PREVIEW: TIFLI’s attempt at professionalising theatre for children comes loaded productions from India and across the world

In the not-so-crowded space of children’s theatre, festivals and activities like First International Theatre Festival for Young Audiences in India or TIFLI presented by ASSITEJ India are a much needed shot in the arm. National School of Drama’s Jashn-e-Bachpan and Bal Sangam (which happened in November last year) are among the handful besides Ishara International Puppet Festival (due later this month) producing children’s theatre.

“The emphasis here is on adult professionals performing for kids. We feel that excellence in productions created for young kids is in need. We are working towards professionalising the genre,” says Ashish Ghosh, President of TIFLI, International TYA Festival (Theatre for Young Audiences). This platform was born in 2004 but actively started doing work only in 2008.

To be held at Bal Bhawan from February 17 to 23, the festival packs in 14 plays — 10 Indian and four foreign productions — workshops, platform performances by youth theatre groups and street plays by college drama societies as well. “To highlight the possibilities with this genre, we have included different types of work — musical theatre, object theatre, puppet theatre, mime etc. For the subject too, we didn’t restrict them. Gilo group from Mumbai has based their work on Mahashweta Devi’s “Kyun Kyun Ladki”, another play revolves around environment,” informs Ghosh.

Within India, the organisers have selected groups from Bangalore, Manipur, Kolkata, Delhi whereas the international element is provided by Denmark, Germany, Sri Lanka and Iran.

While the morning shows are reserved for private schools, afternoon shows are for government/NGOs/special schools and evening slots are for family audiences. “I think a lot of artistic interventions are needed in the field of education and this is one such exercise. The idea is to generate curiosity in a young mind so that he keeps asking questions,” says Ghosh. So get your creative juices flowing.

(The festival will be on from February 18 to February 22. It will begin with “A King’s Journey” (shadow puppetry) by German theatre group Theatre Handgemenge)