Taking the stage

Debarati Palit Singh
Tuesday, 20 March 2018

ST speaks to city-based theatre experts to understand how the medium helps children develop creative minds

Research has shown that theatre is beneficial for children. It not only helps them develop their personality but also improves language skills. Just like academics, theatre has a crucial role to play in the growth of their personalities. With  March 20 being observed as World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People, we spoke to two Pune-based theatre experts, who conduct short workshops and summer camps for children, to know how theatre helps develop creative minds. 

Developing interest in literature
Abhijeet Choudhary, founder and director, Swatantra Theatre, who has been organising children’s theatre workshops for more than eight years now, says that the stage helps children to open up. “Such workshops help kids to open up, and are especially beneficial for the shy ones. It also teaches them team building and how to work in a group,” he says.  

An important factor, points out Choudhary, is that theatre helps children move away from technology. “Today, technology has become a major part of their lives as they spend most of their time either on the smartphone or web. When I conduct workshops, I tell parents that they cannot give mobile phones to their children during the duration of the workshop which is two to three hours. Initially, they have issues but slowly they learn to live without their phones. We do not realise that technology has huge side effects and in the long run it affects us,” he says adding, “As children learn to live without their phones, they slowly develop interest in stories, and theatre plays a major role in doing so. Most children do not know about Indian writers and we are making an attempt to make them aware of such great writers.”

Creativity is needed every field and Indian parents are gradually realising it. Choudhary says that such classes and workshops help children think creatively. “It makes them think how do I enact the scene? How do I execute it? How do I perform it?” 
He is also happy that the children have developed an interest in literature, poetry, reading and writing through stage. “I usually ask them to write poems and they write such beautiful ones.” He believes that not just theatre, any form of activity helps develop a creative mind.

He is also happy that parents are opening up to the idea of letting their children join theatre classes or workshops. “I always tell parents not to force children to join any classes, it should come from within. If they have an interest in cricket, let them join the game.” Though he is disappointed with the pressure parents put on children for the hope of getting them into reality shows and serials. “Many parents want their children to join workshops just to get into reality shows. But you cannot join theatre for the sake of gaining an entry into another medium. Theatre can help towards gaining an all-rounded education,” he says. 

Making use of technology
Radhika Ingle, director, School of Media Arts, believes that theatre helps in imbibing many types of skills, not just performing arts. “It helps you develop a presence of mind, you also learn to deal with negative thoughts and so on. When children play a character, they try to understand the space the other person is in. And because they recreate something, they get a chance to be aware of things happening around them. They learn to deal with everyday problems. For example at our workshops, children learn more about child abuse and how to tackle it, or how it feels to lose someone close, etc.”

Ingle, who has been conducting children’s workshops for more than 18 years, says that it helps them develop media literacy and understand that whatever is happening around is not 100 per cent true. “Whatever we are watching on news channels or the internet is not always completely true. When children enact a story on stage, they realise that it is not the truth but a story. The incident might happen in society,” she says.

As the discussion moves toward technology and how it’s impacting the mind of children, she says, “There is no denying that technology proves a challenge but we are using it at our workshops. Earlier, it was easier to get a child’s attention but not anymore. They have so many WhatsApp groups and games to keep them engaged. So we realised that we have to incorporate technology to draw their attention. We ask them to read up on a particular character or story on the internet before the workshop. After which they  come and enact it, so it becomes an organic process for them,” she says.

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