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Saturday, May 28, 2022

City theatres plan summer activities for children

Gillo's Shaili Sathyu talks about working on a new play for children and post-pandemic challenges.

Written by Alaka Sahani | Mumbai |
May 5, 2022 8:22:19 pm
Actors rehearse for the play The Ghost of the Mountains. (Express Photo)

While choosing a story for their new play, artistic director of Gillo Repertory Theatre Shaili Sathyu had to keep in mind certain key aspects of putting together a stage production. “Since we returned to a regular rehearsal space after the second wave of the pandemic, we had to be careful about the number of actors we would be able to work with and the kind of space we could get. So, we chose to do something relatively smaller,” says the director.

After a few rounds of brainstorming with the team, Sathyu decided to adapt the book The Ghost of the Mountains for stage. The children’s book is written by Sujatha Padmanabhan and illustrated by Madhuvanti Anantharajan. This story is set in a village in Ladakh where the residents are shocked to find that a snow leopard has strayed into their locality one morning. They want to kill this unwanted visitor while a young boy feels differently about it. This play premiered today as part of Summer Time at Prithvi Theatre on Thursday.

This year, both Prithvi Theatre and NCPA have worked out a comprehensive summer calendar for young audiences as they host Summer Time and Summer Fiesta, respectively. (Express Photo)

The play has more shows scheduled at 4 pm and 7 pm on May 6 at Prithvi. One more show will be held at NCPA Experimental Theatre at 4 pm on May 7. This year, both Prithvi Theatre and NCPA have worked out a comprehensive summer calendar for young audiences as they host Summer Time and Summer Fiesta, respectively. After the pandemic had affected these annual summer activities in the city, this year Prithvi and NCPA are holding a number of workshops and plays over the next a few weeks.

For the team at Gillo, it is a huge relief to be able to rehearse together. “This is a simple story from Ladakh that talks about empathy. It is based on a true incident. We are very keen to share it with children,” says Sathyu. This is also a story the artists at Gillo are familiar with. In early 2020, Ritul Singh had developed a two-actor play based on this book and it was performed when Gillo toured to rural areas with the aim of acquainting children with theatre. For the upcoming stage adaptation, however, Sathyu had to do extensive research on man-animal conflict and learn more about the Ladakh environment. The play, which now opens in English in May, will also have a Hindi version in June.

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The pandemic nudged Gillo, a 12-year-old Mumbai-based theatre group, to introspect on their work. “We are looking at collaborating with artists from the performing arts more often. We also wish to create plays with the all Indian audience in mind,” says Sathyu. The seven-member cast of the play includes Barkha Fatnani, Jigna Khajuria, Afsana Ahmed, Saurabh Soni, Preeti Aher, Manoj Kumar Karki and Harry.

Even though children are exposed to digital media, that’s not something that bothers Sathyu while developing a play. “The whole point of art is to be universal. Our play is not meant for a particular section of children. That apart, we encourage children to give their feedback. That has helped us to make our performance more truthful,” says Sathyu, who plans to direct some new theatre productions and hold more theatre activities this year.

Plays that children can watch this summer:

What Planet are you on?: Prithvi Theatre at 4 pm and 7 pm; NCPA on June 12 at 5 pm
Jungle Book2: Prithvi Theatre on May 12 and 13 at 4pm and 9pm
Story of Space: Prithvi Theatre on May 19 and 20 at 4pm
Wolf: Prithvi Theatre on May 29 at 12pm

For details check summerfiesta.ncpamumbai.com and prithvitheatre.org

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