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Knowing the Bard better

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COSTUME DRAMA Kids at the ball
COSTUME DRAMA Kids at the ball

The aim of the masked ball held recently was to educate children about Shakespeare

Henry Fielding was probably turning in his grave at the thought of the masquerade ball, organised by the Shakespeare Millennium Club at GRT Grand on Saturday. Fielding was in the vanguard of a writers' movement that attacked such masked entertainment on the grounds that they `promoted immorality'. Their argument: people tend to shed inhibitions when they are elaborately costumed, perfectly masked and incognito. But, at the end of Saturday's masked ball, Fielding would have perhaps accepted this as a harmless, even educative, variety of entertainment. Baring a clutch of children from St. John's International Residential School, none seemed keen on modifying their appearance to prevent recognition. Even the costumed children, who were trying to emulate Shakespearean characters in manner and appearance, were not elaborately dressed. Fair enough, because the purpose of the ball was not to mystify, but to educate. The event, conducted under the auspices of Philip Rajaiah Institute of Continuing Education (PRICE), sought "to raise funds to propagate Shakespeare among school, college and underprivileged children in the tsunami affected villages of Tamil Nadu". Dances, performed to haunting and mushy classics played by Manu Roberts and Sabrina Peppins of Talisman, were kept to the minimum and confined to a small area that was covered by a makeshift wooden dancing floor. Shakespeare ruled the roost with almost every other event dwelling upon his genius. Tambola was played, but as `Shakespearola'. With an impeccable pronunciation and an impressive voice, theatre personality Smith, dressed like Shylock, would call out the numbers - `By itself six; Shakespeare signed in six different ways', `15; Beware the Ides of March', `80; King Lear's age', '10; Shakespeare's history plays, `23; Shakespeare's birth and death day', `by itself 5; the Acts in Shakespeare's plays'... With a touch of wit and originality, Jamuna Kalyani Sridharan, coordinator of the Shakespeare Millennium Club, threw light on each of such facts about the playwright and his works and the language he used (for example, farthingale, the symbol of Tudor couture, was explained). Posters did their bit. They displayed Shakespearean lines that have captured popular imagination - `Sweet are the uses of adversity', `There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so', `The course of true love never did run smooth'... Rewards could be had - for right answers and guesses; for right birthdays and names. `Shakespeare posers' came in sheets of paper contained in a bowl. Helpline Solutions Private Limited gave printouts of Shakespeare's horoscope, which had been calculated by Pandit Kalyan Narayanan. One could also get the computer to churn out his/her horoscope in a jiffy, by providing information on where and when (exact time) he/she was born. Those born on 23rd of any month and those with names that started with `S' took home gift hampers. PRINCE FREDERICK

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