OSA Regional Drama Festival – a Recap of 4 yearsBy Sandip K. Dasverma
History:OSA Odia Regional Drama Festival (RDF) will complete 5 years in 2013. RDF was introduced in 2008 when the author was in OSA National Executive, 2007-2009*. The first RDF was staged in the year 2009 in Michigan by OSA Michigan Chapter. It was titled Northern Regional Drama Festival. In four years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, we have held thirteen drama festivals where forty four dramas were presented. (See attached List). Initially, as per an OSA national executive resolution in 2008, SriGopal Mohanty was appointed as the sole Coordinator to organize RDF in different regions of North America. In 2010 at his initiative, a three member Coordination Committee was formed consisting of: Sandip K. Dasverma, Sri Gopal Mohanty and Brajendra Panda (Chair). This was confirmed by a resolution of OSA General Body Meeting at Dallas Convention, 2011. At the end of 2011, Sri Gopal Mohanty withdrew from the Committee but remained an active advisor. In 2012, Brajendra Panda also retired from the team. In Seattle convention of 2012, two great drama lovers Priyadarshi Dash and Priyaranjan Mohapatra were nominated to the drama Coordination Committee with Sandip Dasverma, as Chair.
Over years, four flexible regions have been identified: Eastern, Northern/ North Eastern, Central/ Northern(Chicago) and South Western. There have always been attempts to cover other areas. We are eagerly eyeing on Atlanta and surroundings and the Pacific Coast. A most successful and promising development was this year’s Pacific South Western RDF held for the first time at Woodside, CA. It is also hoped that a RDF will be held soon in the Atlantic South Eastern region at Charlotte, NC. Three more RDFs are also due to happen, one at Toronto, Canada, the other two at Boston, MA and Austin, TX in September, 2013.
Concept:The original concept of Regional Drama Festival was:
- To revive the community contact via visiting families from outside the area and staying with host families of the visited area, like initial OSA convention days.
- To hold low cost regional mini-OSA gatherings, so as to enhance comradery among members and friendship among kids of the families in different neighboring states & chapters in the region.
- To develop inherent and latent drama skills (acting, script writing, prop preparation, music etc.) in a region.
- To promote leadership growth via organizing a multi-chapter event.
- To encourage participation of kids so as to exposed them to Odia language and culture.
- To ensure that visiting teams are each offered 5 to 10 minutes for program of their kids.
In summary, the objective of RDF is to develop a closer relation among communities of people from Odisha residing in a region, through a festival with a special focus on drama.
Current Status:In its fifth year RDF is in the verge of a takeoff, with 46 dramas staged in multiple regions, including two this year. The overall experience indicates that RDF has become part of an event of the host Chapter in order to make it financially viable as well as to attract a larger audience. This approach is becoming successful. The initial sluggishness in implementing RDF is withering away and community members in various regions are getting more and more interested and enthused. Members newly initiated into drama seem to enjoy the freshness and novelty of drama world. In due course families, at least in participating Chapters, are developing rapport among themselves. The expected interest, that RDF was to generate in OSA, is already surfacing.
- An Odiadrama Yahoogroup(firstname.lastname@example.org) has been formed connecting the Odia drama enthusiasts all over North America. It is a discussion group to monitor, assess RDF and brings ideas for the future.
- A few Odia drama playwrites are emerging in NA,often depicting the American experience, for instance, Gagan Panigrahi of Toronto, Manoj Mohapatra and Salil Mishra of Chicago, Birendra Jena of Cleveland, Swapnalata Rath(Mishra) of MI. Dr. Birendra Jena has already published a collection of plays – “ Dura Pahada O Anyanya Nataka”. He mentions in its forward, specifically that his difficulty in finding script to take part in RDF led him to write them.
- OSA Conventions rotate from city to city of different areas and are relatively expensive to attend and thus cannot provide opportunity for many to attend these on a regular basis. RDF plays a complementary role to fill the vacuum and provides opportunity for interacting with other members in a region and participating in cultural activities. As a consequence new community leaders are sprouting.
- The contacts during RDF, between people living in the neighboring states is creating release of positive energy, initiatives and communications, leading to various other initiatives. e.g.
- Odia Poetry reading via conference calls.
- Odia Poetry reading in Radio program in NJ/NY via conference call or skype.
- Publication of an Odia magazine “Pratishruti” from North America, etc.
- It is very difficult to have a drama when the participants live more than 30 min apart. Though some have taken the innovative step like doing voicing remotely, during rehearsals – the flavor of acting while being present in the same physical space, is still far superior. So it seems, to have the drama team in one city or within half hour driving distance, is a relevant constraint.
- The experience when people stay overnight with local families are way better than, when they come and go back the same day. The bonds of even an overnight stay is long lasting.
- All festivals should have children participation, to keep the kids excited, involved and part of parent’s cultural life and milieu.
- The drama festivals can’t be held in cities, where population of Odia families is 50 or less, because of shortage of audience. Most halls have a capacity of 200 or more. Costs are of course additional constraint, as of now.
- The RDFs in North/North East should be preferably held before October 15th. This helps avoid snow storms. Two festivals scheduled in November already suffered for this reason, as the visiting teams could not come to Easetern RDF in 2011 (NJ) & 2012(Washington DC).
A few issues:Two issues are coming up which need to be addressed for sustainability of RDF.
1. Cooperation and commitment of Chapter Presidents in RDF
2. Financial grant to OSA Chapters for RDF and their viability.
Cooperation and commitment of Chapter Presidents in RDFThe core of RDF success is in the hands of the OSA Chapter Presidents. But for their complete cooperation & support RDF would not have come this far.
They are the key figures in the OSA organization and should be credited overwhelmingly for the success of RDF.
Realizing their importance and remembering the fact that they are elected, it is urged that they consider RDF to be PART of Chapter activities just like Kumar Purnima, Saraswati Puja etc. For smooth operations and cost effectiveness the following steps are most helpful and should be taken as far as possible:
- Select a RDF coordinator early who is enthusiastic and proactive.
- Before beginning of each year give calls to the other chapters Presidents in the region and decide a mutually convenient date & location (city and chapter).
- The reservation of a hall in time, preferably six months in advance so that it is easy to get a good but adequately priced (rents vary widely) hall and it gives enough time to out of town teams to organize. Decide it (i) between February -April for holding the Festival the Fall season and (ii) by the end of October for holding it in the spring season.
- Allow enough practice time and patience in order to encourage new participants to join who are necessary for sustenance of RDF in future.
Financial grant to OSA Chapters for RDF and their viability.
- The finances are a matter of concern for some small chapters. So far the festivals are being done by the Chapters along with one of their regular programs – thus the costs ($2000 on average) are absorbed by the local Chapters, except $500 grant from OSA National.
- It will be a good idea if OSA raises these grants to $1000 by raising special funds. Chapters can sell Ad spaces in their brochures & raise donations from the local enthusiasts for the rest.
- OSA grants are a way of encouraging events which will expose new participants/ members to OSA activities, similar to conventions.
- OSA national executives would like to have around five, new Life /Five year members for each festival which we think is a fair expectation.
- Attempts should be made to have a general insurance in OSA National – so each chapter does not have to buy a separate insurance coverage for the hall. OSA National President & RDF organizing Chapter President can co-ordinate and save significant costs.
- A goal of RDF is to make it self financed with some consistent support, like OSA convention today via Ads and sponsorship.
Relevant info:1. If you are a small town-er, with a few other Odia families around – you should visit nearest RDF first as a visitor/audience. Then you can form your own drama team from among neighbors. RDF is open to all, even those who are not members of OSA.
2. When you and your few friends, are ready to stage a drama, help in getting a script (fit for number of female and male actors enthusiasts available in your area), dress (e.g. a Odisha constable’s uniform) or sound (like a typical sound of cycle rickshaw in a Cuttack street), are only a phone call or e-mail away. Info is available with the experienced group members, who are eager to share their expertise. You contact them via the “Odia Drama Group” email@example.com, to access resources, seek help or share problems to be resolved.
(*Note: Some time in July 2007, after Detroit convention, we stayed at SriGopal babu’s home to visit nearby Nigra Falls. While there, the RDF bug was in my mind and I discussed with him. He liked it. Subsequently, OSA junior most OSA office came my way – completely unexpectedly. I had a chance to give shape to my dream project. SriGopal babu after Toronto convention, agreed to coordinate it. The rest as they say is history).