A theatre workshop in the city gathers steam as it prepares to stage Bertolt Brecht’s The Three Penny Opera

“I want you to express yourself!” The PSG CAS auditorium rings with the resonating voice of theatre director and teacher, G. Channakeshava. Fifty students on stage, rehearse their lines. And Channakeshava gestures to the choir and music team. The drums pound and the singers belt out a song. And The Three Penny Opera, a play by Bertolt Brecht, begins.

More about energy

“I chose this play because it is a musical. The students will have a whale of a time singing and dancing. It suits their spirit and energy better than a dialogue-centred play,” says the Bangalore-based theatre director and designer.

It is rehearsal time at the 10-day workshop, organised by the Drama Club of PSG College of Arts and Science and Coimbatore Book Club Theatre Group. Channakeshava, who is a guest faculty at Ninasam Theatre Institute, Karnataka conducts the workshop, which will end with a production.

They enact a scene where a man breaks into a colony of prostitutes. The girls are supposed to scream when he jumps onto the stage. Channakeshava instructs the boy to make his gestures loud. He urges the girls to improvise and use the space around them. “It is a play with multiple perspectives. There is a story within a story. The students can be spontaneous and creative.”

Says Channakeshava, “I do not want them to just mouth dialogues from the script. I want them to use their body. I have employed different styles, including melodrama. We have used folk music since Brecht himself was influenced by the Eastern culture. We have also tried to add a contemporary twist by featuring mobile phones.”

A theatre director and an artist by profession, Channakeshava says the artist in him makes him pay a lot of importance to stage design. “What matters to me is how the audience views my stage,” he says.

Besides acting, the workshop also introduced the students to props, costume designing and stage setting.

A sense of drama

“Channakeshava has divided us into smaller teams to manage the production. Now we have a better sense of the play and the characters,” says student Sundaragandhi.

The event manager of the play, Amritha Suryakumar, says it has been an intensive, hands-on-experience. “I realise my strengths and weaknesses as a team leader. Also, being an English literature student, it is amazing to see the texts I learnt within my classroom come alive on stage.”

The PSG Drama Club, founded in 2009, has brought out a production every month. “This is our first production, open to public. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” says another student Radheswar.

Kalpana Karthi, the founder of the club and a professor in the English department, says how the club has developed from a small team to an enthusiastic bunch of 200 theatre aspirants.

“I sensed there was so much unexpressed energy and talent in the students and they needed a space to vent them .” The students manage to squeeze their the rehearsal sessions in between a busy exam schedule. Even Kalpana stays back after her college. “I enjoy it. It is a pleasure to be with them. Their energy makes you younger, every day.”

(The Three Penny Opera will be staged at PSG CAS Auditorium on February 1 at 7 p.m. The passes are available at On The Go, Race Course, That’s Y Food, R.S. Puram and Poojak, R.S. Puram)

Ninasam Theatre institute, Heggodu

Founded in 1949, Ninasam took birth as an amateur cultural troupe that put up theatre productions and debated on social issues, under the initiative of theatre person, K.V. Subbanna. Soon, it developed into a theatre and cultural centre that offered one-year diploma in theatre arts. Ninasam’s seven-day culture camp, started in 2000, invites eminent scholars from all over the world. Ninasam’s itinerant theatre troupe, Tirugata, comes up with an annual production, which tours the villages and cities around the state.