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Social awareness through theatre

K.K. GOPALAKRISHNAN

Rangachetana's 10-day theatre workshop for children was a unique experience for the participants.



No kids' play this: Children present a play.

Rangachetana, a Thrissur-based theatre group has been conducting theatre workshops for children during the summer vacations since 1985.

Twenty-eight children in the age group of seven to 16 participated in the 10-day workshop, which was conducted at the Natyagriham of Kerala Sangeeth Natak Akademi.

Participants staged three short plays on the last day of the workshop. Of the three, two plays, `Irumbukatta Vizhungiya Eli' (The mouse that swallowed an iron piece) and `Aaranu Yogyan' (Who is suitable?) were the result of discussions and interactions among the participants.

Narration and improvisation

The children narrated stories and improvised them, resulting in the two plays that they directed and performed under the guidance of the workshop director, K.V. Ganesh. Ganesh has been the workshop director for the last 13 years. The third play, `Inangan' (Friends), which was presented by the older children, was written and directed by Ganesh. What made the plays stand out were the acting skills of the children and the presentation.

The children were confident and showed no signs of stage fright, some as good as seasoned actors.

`Swarnakuppayam Aninja Aama' (The turtle that wore golden clothes), which was the production of last year's workshop was presented at the National Festival for Children's Theatre held in Ernakulam and the International Festival in Cuttack. Some of the up-and-coming stage actors such as Madanan and Unnikrishnan, both of the School of Drama, and Sunil, `Kalapratibha' of Medicos Youth Festival of Calicut University, are all products of Rangachetana's children's theatre workshop.

"At Rangachetana, our attempt is to create a sense of unity and social awareness among children while focussing on developing their personalities and acting skills. This is the reason why we conduct this workshop every year despite financial constraints," says K.V. Varghese, president of Rangachetana.

During the course of the workshop, different activities like story-telling, singing, acting, and making the children improvise on a given situation are employed to identify their innate talent. "It was through these `games sessions' that we arrived at the first two short plays," says Ganesh.

Vayala Vasudevan Pillai, children's playwright C.R. Das, Indran Machad and V.S. Girish, were some of the other theatre persons who interacted with the participants.

Playground for children

Looking back on his experience with children's theatre K.V. Ganesh says, "The basic aim of this workshop is to give children something that they do not get from school or nuclear families. The attempt is to give back the playground that they have lost."

He says that most of the participants show an improvement in academics too. Some of the children were regular participants of this workshop for the past few years.

Chithira Balachandran, a student of class Eight, who has been participating in this camp for the last two years, says, "The workshop helped us to see the world of theatre from our perspective, besides helping us in personality development. My only prayer is that the next summer camp arrives quickly."

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