The labour of love

The labour of love
Theatre as an art form has grown manifold — from a time when theatre troupes grappled for venues and plots to now, where there are ample opportunities.

Refreshing themes being churned out everyday and new centres that welcome aspiring actors are few motivational elements of theatre as we know today. Yet, only a small section of the society, mostly youngsters, are benefiting from this.

Neither the educative aspects nor the joy of witnessing a play has reached the grassroot level. Lack of scripts and centres that engage with children are some of the hurdles that theatre battles with and children are bereft of good plays.

However, Ranga Shankara, an epicentre of art, theatre and culture in the City, has proved that embedding children into social fabric through theatre is not a quixotic task. Looking at the sporadic number of plays in the country for children, their calibre speaks volumes through their structured and organised three-part theatre program – ‘Aha! Theatre For Children’.

Arundhati Nag, the artistic director of Ranga Shankara, says, “There is very less investment for the arts and thereby, a large chunk of children are excluded and de-sensitised from theatre. If there is no effort at the root, there will be no fruit borne. These children are the crucible and will be leaders of tomorrow.”

The full-fledged programme, that started seven years ago, comprises school shows, summer workshops and an international festival. The content and stories revolve around experiences, emotions and issues central to childhood and span across age groups, as young as nine.

These figurative canvasses come to reality through popular plays and art forms that children are exposed to, such as ‘The Incredible Mullah Nasruddin’, ‘Raja Tantra Choo’ and ‘Gumma Banda Gumma’. As children enjoy sand art in the first play, they will be able to relate to the external strives and internal turmoils in ‘Raja Tantra Choo Mantra’ and enjoy the frolicky and ‘joie-de-vivre’ plot of ‘Gumma Banda Gumma’.

But apart from addressing urban maladies, ‘Aha! Theatre For Children’ includes quality programmes such as traditional folk songs and themes from regional languages.
“This is a conscious effort to introduce children to their mother tongue. One has to learn to think in regional languages. If one is bereft of this precious seat of knowledge, they would lose out on many metaphors,” says Arundhati.

The school shows get about 400 children from government schools, with transport arranged by Ranga Shankara. Arundhati adds, “There is also an interactive session after the play so that the child is not a passive consumer of art.” Each play stands true to the emotion that ‘Aha!’ brings and the programme witnesses professional theatre practitioners, storytellers and puppetry artistes engaging with children.

This is a labour of love that is caressed annually, but a number of challenges have to be crossed every year. Sensitising parents and school principals are two big difficulties. “About 20,000 lucky children from the City get to experience theatre. A deeper involvement, professionalism and larger investment is needed so that they can understand the science of theatre. We need more collaborations with schools and active participation by parents and teachers as they are the primary game-changers for kids. Today, plays for children include loud and jarring props, and drowning subtle relations that theatre is capable of emphasising.”

This is a small step that is essential for children to grow out of a society that is glued to television and Arundhati believes that children will grow in quantum leaps because of this.
Believing that the child is a sponge, Arundhati says, “Children will be able to embed themselves into the cultural consciousness and framework if exposed to good theatre, art and music.”

For details, call 26493982.

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