duo established Katha Ghera in the year 2017.
Karki also realized that they needed a space where they could rehearse, practice, and collaborate. That is when she thought of opening a theater on the terrace of her home and aptly named it Kausi.
Katha Khera circuit encourages new and budding theater artists to grow, flourish, and collaborate. This space aims to groom Nepali talents and work towards improving our society through various art forms.
The concept of playback theater
Katha Ghera organizes playback theater at the end of every month. Playback theater is actually a form of theater where the stories of the audiences are enacted on the spot without any prior practice. It’s a very interactive and intimate theatrical practice where the stories of audiences come to life. This kind of plays usually happen in enclosed spaces such as classrooms, halls, or any other kind of closed areas.
In these playback theaters, there is usually a conductor, actors, and musicians. The actors rehearse a play several times in order to understand one another’s body languages and also to sync as a whole.
Their set of regular audiences include people affected by war, sex workers, differently abled people, orphans etc. Katha Ghera has also conducted various charitable playback theaters at orphanages, old aged homes, and rescue shelters.
Psychological counseling is an important aspect of Katha Ghera, and that is mostly handled by Karki herself. Although she is also open to one to one counseling sessions, Karki believes in helping people through theater.
Their production Vagina Monologues is one of Katha Ghera’s such attempts. This annual production tries to explore women’s sexuality and the taboos that revolve around it. According to Karki, the issues that the performers pick up are usually very sensitive and they conduct a series of counselling sessions to help them with their performances.
“These kinds of performances are usually traumatic. But we try to bring up these stories in a very subtle manner without disturbing the psychology of our performers or the audiences,” says Karki.
Karki also believes in using theater as a form of therapy to enhance a person’s personality and wellbeing.
Community engagement and workshop
Katha Ghera also tries to engage with the community through various theatrical tools. They focus on socio-political and psycho-social issues. They also try to explore the areas of gender sensitization and mental health awareness.
Their workshops cater to both rural and urban communities. This kind of engagement involves raising the participants’ awareness on various social, political, emotional and psychological issues. It also helps the community in identifying their strengths.
Theater for children
For children aged 9 to 14 who are interested in performing, Katha Ghera conducts a six months introductory workshop. The workshops teach children every aspect of theater production.
Karki believes that theater teaches life skills. While setting up a play, children learn important lessons that cannot be acquired inside classrooms. “I was an introvert but theater gave me the confidence to be myself, to tell my stories. And I want to share the same experience with the younger generation,” says Karki.