Students of city schools and colleges have been demonstrating their commitment to the stage for some time now. But a new wave can be spotted, gradually gaining momentum — the love of theatre sans a stage. Street theatre is the latest thing that’s ‘in’, and drama enthusiasts are all checking it out.
Patang is a street play festival that the students of Mellow Dramatic, the theatre society of Mahadevi Birla Girls’ Higher Secondary School, have been organising for the past two years. But the third edition — set to hit the non-conventional stage this weekend — has seen a significant change. In an attempt to start something of a movement, a weeklong workshop has been arranged for students interested in finding out a little more about the unique and versatile craft.
“Two years was good enough to tell us that none of the schools or colleges knew what a street play is,” explains Priyanka Jain of Mahadevi Birla, one of the organisers and participants. Most of the groups would, apparently, put up plays similar to a stage play in form. So, to point them in the right direction, the organisers decided to upgrade the non-competitive festival to include a workshop.
Facilitators include Vasant Shukla from Delhi, Avik Chatterjee of Badal Sircar’s Shatabdi and Sanchayan Ghosh, a visual arts teacher from Santiniketan.
Vocal exercises and improvisation, sets and the build-up of socially-relevant themes are all part of the effort involving students who may not be in the plays, but are interested in the art form.
“Performing on stage is so different from performing on the streets. These workshops have helped overcome the kids’ inhibitions,” explains Chatterjee. “Some of them are very talented and street plays are a great way of saying something without spending a lot of money,” he adds.
Shukla, the main resource person, has been taking most of the sessions in two batches at the St Thomas Presbytery, Middleton Row. “It has been great fun working with this bunch. They are very open, though many don’t know much about street theatre. We are preparing them right from the basics, and their enthusiasm is obvious,” says Shukla. Many of the students have also used the opportunity to ask the stage professional for tips on how to launch a career as an actor.
Participating schools include Don Bosco (Park Circus and Liluah), St James’, St Joseph’s, Salt Lake High School, Birla High (Girls) and St Thomas for Boys (Kidderpore). Colleges including St Xavier’s, Presidency, Jadavpur University and J.D. Birla have also signed up.
With so many students involved, a live venue posed logistical problems for Patang 2003. But avoiding a formal proscenium set-up, the organisers have opted for a terrace for Saturday’s shows and the Young Men’s Christian Association, Girish Park, premises for Sunday’s performances.