The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 11 , 2014
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Voices of protest on stage

No sets, no props, actors dressed in regular jeans and black T-shirts and a 15-minute performance that left the audience thinking. The play was the culmination of a three-day workshop for students by Arena Stage Theatre Company from the US.

For three consecutive days, Birla High School transformed into a stage with students from The Heritage School, Modern High School, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy and several other schools and colleges learning life skills in the form of theatre.

“The workshop happens to change an individual forever for the person gets to interact with his/her community and learns through the interaction. Theatre is also a means to address social issues and it is amazing how each and every student here is aware of the problems of the Indian society, has innumerable questions waiting to be answered. Arena Stage is here to provide them with the voices they have been searching for,” said Rachel Sunden, the deputy director, American Center.

The students screamed, played and jumped around, all the while learning to use the weapons of theatre. “Theatre is more than voice modulation and saying memorised dialogues on stage. It’s about the body, the mind and the sounds. One needs to be alert to improvise,” said Kanishk Kanakia, Class XI, The Heritage School.

For the instructors too it was a valuable experience. “In India, there is a cultural identity that binds the community together. The head nod that one does while listening to another person is such a kind gesture and has so much warmth. We, at Arena Stage, believe that every person has stories to tell and is an artist,” said Fareed Mostoufi.

The workshop was followed by an evening of two performances — Breaking Through and Train of Thoughts — at Vidya Mandir. Anguish, disgust and anger broke loose on stage as the artistes made their voices heard for change. Rape, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, homosexuality and academic pressure are some of the issues that found a voice.

“The workshop and the performances were aimed at bringing about a positive change in the world. All that you saw on stage were the artistes’ words and emotions. We have just provided them with a stage to make their voices heard,” said Ashley Gardner Forman, director, Voices of Now, a programme of Arena theatre company.

“These artistes are so kind and open-minded. And they are extremely thoughtful. They want to change the world and make it a better place. They are brimming with ideas and it’s a blessing to work with them,” said Rebecca Suzzane Campana, instructor.

“I was inspired to stand up straight and speak my mind,” summed up Priyadarshini Mukherjee of Class XI, The Heritage School.