It all began on a not so over cast day. Sun was bright, sky, slightly unclear. The morning had risen early and so had my hopes. An eager batch of masters in social work,ready to take on the world with their new endeavours, cherishing theatre and meeting each other for the first time had been left to our beckoning. It was for them a mini orientation and for us a new experience.
We began by stating our intent and they began by stating theirs. From the very beginning I knew I was meeting a bunch of passionate enthusiasts who wanted to do something for the people around them.
The starting session saw us playing the evergreen name game along with the slightly upbeat introductions. One had to get them out of their comfort zones and introduce them to the means of theatre as used in communication, art therapy, community building and their course. One had to begin by explaining the complicated sense of a cultural identity that formed the backdrop of a majority of our work. The work on body and voice was simultaneous.
At the end of the day we left them with a thought provoking exercise that made them think about certain issues, they, as individuals have been a part of.
I knew more or less by the second day people had opened up and we needed to start working on the play structure. It wasn’t easy. People were still deciding upon their scenes, getting their ideas sorted and struggling to find their feet and perfect endings. Amidst all this we thought we had to stretch the limit.
The time was short and the amount of work that we had to do was humongous. We made sure that everyone was constantly in the groove by working largely on body movements and stamina building. Our work on body, breath and voice was crucial to say the least.
We were getting into a mode where we had the play ready in parts. Our night session with the students post dinner came in handy as we found time to work with them and get our ideas across. We weren’t disappointed. By the end of fourth day our scenes were ready and roughly we had achieved our aim of creating an overall structure. Yes, the students were tired and exhausted. Yes they were over worked.
But they were also having fun with this workaholic schedule! We had to be a little strict at times but it all seemed worthwhile. We weren’t two facilitators taking workshops. We were friends who played truth and dare, who spoke at length about our lives, problems and issues. But t during the workshop the distinction between us and them was clear to everyone. It was work when it was time for work.By the night session at fourth day we have a draft, a script and scenes in order and our schedule as planned.
The next step was obvious, rehearse till your body gives up. On our practical route to doing that we did break barriers of health and legs for a couple to get them into the “street play position” as we like to call it. Another night session saw the return of one of our fallen heroes ready to take his throne back after a morning full of ill health! Nida and I had to recuperate from seemingly minor illnesses, and the daily dose of Assamese Tea kept both of us going.
As the sixth day draws to a close I write this with my heartfelt gratitude to the group I have been a part of. They have worked and worked and the result of that was a performance in ICARD institute located within the campus. The performance was equally appreciated as well as criticized. We took a lot of lessons from that. Needless to say, voice work and movement have been a part of our daily one hour starting routine. And after listening to the audience response many actors learnt the need for it.
This journal should today be happy. As am I. Waking up from a bus ride to Guwahati I realise I won’t be meeting the same kids, same people, same place or same anything. It is a void difficult to fill. For reasons more than one, this experience will be in TRUE sense of the word, unforgettable.
Yesterday was a remarkable day in the life of the workshop. We performed our hearts out on occasions more than one. Twice at the Don Bosco school. Even though the first time was slightly disorganized, none of the students lost heart. They gave it all they had. Seeing the inspired lot, Father Jerry gave us a chance to perform again in front of classes tenth and twelfth. This time our performance was well heard.
In a little audience interaction a girl came up and expressed the horrific nature of the accident of birth and expressed her desire to work to bridge the gap between the privileged and the under privileged youth, a mandate of the Tehelka Foundation’s YUVA EKTA group. After a rather tiring morning, everyone was up for one final performance in the streets of Lichubari. A long rest at the institution was followed by a remarkable culmination in the streets. The rising young lot did eventually justify the hard work they had put in. People seemed enthralled and some called it even better than last year!
But was it the performance that Nida and I went for? Probably. It was a part of our reason for going. But what formed the core of our larger intent was something Father Jerry mentioned in our feedback session. Theatre is and always will remain about exploration and expression, confidence and communication to bring out your inhibitions and state your intent. For this new batch of social workers where would theatre take them? I would say, a long way. The use of theatre as a tool in the development sector is hardly unmentionable. But this journey for most of them was about self exploration and expression. The feedback session was befitting to say the least. The reception of love was heartwarming and something that can’t be expressed in words. This experience personally has opened my horizons to the world of theatre and I would have regretted not being a part of this. I want this more. More…
For someone whose certain voids can never be fulfilled, I can empathize today saying that this is one experience that can be filled or fulfilled by none. The Bosco Institute left me a different person and I come back to the modalities of normal life, wanting to go back into that zone again. My room, my food and my tea, have all acquired a different meaning. I just wish that as the sun will set and the day will decline, the stars in everyone hearts’ will continue to shine. I just wish that everyone would feel this amazing grace, a thought that everyone will happily embrace.
(Rijul Kataria is pursuing his Masters in Sociology from JNU. He was one of the facilitators who conducted theater workshops at Bosco Institute, Jorhat, Assam in august 2013)