Ranga Shankara’s AHA! Summer Express had young children figure out the drama of things around them

A group of children were running wild exploring the wonderful wide theatre space. Shyam fell down and Sia tripped right on top of him.

Jessie drifted off to a corner of the room with her water bottle and pressed her cheek against the wall. Usman reached over to hold Shyam’s hand, but Shyam was busy pushing away Sia.

The children were supposed to be forming a circle in the theatre space, but nothing about the scene resembled a circle.

The above was the drama as seen an hour after the theatre workshop of AHA! Summer Express began at Ranga Shankara.

The world around us…

Slowly, the children came around, both to form the circle and to discover the elements of theatre through various activities in a five-day workshop with Padmavati Rao, who has anchored Ranga Shankara’s Summer Express since its inception.

‘The Drama of Things’ was the theme of the theatre workshop this year, with the hope that this process will ensure that children value things that are a part of their lives — be it animate or inanimate. Children learnt from their own attempts, questions, and responses and also from peers.

On the first day of the workshop, they were given a sheet of paper and crayons to express their individual perception of ‘Theatre’. While one child started drawing dragons without a second thought, some ventured with words and a few drew an elaborate stage.

The group finally walked through all their art work, quietly understanding the various possibilities. They played yet another game that taught them not only essential theatre vocabulary but also demanded them to listen, as well as project their voices to make themselves heard.

As the energy and excitement grew, one of the boys stepped on Padmavati Rao’s spectacles and broke it into two. With great presence of mind, she used the situation to discuss the theme of the workshop. Children came up with ideas to repair/reuse the broken item and agreed to be mindful of things around them.

“We have emerging realities like this every year,” says Padmavati Rao, a gifted storyteller, writer and director of plays for children. She is more popular as ‘Pinty Akka’, the Summer Express veteran than as the Assistant Director of the TV serial Malgudi Days.

Precious mummy

In a conversation in the earthy cafeteria at Ranga Shankara, she says “Every year it’s interesting to see why each child decides to be on stage or off stage and what they want to do. Hardly three children spoke of music this year. The theme of this year’s workshop led to a discussion on favourite things and lost things. Most children agreed that their mother was their favourite living thing, however few spoke about things in the world around us.”

On the penultimate day of the workshop, children made two groups and took turns to practise a little act to be presented to their parents on the last day. They also learnt the ethics of good cooperative audience.

The group watching gave precious feedback to the performing children and then exchanged roles. They contributed to making props for their act with reused material before they left for the day.

“This year we have strived harder to bring more numbers and a wider range of workshops into AHA! Summer Express, for the children of Bangalore. We are sure the new line-up of workshops together with our evergreen ones, ups the fun and learning quotient,” says Surendranath S., Artistic Director of Ranga Shankara.

With 18 different workshops for children between the age groups of seven to 17 years, from April 16 to May 15, by the finest faculty both local and from across the country, the AHA! Summer Express aims to make Bangalore’s young blood a few notches richer.

(The names of the children have been changed.)

Keywords: Ranga Shankara