It is World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People. Introduce your kids to theatre, where along with a load of fun and frolic, they will also pick up self confidence and emotional strength

“How can we show the young and naughty Naren climbing a tree against his grandfather’s wishes?” I asked this of a group of children in Dharapuram. We were rehearsing for a play on the life of Vivekananda.

“Ma’m, we will put one tree here and put chairs behind the tree. I will climb on the chair and talk to grandfather from there. It will look as if I am on top of the tree, no?” It was a simple and out-of-the-box idea from a student in the fourth standard.

Each year that passes, I discover just how smart and intelligent children are, if we give them the chance to just be. Theatre creates a space for students to think and express themselves. It helps many of them get over obstacles and insecurities. When they step into another’s shoes in a play, and deliver lines, they often find a solution to issues they have been dealing with in their own lives.

This year, at the Helen O’Grady Drama Academy, I consciously chose children who were left out of performances because they were not quick enough. They shone. A student of standard five, supposedly with ADHD, performed superbly in the role of the Raja of Ramnad. Children help each other in performances. They freely give and receive feedback and suggestions. I saw this at a school in Sathyamanagalam, where we were staging an extract from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Children from standards eight, nine, ten and eleven gave each other sound advice.

Archana Dange

Co-ordinator, Helen O Grady, Tamil Nadu

Children are lot more fun to work with than adults. They do not come with pre-conceived notions. They are spontaneous and absorb every small detail that you teach them. We have been working with children in many schools and theatre workshops. Over the years, teachers have realised the importance of theatre in improving the personality of the child. It is no longer an extra-curricular activity, but part of the main curriculum. Theatre helps behavioural development in children. It makes them more sociable. Theatre is not just about acting; it is also about interaction and developing a free body language.

Chanda Khaturia,

Coimbatore Art and Theatrical Society

I first played a child labourer working for a cruel dhaba owner. I had to whimper and wail as he tortured me. But that play made me realise my love for acting. Since my dad played the dhaba owner and mom directed the play, there was no fear associated with going on stage. My confidence grew after that performance. Now, I regularly take part in school plays. I recently played the part of a doctor-mom who did not have time for her child.

Tanvi Mathur, child actor

The popularity of my Chocolate Krishna is only because of children. It is a play dedicated to kids; only they have the innocence to enjoy the present.

In fact, when I was struggling with a title for the play, it was the child in the opposite house who told me Chocolate Krishna was very nice. The adults hated the title! Now, it has crossed 700 shows.

Children are precocious these days and are very evolved. If they like a play, that is proof of the pudding, sorry kidding!

‘Crazy’ Mohan

When children watch plays, they absorb information. A lot of research goes into a well-made play. Kids who watch them can gain in-depth knowledge about a subject.

As a director, I love working with children. They are such naturals and come with no pre-conceived notions of stardom. They obey implicitly. I once hit my nephew hard on stage, caught up in the moment. I felt bad. Today, he laughs seeing those photographs.

KRS Krishnan

Kovai KRS Troupe

Interschool drama competitions should be an annual affair in the city. Drama is much more than just about training actors. It is also about improving social skills. Theatre builds confidence and develops the imagination. It loosens inhibitions.

A school without drama teaching is bereft of any intellectual and artistic ambition. Teachers are performers in the class room. Unless they dramatise the lessons, learning does not happen in the classroom.

Jayashree V Murthy

Theatre buff

Theatre transforms children. Not just oratorial skills, they also pick up the ability to organise, and work as a team.

Theatre can alter and channelise their value systems. What they pick up from theatre stays with them for a long, long time.

Former students get back saying they have learnt to write a play or stand for a particular value, all because they worked as part of a school play.

Sushila Muller

Retired teacher of English

Theatre encourages children to continue imagining and thinking for themselves. They are natural and connect easily to characters because young people are empathetic. Theatre helps preserve that quality.

We must have more children’s theatre especially in semi-urban and rural areas. Parents need to wake up realise that enrollilng a child in a theatre programme is a more useful gift than gifting a PSP.

Shashi Gulati

Theatre personality

Parents’ talk:

Empathy gym

Theatre is where children build up the muscles of compassion and practise listening and understanding and engaging with people that are different from them. We practise sitting down, paying attention and learning from other people’s actions.

Lollita Daniel

Rhythm and movement

My three-and-a-half-year old son was a shepherd in the Christmas play. I never imagined he could do a role like that which involved moving in rhythm with the group. But he did it and he has not stopped talking about it since.

Anjali Velupuri

Tolerance and teamwork

Theatre helps children deal concretely with their limitations. They understand their strengths and accept themselves as they are. They become less judgemental and more tolerant of one another. Theatre is important for the future of our society. Children learn to work as a team and understand each other better.

Mita Asher