Thirteen-year-old Sooraj Bishnoi stood alone on the stage. His peers, around 1,700 of them, sat in the audience. The event had been organized by the local chapter of the Rotary Club in Mumbai and Bishnoi was to make a presentation on birds. But, as all audio-visual devices are wont to do right before a big presentation, this one failed.
The audience waited. Another tween would have run off stage, or at least wrung his hands—not Bishnoi. He calmly walked up to the mike and started talking. He entertained the crowd with his bird calls as he asked them to identify each one. When they couldn’t, he prodded them. “Come on,” he told them. “If not the bird’s name, at least tell me if you think it’s large or small.” Bishnoi has been attending summer theatre workshops since he was six. The most important thing he learnt? “The stage is your own. The workshops help you bring out your full role,” he says.
Little stars: Shashi Kapoor at a Prithvi Summertime workshop presentation in 2007.
Nowadays, theatre workshops are not just about keeping children engaged for the summers; they are about inculcating a passion for theatre. “My husband and I are very fond of theatre and we wanted to ensure that Sooraj appreciated it as well,” says Rama Bishnoi. Sometimes, it is the children who take the initiative, such as Supriya Ghosh, who told her mother Shipra that she wanted to attend the theatre workshop run by the Little Actors Club in New Delhi. “Supriya always showed a keen interest in theatre,” says Shipra. It was even simpler for Malini Saigal. Her son, Kartikeya, had stayed in touch with his peers from last year’s Little Actors Club workshop and enrolled himself again this year. “He did it on his own. I am glad he is going though because, since the workshop, I find that he has become a lot friendlier,” she says.
Theatre workshops are no longer limited to acting. They teach a variety of skills such as body language, scriptwriting and diction. “The aim of our workshops is not to make actors, but rather audiences. We want them to fall in love with theatre,” says Sanjana Kapoor of Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai. Faisal Alkazi of the Little Actors Club ensures that his workshops are process-driven and interactive. “The children help in designing and making their own costumes and sets as well. There is no question of imposing anything,” he says. Kapoor adds: “We never force children to participate. Rather, we let them sit and watch if that’s what they want.”
Over the years, the range of theatre-related activities offered has grown. Workshops are no longer limited to acting or scriptwriting. T.T. Venkatesh, who will be conducting a mask workshop in Bangalore this summer, says, “Working with masks is very different as your face is covered, so you need to learn how to convey emotions with your body.”
While most workshops do not guarantee results, children and their parents usually come away satisfied. “We had a child who used to stammer and, though we never gave him any special treatment, at the end production it was amazing to see him deliver his speech without a single stammer,” says Padmavati Rao, who holds children’s theatre workshops in Bangalore.
Those who conduct the workshops stress that theatre’s not just about acting or being in a play. After a summer workshop, you might not catch your young one practising an Oscar acceptance speech or proclaiming himself the next badshah of Bollywood. But, look out for a growing appreciation of theatre, greater confidence, and the will to speak out.
A cultural break
Theatre workshops for your child in your city
• Little Actors Club
The second session of the first workshop starts in the first week of July and goes on till 10 August. A new three-month workshop commences in October. A total of 60 children (20 per location) will be selected. Workshops will be conducted in the evenings from 5-7pm.
Location: Greater Kailash-II, Nizamuddin and Gurgaon
Cost:Rs5,000 for the entire workshop
Contact:011-29219862 and 0124-4007690
• National School of Drama
Sessions are from 8am to 1pm starting from 15 May till 14 June. Forms available from Sanskar Rang Toli, NSD Bahawalpur House, Bhagwandas Road, Mandi House till 29 April. Children in the age group of 8-16 can apply. The total number of seats is 600. Children who have participated once will have to wait for three years before they can apply again.
Location: Bharat National Public School, Ram Vihar,
Ved Vyas, D.A.V School, Vikas Puri
Rajkiya Pratibha VIkas Vidyalaya, Shalimar Bagh
C.R.P.F Public School, Rohini
K.R. Mangalam World School, Greater Kailas-II
Amity International School, Noida.
Cost:Rs50 for forms. The fees is Rs500 for the general category and Rs125 for SC/ST/OBC
• Shri Ram Centre For Performing Arts
Sessions will be from 22 May till 26 June (dates not finalized). Children in the age group of 8-15 may apply for 80 seats. There will be two batches: one in the morning, starting at 10am and the second, starting at 2pm.
Location: Safdar Hashmi Marg
Cost: Rs2,000 for the entire workshop
• Prithvi Summertime
A total of 34 workshops on different topics such as acting, pottery and puppetry from mid-April till mid-June. Children in the age group of 6-17 can apply.
Location: Juhu Church Road
Cost: Rs1,000-1,200 per workshop
• Mask Creation and Performance
The workshop will be conducted by T.T. Venkatesh from 21 April till 7 May, with a performance planned for the last day. Only those who are 16 and above can attend. The workshop will start in the evening, from 6.30pm.
Location:Alliance Française, Vasanth Nagar
Cost:Rs4,300 (including cost of materials and refreshment)
• Real Life Theatre with Padmavati Rao
Sessions will be held from 28 April to 4 May, in two batches—9-11am and 12-2pm. Children in the age group 7-9 may apply.
Location:Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar