For most of the year, 13-year-old Madhav Datt is busy grappling with studies, homework and tabla classes. But come May, this young cardholder in IPTA’s (Indian People’s Theatre Association) children’s troupe heads for Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre for a season of what he passionately loves doing—acting on stage. He plays the lead in Agar aur Magar, the play scripted by writer-film-maker Gulzar.
A 75-minute play in verse might seem a tough act even for an adult, but Datt is now such a pro that he has just one quick rehearsal before the curtain goes up. He has been at it for two years now and can do without the 16 takes he needed when he made his debut at Prithvi.
“Pihu, the character I play, fights evil. I like that,” says the Class 9 student of a suburban school.
May to June, Prithvi shuts its doors to adult plays, and opens up its stage only to children’s drama. But don’t for a moment imagine these as callow, high-school productions. Theatre director Sanjna Kapoor handpicks the plays which are professionally mounted. There is one thing that binds all the plays—they are all spiked with a lot of humour, mime, music and dance. And most of them call for audience participation, so it is perfectly okay if your child does not maintain a respectful silence through the play.
This year, of the 16 plays lined up at Prithvi, four are new. Here is a look at the May menu. The festival continues into June and the details are available onwww.prithvitheatre.org.
Gotya: The story of an orphan who becomes friends with the daughter of the family that adopts him. Even if the story sounds serious, it has a lot of comedy. “There is a lot to think about, but also a lot to laugh at,” says director Dhanendra Kawade.
5-6 May, 11am; 26 May, 8pm
Dadhiwala Baba aur Chugalkhor: Kawade does a Mumbai take on a Santa Claus who travels across the suburbs distributing largesse to those who have done a good deed during the vacations.
12-13 May, 11am
Once Upon a Tiger: Jaimini Pathak’s hit play sees a motley bunch of characters at a tiger resort. They are all preoccupied with their own small lives, but by the time the play ends—by which time a lot of slapstick falling about on the stage and singing and mimicry have happened—they all return home determined to do something about the dwindling tiger population in the country.
19-20 May, 11am, 4pm, 7pm; 21 May, 8pm
Agar aur Magar: A play about a young boy who has to flee his village when it is struck by an epidemic and how he doggedly fights superstition. “This play has a lot of music that clicked instantly with the children,” says director Shaili Sathyu.
22 May, 4pm, 7pm; 23 May, 8pm
A Special Bond: Ruskin Bond’s stories for children touch a chord in everyone. This play, which weaves together his stories, is about a little boy who comes to the hills from a city and his adventures there.
23 May, 4pm, 7pm; 24 May, 4pm, 7pm; 25 May, 8pm
Time to Tell a Tale: This is a dramatized version of six stories from the Yuva Katha collection. Many of them revolve around children from small towns and grandparents figure prominently. “We’ve woven in common courtyard games like kho-kho and music. We also invite children to join in and, at times, it gets so riotous, we have to ask them to shut up,” says director Shivani Vakil.
24 May, 8pm; 25 May, 4pm, 7pm; 26 May, 11am, 4pm, 7pm
Deewar: Communal tolerance may not make an easy subject for a kid’s play, but not if it features two teams—The Reds and The Blues. And talks about how the teams find life terribly boring without each other even if they can’t agree on anything. “It is a participatory play that shows how lucky we are to live in a country with such a big variety of languages, cuisines and views,” says children’s theatre activist Vibha Chhiber.
27 May, 11am, 4pm, 7pm
Chandu ki Chachi: Yatri has had a good track record with children’s plays. This is the story of a single boy’s fight against tyranny and bullying, but the director promises that it will have you in splits.
28 May, 4pm, 7pm
C for Clown: Rajat Kapoor’s play for adults will make its debut before a young audience. It is a play about a day in the life of five clowns and there is not a minute when they stand still.
29-30 May, 4pm and 7pm
King’s Journey: This is a shadow puppet show based on a wild story of a king, a deranged population, a lady and umbrellas and their antics across the world. It is performed by the German troupe, Theatre Handgemenge.
31 May, 4pm, 7pm
ON STAGE THIS SUMMER
# In Delhi, theatre veteran V.K. and Khilona have been conducting a summer workshop for children at the India Habitat Centre for the last 10 years. The workshop, open to children between 6 and 10 years, will start on 12 May and end by 1 June. The play the children put together will be staged at the IHC on 2 June. Registration open to non-members from 6 May.
# Starting mid-May, Delhi theatre troupe, Act, will organize Udbhav—a summer theatre, music and dance workshop for children aged 7 to 13 years. By the end of it, the children will put together two shows. “We want to help children to express themselves. So we decided not to work with a canned script,” says Manjima, founder member of Act. www.act.ind.in.
# Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai conducts workshops for children through the month of May. The sessions are diverse and could span themes like dialogue delivery and puppetry to mime and improvisation. www.prithvitheatre.org
# The Artists’ Repertory Theatre in Bangalore is conducting a workshop for teenagers from 14 May to 29 May. The workshop promises tips to help children use their voice and body effectively on stage. firstname.lastname@example.org
# Arka Mukhopadhyay is conducting his first workshop with kids at Logos Theatre. At the 15-day workshop, he uses everyday objects to teach children stage skills. Mail email@example.com.
# Fantasy will be part of a Kannada musical based on The Merchant of Venice. It is directed by Prema Karanth and will be staged after a month-long workshop with children at the Benaka Makkala Nataka Kendra in Bangalore. Karanth can be contacted at the Kendra at 080-26720672.