(Last Updated on : 21/07/2009)
Group theatre was an amateur troupe that produced the great majority of important urban theatre work. These are classified as groups. Although professional companies in cities ruled the roost for nearly a hundred years, between 1870 and 1950, they gradually lost audiences to cinema and disappeared from most regions by 2000. Only a handful of such commercially run repertories exist. In their place, the number of groups increased rapidly after 1947, catering to an educated clientele with mainly serious and socially committed material, and disdaining pure entertainment. Since their themes precluded box-office success, groups could not hope to pay their members, who typically hold full-time day jobs in other professions and rehearse in the evenings.
Making a virtue of their poverty, groups register as non-profit organizations, which fall within the purview of the Registration of Societies Act. Societies can engage in any legal activity, but are defined by their declared aim of not working to make any profits. As such, they qualify for public funding, corporate sponsorship and private donations, tax exemptions, and, for theatre, waiver of the high entertainment tax on tickets. Some groups have become eligible for regular but limited government grants as well. A few, able to muster money from diverse sources, find themselves in a position to disburse small stipends to members, but most have a hand-to-mouth existence, scraping together tiny budgets from one production to the next. In these circumstances, only the most dedicated survive. Of late, membership has grown flexible, many groups relying on a common pool of actors. Folk and traditional troupes also function under this Act nowadays.
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