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Summer bonanza

Annual summer workshops are a perfect opportunity for cultural institutions to introduce tiny tots to dramatics.

Written by Rinky Kumar |
May 6, 2011 5:30:39 pm

OVER a decade ago,summer was the perfect time for parents to pack away their children to their native towns so that they could spend some quality time with their extended family. While even today,this practice continues to some extent,of late,kids are being exposed to a plethora of workshops and activities during their summer vacations. For Prithvi Theatre and the National Centre for Performing Arts,their annual summer workshops are a perfect opportunity to introduce tiny tots to dramatics and hone them into culturally aware individuals.

Last year,the NCPA decided to start the Summer Fiesta initiative to reach out to children. Over a span of 10 days,kids were regaled with a selection of films,plays and their creativity was encouraged with workshops in writing and drama,conducted by renowned theatre directors like Sunil Shanbag and Shaili Sathyu and actors like Kumud Mishra and Gopal Tiwari. Enthused by the response,this year NCPA is conducting their Summer Fiesta on a much larger scale over a span of three weeks with 23 workshops,six plays and four films,aiming to expose kids to puppetry,circus arts and theatre games.

Talking about the festival that will continue till May 29,Deepa Gahlot,Head Programming,Indian Theatre and Film,NCPA says,“This year,the workshops are being held for children between the age group of six and 16. Films from the World Kids Foundation will also be screened. Though we have workshops throughout the year,we intensify them during summer. Today the Indian society has more nuclear families,wherein the idea of a day out for the whole kin is to take their children for a movie or to a mall. Unfortunately in the process,kids are not exposed to reading and theatre. We want to initiate them into the world of culture and turn them into informed connoisseurs.”

Gahlot,who started conceptualising the festival three months ago,also opines that since the workshops are not competitive,there is no stress on the participants and the activities prove to be mentally stimulating. The major highlights of this year’s Summer Fiesta are innovative workshops like Improv Comedy wherein kids will learn and practice a series of basic techniques and principles that will show them how to create scenes on the spot and carry them out to a logical end; they will strive to solve social issues in their own way by working in groups and coming up with short plays; and making children familiar with William Shakespeare’s works. Plays like Shaili Sathyu’s Suar Chala Space Ko,Akarsh Khurana’s adaptations of Ruskin Bond’s stories A Special Bond and Hidayat Sami’s Peter Pan will also be staged in the concluding week of the festival.

Similarly,Summertime at Prithvi Theatre,which kick started last month and will continue till June,has on offer 40 creative workshops in four venues across Mumbai and 70 shows of different plays. Sanjna Kapoor,director of Prithvi Theatre,says,“Performing arts and the engagement with that process adds value to a growing child’s experience and shapes their growth in an important way. Our workshops allow kids to explore their creativity and imagination. The plays are our way of bringing a joyous audience experience into children’s life while fulfilling our agenda of building future audiences for theatre.”

Anita Salim,who has been associated with Summertime Prithvi since its inception,has helped students to become familiar with world mythology and ancient stories and enact them in plays. She says,“Such kind of workshops make children understand that they can aspire to enact huge characters in plays. The focus is on their body movements and imagination. Eventually they can visualise a lot better which is lucrative for them in the future. I also encourage them to do their own make-up,costumes and props thereby inculcating a discipline for theatre in them.”

These summer workshops,however,are not only conducive for the development of children but also help conductors to constantly evolve. Writer Chatura Rao,who has conducted workshops at Prithvi theatre and NCPA,says these events help her get feedback from youngsters about her writing style and the kind of books that they prefer reading. She says,“I have been writing for children aged eight to 12 since the last seven years. During these workshops,when I read out excerpts from my books,I get an honest feedback.”

This year she also collaborated with actor Loveleen Mishra for Khul Ja Story wherein they helped participants to explore a story from various points of view,mainly plot,character and setting. She adds,“We start off by asking participants to write a story,then they enact it with different expressions,make a puppet and incorporate it in the story. Later they sit down and rewrite it which leads to improvisations. So they learn aspects of how to tell a story as well as how to write it. It also helps them to become better listeners,they become observant and pick up small nuances that is imperative for a creative artiste.”

Similarly Jaimini Pathak,who has been conducting workshops at Summertime Prithvi since the last four years,emphasises that he strives to help youngsters to develop an interest in creating original work. He explains,“We take scenes from Indian and Western plays,analyse them and then enact them. This helps them to become familiar with diverse works,later we urge them to write their own scenes. This process also encourages a symbiosis between actors and writers. The whole idea is to catch them young,give them exposure and create a future audience.”

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