Play at work, work at play

Organisational theatre

Play at work, work at play

Science and art are usually considered two separate entities. But debunking this belief is organisational theatre, an art form that is used to solve the problems of the corporate world, which is gaining popularity in the City. With many theatre groups approaching companies and using their skills to understand their agenda, it’s safe to say that the creative space is shifting from stage to office cubicles. 

Primarily a Western concept, organisational theatre involves developing soft skills, communication skills and leadership qualities of the employees apart from tackling issues like gender sensitivity and hierarchy in corporates, cost conservation and improving productivity through a series of interesting and interactive workshops, training sessions and performances.

Abhishek Iyengar started ‘WeMove Solutions’ in 2012 and works with a number of MNCs and start-ups such as HCL, IBM and Happiest Minds. He explains, “Organizational theatre is a blanket term for performance and training-related programmes. We either stage plays on themes that corporates ask us to do or conduct workshops, which are essentially a learning session for the employees.” Apart from staging plays based on anti-tobacco awareness, gender equality, disability sensitisation and cancer awareness, ‘WeMove Solutions’ also gauges the impact the performances have had on the employees through source assessment and psychometric analysis. 

 “The common element between both these spaces is communication. Theatre is a powerful tool that helps the communication process and leadership skills,” says Sridhar Prasad, the production controller of ‘Dramatist Anonymous’ or ‘Dramanon’, an active theatre company which has worked with corporates such as Cisco and iGate. Some of the plays that they have staged so far have revolved around HR and company-related policies.

Ranji David, artistic director of ‘Yours Truly Theatre’, looks at organisational theatre as a powerful tool since both theatre and corporates ultimately deal with human interaction. “About 10 years back, organisational theatre was considered as an ice-breaker in workspaces but now, it is looked at as a solution,” says the artiste, whose team has worked with companies like HP, Mindtree and Hindalco.

But the result may not always be positive. Sridhar points out that if the crowd is too big, for instance more than 60 employees, the message will be lost. “There are many factors to be considered such as the length of the play and content of the script before putting up a corporate performance. One also cannot be sure of its growth trajectory in future as companies constantly look to innovate. Today, they are looking at theatre but tomorrow they may opt for music or dance-related workshops.”

Deeban, one of the founders of ‘Playtonik Productions’, is hopeful of the growth of organisational theatre as he feels it acts as a bridge between the artistic and corporate world. He also notes that it is a win-win situation for both entities while Abhishek strongly believes that there are a lot of similarities between staging a theatre production and managing a project. “I believe that the role of a director and an actor are similar to the role of a manager and boss. Theatre scripts largely reflect the scenes at an office space. For instance, finding the right person for the company is equivalent to casting the right actor for a production. This method will become all the more popular in future as employees are tired of working in front of a screen and don’t want to deal with office-related issues the usual way.”

Looking ahead, Ranji believes that theatre for therapy may be the future. “This sub-genre has a lot of scope for growth. Training has become very mundane and mechanical that people don’t want the ‘death by presentation’ route anymore. Theatre has the ability to break conventions as it’s more interactive and real.”

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