A forum for them

INSIGHTFUL: Initiating a discussion. Photo: T. Saravanan   | Photo Credit: mamp25theatre2

When Jan Von Rennenkampff, Forum Theatre expert from Switzerland, encouraged the participants to come in front and sing the German harvest song along with him, there were initially no takers. But gradually the spirit of the song caught up with them and the hall reverberated with the rhythm.

“The Forum Theatre is all about initiation and participation,” says Von Rennenkampff. “When I asked one of them to come in front and sing, none came forward but they were prepared to sing in a group. Finally, I succeeded in my effort to make them sing.”

Jan Von Rennenkampff and Matthias Nuesch from Switzerland are here as resource persons for a series of workshops on Forum Theatre organised by the Nigazh Theatre Centre in different educational institutions. They taught school and college students how to use non-violent tools to solve a conflict. By bringing an issue on to the stage and involving the audience in the scheme of things they initiate a discussion on the subject.

“Our way of performing differs from that of Augusto Boal’s philosophy in some points,” says Von Rennenkampff. “Augusto Boal, who evolved the concept of Forum Theatre, conducted multiple-day workshops with marginalized people to develop this form. We instead do just three-hour performances with short scenes,” he explains.

The performances revolve around alcoholism, racism, family problems, violence, and other themes. The audience is invited to interact in the scenes.

In his group of three actors, one moderates the performance. They play the scene once for the audience and then start to repeat the scene. They also ask the audience to stop wherever they think the situation is wrongly handled by the performers on stage. The one who stops the scene is then invited to come on to the stage and show how he would have reacted to that particular situation.

“The participant finds out whether his interpretation really works,” says Von Rennenkampff. “Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not. Important to note is that he should not try to act in a theatrical way; he should only react to the situation like he would do it in real life. Once the participants find ways to solve problems on stage they would be in a better position to face similar challenges in real life.”

“The reaction of the schoolchildren in India has been very positive,” says Matthias. “They were very energetic and always found creative solutions for the problems they faced. In Forum Theatre, I see a great potential for all people, especially for children. It gives them a chance to face life-like situations, without facing the consequence of failure,” he says.

The burden of academics has directed students more towards studies and they show little interest in social issues feels M. Shanmugaraja, Founder Director, Nigazh Theatre Centre.

“Forum Theatre is a powerful tool to support children in their overall growth and development,” he says. “Through such programmes we are making the student community more responsive to the social issues.”

The Nigazh Theatre Centre also plans to encourage educational institutions to have an exclusive theatre group and organise performances periodically to bring to light issues that plague society. The student community should also be encouraged to evolve a solution on their own to tackle the problem.

Says Shanmugaraja, “Such attempts in school will not only sensitise them but also improve their self-confidence and help them to handle any situation without violence. Now, they are no more mute spectators but active participants.”

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 8:03:56 PM |

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