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Looking to learn life skills? Join the theatre: Sumit Lai Roy

A theatre veteran makes a case for the stage as a learning tool for life’s big lessons

Sumit Lai Roy | Published 16.08.22, 06:39 PM


The Red Curtain, now The Red Curtain International, started as an English theatre group in Kolkata in 1969. More than 50 years later, one of the founder members provides the best reasons for making theatre part of your lifestyle.

If you would like to do well in life, join a theatre group. Better still, start a theatre group. Don’t expect to make a living off theatre. Theatre, by itself, does not pay very well. But it teaches you invaluable skills to do well in life. Pick any profession you want to be in. Theatre will help you become exceptionally good at it. Here are seven reasons why…

Theatre gives you confidence

Let’s face it. There are very few professions where you can do well without addressing an audience confidently. 

Being good at theatre is the surest way to get rid of the jitters so many people face when asked to address an audience.

Theatre makes you a good team player

You can’t really be a good leader without being a good team player. 

Too many people make the mistake of wanting to join theatre so that they can have the ‘leading role’. Big mistake. Getting the featured role just makes you a prima donna, and no one really likes prima donnas. What people do like is someone who can help bring out the best in others. 

Join the theatre not just to be an actor. Join to become a stage manager, a producer, a lighting designer, a costume designer, a props manager, a director, a front-of-house manager, to do a supporting role.Join theatre groups that believe in ensemble productions, where for the production to be good, the team has to be good.

Theatre makes you organised

You can’t have a good play without being very systematic. Not only must you know your cues, but you must also know other people’s cues equally well. Your props, costumes, quick changes must all be in place.Theatre does not succeed without checklists. 

Neither does life.

Theatre makes you a problem solver

Once you are in theatre, expect a creative challenge every day. How does one create a period head-dress out of a tea-cosy? How will Banquo’s ghost appear and disappear like magic? How can ten people look like the Tree of Life? How can one change the stage to look like a desert one second and a forest the next? The challenge of making magic happen on stage trains you to be ready for any of life’s challenges.

Theatre teaches you how to improvise

In theatre, as in life, you can be sure that things will go wrong. But because you are trained to make sure that the show must go on, you quickly learn to improvise a solution that averts a potential disaster.In theatre, not only must you know your cues, but you also have to know how to save the day in case someone else messes up their cue.

Theatre teaches you economics

In theatre, don’t expect to have large budgets at your disposal. 

To keep your theatre group running, you will have to find ways to generate resources that make the production you are planning economically viable. You need to know how to balance the books. Don’t like balancing books? Are you sure you are ready for life?

Theatre develops empathy

To succeed in theatre, you must be able to step into someone else’s shoes. We were all born empathetic, curious, creative. Then, we get educated. We are told there is only one right answer and we study by rote. We learn to be objective about finding the one right answer that will maximise academic results. We get ready for a rat race.But do you think people are looking for more rats, one indistinguishable from the next? Ask any recruiter and they will say that they look for people with ‘soft skills.’ The kind that is not taught in any course, other than in a very academic, almost theoretical way.Every profession requires its set of technical skills. Once you acquire them you will be one more commodity in that profession. If you are planning to develop your unique persona, so that you can stand out from the rest, join the theatre. It will show you how to stand apart, no matter what you choose as your career.

There are lots of theatre groups in Kolkata. Here's the secret of how to join them and not get rejected: lead with this question, “do you need any help backstage with your next production?”Once you win them over, you’ll find you are given roles that stretch your abilities. Especially if you quickly learn the most important thing theatre teaches you — the best way to succeed is to help other people succeed.


Sumit Lai Roy is a Founder Member of The Red Curtain International, an English theatre group that started in Kolkata in 1969. 

Last updated on 16.08.22, 07:22 PM

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