At the Koothambalam in the Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan here, groups of students hopped about on one foot balancing a chair above their heads.

Complementing this odd sight, was the familiar chant of the ‘Vanchi Paatu’, sung by theatre director S. Ramanujam, one of the figures of traditional theatre who is participating in the three-day workshop organised by the Kerala State Youth Welfare Board that began here on Monday.

The workshop is the culmination of a two-month-long programme that the Board launched on January 9. The programme saw trainers, including a yoga teacher, travelling through the length of the State and spending five days in each district’s centre to coach youngsters with a flair for theatre.

The groups of youngsters from each district are here for the workshop, on the occasion of World Theatre Day on March 27. Marking this day, as well as the end of the training programme, is what promises to be an enthralling sight of over 200 performers gathering to perform a brief production at the Gandhi Park.

“We are not planning on an elaborate plotline, but we want to involve everyone who was part of this exercise,” says Vice Chairman of the Youth Welfare Board P.S. Prashanth. He talks about what is in store for these new talents, which is to involve them in a State-wide campaign against drug abuse and liquor consumption.

“This is the first time that the Board is prioritising art to such a degree as a means of spreading awareness on such vital issues. This bottom-up approach of training the artistes and then presenting them with a platform to showcase their skills and educate the public is the Board’s focus now,” he adds.

The State will be divided into three zones and the actors will be taken to higher secondary schools, college campuses, and other venues, to take part in cultural fetes highlighting social issues, says Mr. Prashanth.

“We will start when the new academic year begins and the artistes from this workshop will be trained for a few weeks, ahead of the campaign,” he says.

Mr. Prashath says the whole concept, of giving intensive training to students in their respective districts and then bringing them to the capital to expose them to exponents of the field, has evolved from a consensus that merely organising a ‘Kalolsavam’ to encourage artistes is not enough.

The participants will also be treated to sessions for the following two days that will be led by the Dean of the National School of Drama, New Delhi, Abhilash Pillai.