After a long eventful journey, theatre today has come a long way in India.
However, theatre acting as a profession still remains largely neglected, perhaps as much
out of ignorance as the lack of information.
Stage acting, first and foremost, refers to plays and other such performances on stage - also referred to as drama and is one of the more important of the performing arts. It is definitely not "heroes and heroines" prancing about! Stage acting is generally a real eye opener. It is an experience that facilitates interpretation of the nature of each character in the drama either as a director or a performer. Of course, this depends largely on the play, its substance, the actors and their performance. Stage acting demands a lot from a person- both in terms of talent and commitment. It is most certainly time consuming and does not offer much in terms of monitory compensation. You could earn anything between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 per performance. Income is erratic given the training time for each performance and the unpredictable response to the play. With plays as the only source of income, one can only lead an impoverished or subsistence life. However, it can be good and fulfilling as a second career especially if you are interested in it.
For a formal training in dramatics you could approach New York University or, better yet, Trinity College of London's Speech and Drama Section (or even trinity College, America) . In the case of Trinity College, you can go through a system of eight grades of examination. There is an initial grade, which is meant for children aged 5-10. Then, there are grades 1-8. There are three stages
1) Introductory - Grade 1 and 2
2) Intermediate - Grade 3,4 and 5
3) Advanced - Grade 6,7 and 8
These grades could cost you anything from a few hundreds to few thousand pounds, depending on the level. On accomplishing those eight degrees, you are required to sit for an exam to obtain what they term as a "Performer Certificate". After the Performers Certificate, you could continue to do diploma courses from the Trinity College, London.
The following diplomas can be obtained:
ATCL (Associate of Trinity College, London), LTCL (Licentiate of Trinity College, London) and FTCL (Fellow of the Trinity College, London).The expected level of achievements for the ATCL is proportional to an "intermediate undergraduate level".Similarly, the expected level for FTCL, is comparable to what is expected at "initial ostgraduate level".And finally , the highest award available is the FTCL. Only a few drama enthusiasts have received this award in India.
If you want an Indian training you could approach The National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi and FTII (Film and Television Institute of India). They offer offer you a certificate course. Some of our TV actresses are graduates from the NSD. Of course, there are other institutes down South and in Pune but the NSD AND FTII are more recognised.
Some directors are in a bit of disagreement when it comes to recognised the value of the degree. Some audition the actors blanking out their acting qualification and evaluating them on their current performance. In a way this is good, but having an acting degree of some worth should definitely give you an edge over the rest.
Regarding the future of theatre, it is generally felt that interest in theatre will grow with increasing affluence in society. Unlike cinema, audience response and the social ambience are very important to the success of theatre.
Watching theatre on TV is a very poor second to the thrill of watching a live performance and connecting with the audience. However, with the modern lifestyle, being at a specific theatre hall on a specific date and time may not always be convenient or possible. This results in a somewhat fluctuating response that gives a false impression that theatre is dying. An eminent theatre personality commented, "Every year people say its going to die out, but the following year it continues to live."
Even if, for some reason , you decide to drop stage acting, you could consider directing plays or starting your own acting classes or even even switching to screen acting. There is a lot of money to be made from screen acting and acting classes due to an increasing demand for both.