USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘musical game’
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Theatre Rite of Passage: Pre-Show Game

Context: The informant, a 20-year-old female college student, was describing rituals, related to both her family and her passion for theatre, that she believes help define different facets of her identity. The following is an excerpt from our conversation, in which she describes a pre-show ritual that she witnessed several USC MFA Acting students take part in during a production.

Text:

Informant: So, last year, the first show that I worked on at USC was doing the spotlight for the MFA repertory. Um… and so I was doing the spotlight for a show called A Bright Room Called Day and it was for the third year MFAs, so they’re in their last year. And it was incredible to sit up in the light booth and watch this really tight ensemble just like completely vibe with each other and fall into place so effortlessly. And I got to see so much from the outside-in that was very inspiring, and it was so cool to observe the rituals they had formed through three years of spending so much time together, creating and growing. And so, they did this thing where, before the show, they would all gather in a circle um… and for a while I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but I ultimately figured out that they were saying this chant where on of them would say, “Get in your body!” And then everyone else would say, “Get in your body!” Um… but then it got really like intense and loud and it was hard to even like keep track of whose voice was saying what. And, basically, this whole eruption of sound would turn into passing the word “bah” across the circle, so you would just throw your hands up in someone’s face — the face of the person standing next to you — and say, “Bah!” And then it would… you know… it was just like lightning! It would just shock through each person. Usually it would go around the circle, but sometimes someone would stop and turn it the other way and people would get in these matches where they would yell “bah” back and forth at each other. And everyone in the circle was so invigorated and clearly so dedicated to committing to each other. So, that was a really amazing ritual to observe.

Informant’s relationship to the item: Though the informant did not personally take part in the pre-show ritual that she observed, she was clearly affected by witnessing other USC students participate in such a high-energy, impassioned, and invigorating display of connectedness. She describes feeling inspired by the game as an outside observer, as well as how the pre-show game seemed to energize each player and provide the entire group with a sense of cohesiveness. While she only watched the game from afar, being able to witness the passion of the production’s actors also seems to have filled the show’s crew with energy and excitement. It also seems to have made the informant feel more connected to the entire process.

Interpretation: The folk chant and game in which the actors participated appears to be some sort of pre-show ritual that the entire ensemble used in order to connect with one another and energize themselves before a show. Such rituals are common in the theatre, as well as other occupations in which people do not have total control over their actions or the ultimate outcome of their craft. There is a psychological element to these kinds of rituals, which some people believe to be magic, because they allow the participants to feel as if they have some level of mastery over the universe. The informant’s account is also interesting because it serves as an example of the distinction between active and passive bearers of folklore. The informant — who only witnessed and did not participate in the game — can be considered a passive bearer of the other actors’ folk game. The actors who participated in the game and, thus, performed that piece of folklore are considered active bearers of the pre-show ritual. However, if the informant decided to teach the game to others, she could become an active bearer of the ritual, as well.

Game
Musical

Antakshari

  1. The main piece: Antakshari

“Antakshari is like a song game, right? That we, it’s an Indian thing… uh… let me see. Uh, so what happens is, we sing a song. It’s a group thing, we used to play in the bus, on picnics, going somewhere, in the evenings. You start a song, let’s say it starts with the letter a.

[informant sings] “‘Aaja sanam, Madhur chandni me hum tum.’

“So tum means it ends in ‘m’. So you have to pick a song that starts with ‘m.’ These are all Bollywood songs, I guess. So it’s the Indian consonant that ends that syllable or whatever. So ‘m.’ Uh… [long pause] I can’t think of any songs. So, you can have any number of contestants or players, and typically we only sing the first verse of the song. And then whoever can sing whatever they know, and if you can’t think of it starting with their last syllable, you’re out of the game. Antakshari, it literally means last letter. Akshara means letter, anta means end.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does if mean to them? Etc.

“I mean, it’s—it’s—everyone plays it in India. So all my friends around me played it. It’s been there for generations. You play it with your family, you play it with friends, you play with classmates.”

  1. The context of the performance

“Anytime we went on picnics, we used to play this. Because it’s easy to play on the bus. Like kids on schoolbus, late at night during a bonfire or sitting outside, relaxing, people play this game.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This song game is an interesting combination of folk music and folk games. Since Bollywood songs are generally used, but are changed to fit the needs of the game, Antakshari can be seen as turning authored music into folk music—in fact, the game creates mashups, a form of folk music. Music is an easy way for people of all ages to bond when they have little else in common, and creating unique folk music mashups together during trips and parties clearly helped build a strong sense of community in the informant’s childhood.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American female. She was born in India and grew up with her two sisters in a small town near a holy river in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari River. After moving to the United States and raising her children there, she enjoyed reminiscing on her childhood in India and sharing stories of it with her children, so that they could see the differences in their upbringings and learn about their Indian heritage.

 

This game was actually adopted into an Indian television show from 1993 to 2007—this show was called Antakshari and was a musical game show. The following news article describes the show’s popularity and some of the main actors: https://www.hindustantimes.com/tv/antakshari-annu-kapoor-pallavi-joshi-share-memories-of-iconic-musical-show/story-JoOrFIY2UYIwhb6VhOIkEJ.html.

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