For the next one month, hundreds of children from six government schools of the city will get in touch with their creative and theatrical side, as part of intensive and interactive theatre workshops, the effort of the Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi, which attempt to take education and learning beyond classrooms. The larger idea, says Kamal Arora, the chairperson of the Akademi, is to introduce the students of these schools to the basics of theatre, create an interest in the art form, get parents and teachers involved in the process and then stage a production.
“We will also include schools from the periphery to connect more people with the idea, including those from villages. Last year, the workshops were a huge success, and a novel experience as many had never even seen an auditorium before. The workshops will culminate in productions and give the students chance to perform in front of an audience and also gain confidence in the process,” says Arora.
Conducting the workshops are skilled theatre directors, who have worked extensively with children and have also devised productions with them.
Sanjana Dhingra, who is conducting a workshop with children from classes VII to IX at the Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 32, Chandigarh, is working on a play which looks at how technology has changed the way children spend time with their family, with computers and mobile phones changing relationships.
“I involve them in various activities to open channels of communication, help them express their emotions and one of my main ideas is to work on body and mind control, so that they can focus and use theatre as a tool to connect with people,” says Dhingra, adding that voice modulation is also an integral part of the workshop for the students to develop their personality.
Malvika Bhaskar is working with 80 children from the Government Model Senior Secondary School, Vikas Nagar, Chandigarh, and is focusing on a few improvisations, theatre exercises and games. A Master’s in theatre, with a specialisation in theatre in education from the NSD, Bhaskar says the students may not have had exposure to the arts or theatre, but are keen and enthusiastic learners, with a spark and that motivates her to help them develop a voice. “They are with me at 6 am sharp and are so driven to improve their skills. They are imaginative and I am going to work on a devised play, which will help them explore and express their feelings, emotions and give them a platform to say what they want to. Theatre will take away many of their pressures, and help them open up, as they work on a plot, change as per requirements, and learn to work with one another,” adds Bhaskar.
Theatre director Vijay Machal describes his class at Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 41, as energetic and confident, despite a lack of exposure and facilities to music, theatre, art. Starting with the basics, Machal says many did not know how theatre is different from television, with the concept of an auditorium alien to them. From creating a stage to how lights work, the concept of street theatre, stage setting, the history of theatre, Machal is teaching them minute details to get the students acquainted with the art. “I gave them the option of four stories, and they chose the one that they want to play, and we will work on the plot together and improvise. This will give them the confidence to write, speak, interact and not be shy to express.”
The final presentation of the plays will be at Tagore Theatre, on May 21 and 22. All participating students, their teachers and parents along with the general public will be invited as the audience.