“The Indian schooling system is binary-minded and does not make space for the grays. Artists today can play a bigger role in supplementing education. Many of the skills we speak about today, like problem-solving and soft skills, are rooted in the arts,” says Shaili Sathyu, founder of Gillo Repertory Theatre, a children’s theatre group.
Gillo Repertory Theatre works in Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA), creating performing arts experiences that engage children and young adults in theatre, in particular, and the arts in general. It has been performing its adaptations of popular books for children in cities as well as villages across India since 2009. This weekend, the Mumbai-based theatre group will be in Visakhapatnam to take part in the Vizag Junior Theatre Fest and perform its latest production The Ghost of the Mountains.
The play is an adaptation of the children’s book written by Sujatha Padmanabhan and published by Kalpavriksh and Snow Leopard Conservancy – India Trust. This story is set in a village in Ladakh where a snow leopard strays into a locality and the residents want to kill the unwanted visitor. But a young boy feels differently about it.
Directed by Shaili Sathyu, the play was performed at the Prithvi Theatre and NCPA in Mumbai last year. Speaking about it, Shaili says, “We have weaved in a whole different culture of Ladakh in the production designs. The music evokes the feel of that region. We have also used a bit of shadow work with old style overhead projector. The idea is to spark imagination in young minds and introduce them to a new culture which is geographically remote from the Southern regions.”
Gillo focuses mostly on Indian stories and has also performed in other Indian languages like Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam. Their first production for early years (children between one and four years), ‘Chidiya, Udd!’ was staged in Visakhapatnam a couple of years ago. The plays involve themes like empathy towards animals, respect for Nature and gender parity.
“Art plays a major role in the emotional growth of an individual and relating to each other with empathy and how we understand our place in society. In the post pandemic world, how we collectively respond to a problem/situation is critical,” says Shaili.
The theatre group is currently working on the Hindi version of its next production ‘Rang Chor’ based on the children’s book The Colour Thief by Stephen Aitken and Sylvia Sikundar . “We are also focusing on workshops for adults for training artistes to be equipped to work with children,” says Shaili.