Rural theatre brings them back to school

Rural theatre brings them back to school

Rural theatre brings them back to school

“See, that parrot is Pooja...next to her is her friend Ratna...wow, so many parrots on the stage...I am not able to see my daughter...Yes, she is there...she is smiling...delivering a dialogue...poor parrot, it’s caught...” Such reactions from the second row in the open-air theatre of Rangayana in Dharwad helped forge an intimacy between the actors and the audience.  

“Both my sons have acted in this drama and were on stage for the very first time. One of them — Guru played the main role. I was doubtful whether they will be able to deliver good performances, but their confidence has surprised me,” said Savithri, who sends her children to a Government Higher Primary School in Gandhinagar, Dharwad. She cannot spend more money on their education and other interests. The Magi Children’s Drama Festival organised by Rangayana, Dharwad was appealing for more than one reason.

The topics chosen were relevant. BV Karanth’s Panjara Shale  and Basuma Kodagu’s Janapada Jogi symbolised the paradox of the present-day education system. Ogatina Rani written by Kotaganahalli Ramaiah revealed village traditions and also spread out a dictionary of folklore phrases before the audiences. Sathru andre sathra… by Vaidehi, Kinnara Mela and Tumri enlivened the audience on the last three days of this one-week festival.

Touring the villages

Rangayana visited remote villages for their new productions. “We could have chosen four well-established schools in Dharwad and completed this programme, but that was not what we aimed for. We want to go beyond cities, travel to villages and spread concepts about theatre among village folk,” feels Hulageppa Kattimani, Director, Rangayana, Dharwad Chapter.  

Kattimani explained that initially all schools except Bisilekoppa from North Karnataka were reluctant to participate in the festival as they thought students might neglect their academics due to this exercise. “Children here have to give time to schooling and agricultural chores. They hardly get a chance to watch a drama or any cultural event. After convincing schools about our objective, they decided to support the cause.”

The programme was an instant success at the Madalli School in Shirahatti, attendance increased manifold, reaching a 100 per cent at one point! “We never forced children to join the drama. After narrating the story I asked them to choose suitable students for each role and accepted their suggestions,” says Padma Kodagu who directed Janapada Jogi. Rajeshwari Sullia, Ganapati Hegde and Sunanda Nibanagoudar who directed the other three plays also made it a point not to choose students who have excelled academically, but those who they felt will benefit from this exercise.

The dedication of students towards the programme was exemplary. They missed breakfast, sometimes came directly to school after toiling hard at their farms. What worked for students was that all these dramas had rural based themes, making them relevant to the actors. Padma recalls the support rendered by elderly village women, who shared their experiences, applauded the storyline and also gave their sarees and other necessary make-up inputs for the drama. In order to reciprocate their affection, each drama was staged in the respective villages again.  

Ratna and Vishva who study in Gandhinagar School want their drama director back in school even after the drama has been staged. “ Our drama teacher, Rajeshwari helped us instilled confidence in us and taught us how to enjoy studying. We hope that drama is inculcated as a subject in our curriculum,” they explain.

Their affection for their guru was reflected, through the felicitation programme they organised for Rajeshwari by pooling in money amongst themselves.  At the end of it all, the final product- their impeccable performances were immensely appreciated by the audience.

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