Sunday, April 20, 2014

Theatre Gold!

Summer’s here and so are summer camps!  Two years, when I first began exploring the summer camp scene in our neighbourhood, I so wished I could enroll my then five year old into one of the summer activities held at Rangashankara but couldn’t as the minimum stipulated age was seven. This year however, there was no doubt that Abhay was getting on board the Summer Express 2014! If we could, we would have enrolled him into all the workshops that he was eligible for, but alas, with vacation plans already made much before the announcement of the Summer Express schedule, we could only do the workshops in April. We enrolled Abhay into a five day workshop called “Theatre Gold” conducted by Padmavathi Rao (a.k.a Pinty akka), a summer express veteran, a gifted story teller and a writer-director of plays for children. Essentially meant for children of the age group of seven to nine years, the endeavour of this workshop was to introduce the children to the theatre, identify the common and not so common sources to draw inspiration from, and recognize if not fully understand the process of onstage and off stage activities involved. This year’s theme for “Theatre Gold” being ‘values’,  each parent was asked to scrawl out a proverb or a saying that best reflected the values they hoped to imbibe in their kids which, was then mounted on a chart board for “Pinty akka” to weave them into her interaction with the kids.  

Each day, the kids worked around the theme along with Pinty-akka and her team who tried to convey the essence of their parents’ messages and helped them understand and develop their own value based sayings, while throwing light on various aspects of performing on stage. The kids were also involved in constructing and creating their own props, through origami and papier machie with the help of organic materials and home made glue. On the last day yesterday, the kids put up a small presentation comprising of a series of 30-second acts/skits in groups of threes, with the plot, dialogues and delivery all managed by the kids themselves! 
Abhay enjoyed the workshop and was in fact begging for more! We as parents were delighted and felt relieved that the workshop was more process oriented than result oriented. On a personal note, I happened to reconnect with an old schoolmate after almost two decades, whose son happen to attend the same workshop. Overall, it was a one-of a kind workshop that Abhay will always remember …..all thanks to Pinty Akka and team and not to forget her  personalized bookmarks for all the summer express travellers!! J

So celebrating Abhay’s first Summer Express adventure, I had him read “School Play” by Susan Nees, a part of illustrated Early chapter books brought out as the Branches series by Scholastic as to help Early readers transition into chapter books.
This particular story is a part of Missy’s Super-Duper- Royal-Deluxe series. Missy loves to be on stage and dreams of being a big star, so famous that she doesn’t have to go to school. Her mother ferrets out the reason she is reluctant to go to school – her class is putting up a play and she doesn’t get a big part, in fact not even a speaking part! Despite all her pleadings and protests, Missy is sent to school where she is annoyed to find nothing going right for her – from her school report being shot down by the teacher to her music teacher chiding for singing too loud…it’s just not Missy’s super deluxe day! To add to this, she discovers to have forgotten her lunch and is forced to eat her school lunch made of bruzzels sprouts! To her dismay…all her classmates talk about is the play …and their substantial parts with dialogues, colourful costumes and music. So Missy decides to take the matter into her hands and slightly tweaks her dialogue-less role and dull costume and adds some much needed sparkle to the play, while also helping a fellow performer with his dialogues that ultimately saves the play in a super-duper-royal deluxe way!  We loved the realistic portrayal of the issues that confront a primary school kid and particularly the call outs that represents her confused yet determined mind! Though the story has a usual ending, this Early chapter book aided with apt illustrations takes the young reader through various facets of putting up a performance, including music, costumes, props, dialogue prompts, settings and of course team work! So there’s lot more to theatre than what we see on stage ….which hopefully Abhay was able to identify through one of his first workshops at the Summer Express! Here’s hoping he gets on the summer express next year too!! J

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