Sumeet Vyas, whose acting performances are effortless across the multiple mediums of web, stage and cinema, says theatre remains his first love. “Whenever I get an opportunity I try and come back on the stage. I make sure that every year I have some allocated time for the stage, as this is where I learned everything about acting, writing, and performing. It’s always good to be grounded to your roots and that in turn helps you to grow further ahead in your performances,” he told IANSlife.
The ‘Permanent Roommates’ actor is part of a curated cast of South Asian actors from around the world, who are performing Dipti Bramhandkar’s “Islands of Contentment”, presented by New York City’s The Tank and co-produced by Hypokrit Productions. It’s a virtual presentation.
Actors from the Indian film and theatre industry like Kalki Koechlin, Suraj Sharma and Maanvi Gagroo share stage time with Indian Diaspora actors like Ajay Naidu, Danny Pudi and Nina Davuluri, who is making her acting debut, to bring 13 monologues about modern-day relationships to life. The global ensemble cast also includes: Vinay Pathak, Imran Sheikh, Laura Gomez, Florencia Lozano, Dileep Rao, Bobby Daniel Rodriguez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lipica Shah, Sathya Sridharan (Wives), and Rita Wolf.
An elegy to the (dis)harmony of romantic relationships, each piece invites us into the intimate, poignant and hilarious interactions with significant others in the form of modern-day confessionals and offers the virtual audience channels for live interaction and deeper connection. Thirteen characters reflect on moments that feel strangely familiar: the break-up dream, the plight of the nice guy, the ex who unexpectedly shows up, and even a baking fetish.
Asked about what the stage has taught him the most, Vyas said: “Theatre has taught me the art of discipline and dedication. There is no alternative to hard work while performing on the stage. While in films or web shows or TV, you might get a second chance or a retake, but that’s not the case with the theatre. You have to be at your best and have to know every minute detail about the play so that you don’t miss out on anything. Otherwise, you’ll end up creating a mess in front of the audience.”
He added: “The other thing is that when you’re doing theatre no one is a star. Everyone is on the same platform. Whether you’ve done 500 films or you’re a rank newcomer, the theatre stage treats you in the same way. So in a way, theatre teaches everyone humility and makes sure you pay every person on the cast and crew equal respect.
“Another important thing is that while on stage, you get the audience feedback instantly. That’s why you’ve to be at your very best in every performance. Even if the play has done a thousand shows all over the world, you cannot relax on the next show, and you’ll have to come on stage with the same intensity as always. Theatre teaches you the art of memorizing every line over and over again and also makes sure that your fright of performing in front of an audience goes away.”
Vyas, who tested positive for Covid-19 in April, said that his monologue is called ‘Put a Ring On It’.
The cast has individually acted and shot their monologues.
“Personally, for me, it has been one of the most unique experiences. The format itself is something that I’m trying for the first time in my career, and that makes it more interesting and exciting for me. Each piece of monologue in ‘Islands of Contentment’ invites you as a viewer into the intimate, poignant, and hilarious interactions in the form of modern-day confessionals and it also offers the virtual audience channels for live interaction and deeper connection. When it comes to monologues, as an actor you’re thrown in front of a wide audience and you alone can save yourself from the embarrassment. You are the sole performer and you’ve to remember everything and also emote in the exact manner necessary. That’s the beauty of a monologue or a soliloquy. In other scenes there could be points when someone else is centre stage and you can breathe in for a second as the other character’s dialogue is going on, but not in this case. You have to know every nuance and every word that’s going to be spoken. The actor’s dedication towards his craft shows vividly in this medium,” revealed the actor about this stage-to-screen switch.
“As the audience travels to living rooms, hotel suites, kitchens, and beyond, they are guided by a mysterious theatre-loving narrator, who asks the audience to contemplate their own experience and contribute their own stories. In an attempt to connect through isolation, these stories just might become part of the play. At a time where isolation and distance are universal, ‘Islands of Contentment’ is a reminder that even in our own strange splendor, we are never alone. That’s the basic germ of the idea,” he said.