A workshop for children on theatre gave them an insight into what goes into a theatre production – from storytelling and acting to creating props and sound effects

Children gather around in a circle at Ladies Club, R.S. Puram, to listen to the story of an arrogant lion tamer. K. V. Siddhartha is telling the tale. He stands in the centre , with a paper in his hand. He looks at every one nervously and mumbles, “I am… err.. the greatest lion tamer in the world.” “Boo...He is so scared”, shouts one kid. And the others join him and soon a chorus of “Boos” fills up the hall.

Siddhartha moves back, his head drooped, looking sad. Chanda Khaturia steps in and says, “If you want your audience not to be bored, you have to make it sound interesting! Let’s give Sidhu one more chance.” Siddhartha, steps in, looking confident, tells the story again loudly and clearly. The children listen to him rapt, and give him a round of applause when he finishes.

Theatre is all about telling stories, says Chanda and you don’t have to be shy, she adds. At the theatre workshop for kids organised by the Coimbatore Art and Theatrical Society (CATS), the children are given all the freedom to scream, run around and shout out even the spelling mistakes they spot on the scripts!

Twist in the tale

Chanda then presents the Little Red Riding Hood, but with a twist. “There is no wood cutter here, guys. The granny kills the wolf,” grins Chanda.

The children then enact the story. The girls laugh loudly when the boys act like red riding hood, pretending to hold their skirts.

There is a bevy of other activities. Mimicry, sound effects where the kids have to make sounds like the wind, leaves and doors, by using their different body parts and shadow play techniques. Using a table lamp and torch Siddhartha tells them how they can create interesting shapes on a white screen.

Shadow play and sound effects

Later he divides the children to four teams and gives them the scripts of the plays, which they will enact the following day. There is an immediate buzz as each group discusses props, masks and sound effects they can employ in their productions.The kids are also taught to make their own masks. Surrounded by chart paper, gum and scissors, they create masks of bears, pigs and cats. There are exasperated cries when the mask is too big for some of their faces. “Measure your face and then cut out the shapes,” instructs Chanda.

The next day, children are all ready to be on stage. Up first is the play “The camel and the Sheikh” from Panchatantra, where the clever camel evicts the Sheikh from his own tent.

The children use the shadow play techniques they learnt the earlier day.

The second play is about how Birbal outwits a jealous courtier and impresses Akbar. Akbar in a sherwani perched on top of a pile of chairs is cute!

The third team enacts Goldilocks and the three bears. Even the props for this story are the kids themselves. So the little girl, who plays the chair on which Goldilocks sits, gives a very convincing performance of collapsing under her weight!

The fourth play is “The wolf and the three pigs” where an evil wolf threatens to break into the houses of the three frightened piglets. The boy, who plays the wolf, terrifies his audience with his “I will huff and puff and blow your house down!”

After the plays are over, everyone gathers outside for grilled sandwiches and brownies. The children discuss animatedly about the goof-ups and funny moments. And all of them say they had such fun at the workshop.

Thirteen-year-old Dhruv, who aspires to be an actor says, “You don’t get this freedom at school. Here, we felt good as no one controlled us.”