How does a theatre production come about from the pages of a book to the stage? Kritika Dhiwahar explained the process at a workshop held in the city recently. Parshathy. J. Nath listened in

The grown-ups would shush her every time she spoke. Little Kritika Dhiwahar had a loud voice. They would tell her that girls should be seen not heard. But, Kritika realised the value of her voice at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi where she graduated in English literature. She took part in the auditions for a street play. And, the judges were impressed by her ringing voice and cast her in the lead role! From there began her journey in theatre and she became an active member of the street theatre group in college. She went on to join the National School of Drama, where she pursued a post-graduate diploma. “I fell in love with theatre because it gave me an alternative space for imagination. On stage, you have to think like a child!” she told the seven trainers of the Helen O’ Grady Drama Academy at their Page To Stage theatre workshop.

All drama

The two-day workshop introduced participants to scripting, stage blocking (the primary stage during a scene-rehearsal where the director fixes the movement and positions of the actors), prop and costume designing, song-writing and direction.

Since Helen O’ Grady works with school children more, Kritika also gave them a few tips that would help them to understand children psychology better.

The first session began with script writing where Kritika asked the participants to turn the Tenali Raman stories into three acts. She told them to make the first and last act, and finally create the second act to connect them. “This will help you build the narrative better,” she said. Once each team wrote down the different acts and filled them with scenes and dialogues, Kritika proceeded to stage blocking.

“Let us block the scene where Tenali steals the brinjal from the royal garden!” One of them played Tenali and the rest became the fountain, the tree, the stone and the brinjal plant. “You do not have to be realistic at all. The fountain can talk, the trees can dance and stones can shake,” urged Kritika.

Next was composing an introductory song for the play.

“Rhymes always work well with children. But, you need to be careful not to use difficult words,” said Kritika.

After a brainstorming session, the group came up with a poem. “We are going to watch a drama...oho! The hero is Tenali Rama...aaha!” began Dinesh Kumar in Villu Pattu style.

The hall filled up with the sounds of tambourine and drum beats as the group belted out the Tenali rap!

Improvisation

Kritika then dumped a pile of newspapers in front of the actors. “Now make costumes of Tenali and the King. You have five minutes,” she instructed. The participants frantically ran around to grab scissors and staplers. Sudha Ganesh, a Helen O’ Grady trainer was the first to get ready. Wearing paper kudumi, pleated veshti and sandals she was the smug Tenali in every way! Jaya Prakash was the king, holding a paper sword and sporting a twirling paper moustache. “It is better to teach children in designing costumes with newspapers. They will understand how to treat their costumes better,” said Kritika.

On the last day of the workshop, Kritika asked Sasikala Carthick and Leon to direct any two scenes from the play and present a two-minute production along with the other participants. Sasikala chose the brinjal scene while Leon worked on the scene where Tenali tricks the burglars in his house. When both the plays got over, Kritika compared the methodologies of the two directors. There was appreciation as well as constructive criticism. “This is the best part of theatre. You need to open up your mind to take honest criticism,” Kritika pointed out.

Lessons in management

That is why theatre workshops are in great demand in the corporate spaces, she said.

“Theatre puts your managerial skills to the test. It is also the best exercise for problem management.” Bridging education and theatre is the main focus of all her workshops, said the Chennai-based theatre person. “I was also an English teacher and I love teaching. So, I thought why not combine my two passions!” She was convinced that theatre is the way forward for teachers. “A teacher cannot be boring, especially today when children are influenced so much by electronic media. At the end of the day, a teacher has to be a good performer!”