As the curtain rises, awe sweeps the young crowd, most of them aged between 10 and 15. For the next hour or so, the children enter another world, filled with magical performances, engaging characters and imaginative scenes.
This response is largely thanks to the Bangalore-based Rafiki theatre group, which often uses its energy and focus to promote the love of theatre in children.
For 16 years, the group has been giving lessons in theatrics to various schools. This year alone, five schools have asked the group to visit their insititutions.
Anish Victor, a founding member of Rafiki, said that the theatre group came together out of a desire to impart the intricacies and nuances of the craft to schoolchildren.
The positive response from children has encouraged them to continue similar projects in the future. “The kids love it. The aim of theatre is to help one come out of the shell and exercise one’s own imagination. We aim to work with children throughout the year,” he said.
Rafiki also conducts independent workshops on theatre. “Some of the things we try and do is — how to use the form and trying to get to know yourself better through it. Much of the effort has to come from the children themselves,” said Ravindra Vijay, an actor in the group.Work of passion
The Rafiki troupe is best described as a group of individuals who have dedicated their lives and time to promoting the art of performance. “We started with only three people straight out of 12th standard, full of ‘josh’ (enthusiasm),” Victor said.
“We use to accompany and participate in children’s plays during annual school productions and the passion for the craft stuck ever since.”
Despite their positivite influence at schools, the group, however, has faced problems over the future of its programmes at several places.
A few schools have ended their endorsements of the programme.
Despite the setbacks, members of the troupe expressed their desire to remain involved in acting, teaching and directing. Some of the other troupes do not want to teach and pass on the art, Victor said, to highlight what set Rafiki apart. “Theatre does more to the soul,” he said. “It deserves an opportunity to do just that.”
Viona D’Souza, a standard IX student at Sacred Heart School, has been taking theatre lessons organised by the school to prepare for a Parent’s Day programme.
“It’s different from anything I have ever done before. It gave me confidence and taught me a lot of things about myself I never knew. I would definitely enrol in theatre lessons if they were a part of the school curriculum,” she said.