The book ‘Beyond the Proscenium: Reimagining the Space for Performance’ was one of the Theatre Infrastructure Cell’s first publications (TIC). It examines how performers and performance projects have challenged the almost ubiquitous proscenium stage—its aesthetics, conventions, and politics. A proscenium is defined as the frame or arch that separates the stage from the auditorium and allows the audience to see the action of a play.

The title of the book, ‘Beyond the Proscenium,’ sets the tone for the conversations that take place within, in which the artists attempt to break free from the formal representation of theatre. Anmol Vellani and Sunil Shanbag, who interviewed Bansi Kaul and Astad Deboo, both described this feeling of breaking free from traditional performance spaces.

What is evident from the stories told in the book is that the majority of the innovative performances take place in the absence of formal spaces. Formal spaces, such as the proscenium theatre, limit the performers’ imaginations and creativity. Though it is not only about finding an unusual performance space, but also about how an existing conventional space is used. After reading about the artists and their ideas in this book, it’s important to understand how they acknowledge the audience’s perspectives. How is the audience reacting to the performance, if at all?

Book in focus: Beyond the Proscenium - Sheet1
Beyond the Proscenium_©Sunandani Banerjee & Shantanu Sheorey.

Astad’s Space

Astad Deboo is credited with introducing “modern dance” in India. It is said that when he danced on stage, he seemed to occupy spaces created out of thin air, filling, extending, and drawing them in further. His approach of looking at a space and then improvising the performance was what distinguished his style. He was capable of creating site-specific performances as a performer by challenging conventional notions.

Book in focus: Beyond the Proscenium - Sheet2
Astad Deboo Performing_©Ashok Salian.

Bansi Kaul’s Imaginary Spaces of Theatre

Bansi Kaul’s concept of breaking the proscenium is about mindset. He claims that the proscenium barrier must be broken in the mind first, rather than the body. The idea of breaking down one’s mental fourth wall is what draws the audience into the performance. As a result, a bond is formed between the performers and the audience. Using movements and gestures, the actors must be able to cut through the space of the performance to create the space of the theatre.

Book in focus: Beyond the Proscenium - Sheet3
Image 3_KKaul’s costumes: expressions of playfulness and freedom_ ©Book: Beyond the Prosceniumaul’s costumes: expressions of playfulness and freedom_ ©Book: Beyond the Proscenium

From the Frame to the Water: Recovering Indigenous Spaces for Performance

Lokendra Arambam recounts his career as a theatre director against the backdrop of Manipur’s socio-cultural history from the 1960s to the present. Arambam, an heir to his ancestors’ rich performance tradition and involved in contexts of change and conflict, charts his way out of the proscenium walls to the open areas of the hills, and later to the ebb and flow of lakes and rivers (for Macbeth-Stage of Blood), rediscovering indigenous spaces and a theatre of resistance.

Book in focus: Beyond the Proscenium - Sheet4
Arambam’s Numit Kappa_©Book: Beyond the Proscenium.
Book in focus: Beyond the Proscenium - Sheet5
From the Frame to the Water_©Book: Beyond the Proscenium.

Mac in Retrospect

The Industrial Theatre Company takes to unconventional performance spaces. They created a new performance of Macbeth in the 1990s using leftover debris such as discarded sheet metal and old commodes from an abandoned mill in Mumbai, which transformed and was transformed by the spaces in which it was performed. Pushan Kripalani takes us back to the origins of the company’s interest in industrial spaces, and how spaces have shaped/changed their performance in novel ways.

Distance, Access, Control: Space as Philosophy in Badal Sircar’s Michhil

Anjum Katyal traces Badal Sircar’s philosophy of spaces, drawing from interviews with the director and his writings on and work in a theatre form he called ‘Third Theatre’. Michhil, one of Sircar’s early Third Theatre productions, is used by Katyal to illustrate Sircar’s concepts of ‘free theatre,’ anganmancha (for intimate performances), and muktamancha (outdoor performances in the round), which explore the dynamic relationships between the performer and audience about physical, emotional, and psychological spaces.

Michhil being performed indoors_©Book: Beyond the Proscenium.

‘Beyond the Proscenium’ celebrates the artists’ ‘acts of subversion,’ in which they roam freely but purposefully. Even though all of the artists discuss breaking down performance barriers, they all take different approaches. I believe they all have extensive performance experience, but they differ when it comes to performances as an artist/actor versus those as a dancer. All of the artists have explained their space utilization in detail, but they all arrive at the same common idea of improvising based on the type of space they are dealing with.

As an architecture student, I find it most interesting when artists express their thoughts on the design of a space. It is directly related to the performer’s approach and understanding of the space. In a related manner, Astad Deboo questions whether or not performers are even consulted when designing performance spaces. 

What’s also interesting is that, although many of the artists are dissatisfied with traditional spaces, they’ve had their fair share of success while performing in them. They talk about bringing spaces to life, but this only happens when the space becomes the performer. The space takes on meaning and takes on a personality through gesture. This is only possible if the actor falls in love with the environment, whether it is a flat stage or a natural setting. It is about adding flexibility to a space. Reading the narrations by different artists appears to provide a more comprehensive view of a performance space. Performance is not limited to the performer on stage, but also to what the audience is connecting to, how a dead space can be brought to life by the performer, but also by technical luxuries such as lights, sounds, and so on.


  1. Vellani, Anmol. (2010). Beyond the Proscenium: Reimagining the space for performance. Bangalore: Theatre Infrastructure Cell, India Foundation of Arts.
  2. Bhaskar, K. (2022) Reflecting upon ‘beyond the proscenium’: Bansi Kaul & Astad Deboo, P4.RESIDENCY. Available at:
  3. Bhaskar, K. (2022) Recapitulating summaries, P4.RESIDENCY. Available at: (Accessed: December 24, 2022). 

Ketki is a fifth year architecture student and a Kathak dancer currently interning in New Delhi. She discovers an intersecting dimension between the two creative fields in order to further her real-world experience and refine her skills.