What about theatre in schools?
Did you know that Rabindranath Tagore made theatre a part of the curriculum in Shantiniketan and personally supervised all rehearsals? He also insisted that all productions be made open to all students as he believed theatre had immense educational value. Tagore argued that theatre should be made compulsory and said, “If our schools were run on the right lines, boys and girls would never lose their natural gifts of bodily expression.”
Sunil Vishnu feels that the issues Evam is addressing with corporates – inhibition, lack of communication skills and confidence – can be avoided if children are involved in theatre from a young age. For most schools in India however, theatre means the lone annual day play. But this is changing fast. There is more awareness among schools about the importance of performing arts, including theatre, and schools are partnering with theatre practitioners to offer theatre activities on a more regular basis.
Furthermore, the Universities Grants Commission has recommended that theatre be accorded as much importance as the Language curriculum and be offered as a ‘course that would promote aesthetic self-expression,’ as part of the Life Skill Curriculum. If theatre becomes part of the curriculum in colleges, the trickle-down effect will reach schools too.
Dos and Don’ts for Parents
Focus on the experience rather than the end goal
You may ask, “Why should my child spend so much time in theatre? She is not going to become an actress!” Well, not all children who practice dance rigorously go on to become professional dancers. That is why it is important to look at theatre as a process that aids personality development and not only as something that is focussed on performance. While productionoriented theatre classes focus more on the development of core theatre skills and the presentation of a play, process-oriented workshops focus more on the aspects of personality development. As a discerning parent, do try to give your child the benefit of being involved in theatre for the experience rather than an end goal.
Offer unstinting support
“Support from parents is very important. My request to parents is that they should not oppose involvement in theatre, citing focus on academics. The truth is that most people who make it big in life are those who have had holistic growth. From theatre, a child learns to think on his feet and fend for himself,” says Dr. Zulfia Shaikh, Founder – Bangalore School of Speech and Drama (BSSD). Children who have been involved in theatre are very optimistic about the ability to balance academics and theatre. It takes a lot of planning and organising though, and this is where parents can pitch in. There are usually numerous rehearsals and practice sessions, especially in production-oriented endeavours. Take care not to communicate a sense of unwillingness to send your child for practice. Know what you are getting into, and do not hold back after the child takes to theatre.