On the last Sunday of January in the late afternoon, students from Reality Gives programs sit hushed in a room watching intently as their peers strut their stuff upon the stage that is the Reality Tours and Travel Reception Centre, their expressive faces lit by a sole beam of light. The room is packed with onlookers; the students themselves, teems of children drawn in from the street eager to witness this spectacle and Reality Tours and Travel guides, there to see more of the social work that the tours
they run help to fund.
The onlookers are watching these young adults seize this opportunity to express themselves, to make their peers laugh and to explore worlds of their own imagining. To understand how they got to this moment you need to go back to that very same morning as two teachers and three students from the American School of Bombay arrive in Dharavi carrying a large, somewhat out of place stage light through the streets. Here’s their run down of how the day unfolded.
On Sunday 2nd February we (Fenella, Neil, Ben, Parth and Madhav) conducted drama workshops and devised original theatre with a group of 38 young people in Dharavi, in collaboration with Reality Gives. From the outset there was a buzz of excitement in the air and everyone was willing to mix, take risks, try out new ideas and listen attentively to all the instructors. During the skills based workshops (that included posture, projection, tableaux, expression, sequencing and blocking) the students were focused and asked relevant questions. Being flexible and open to new experiences they were eager to present their work and give helpful feedback to others. By the time we broke for lunch everyone was comfortable working with all the leaders and with each other.
The afternoon sessions were even more rewarding. The morning sessions had been in English but during the devising process, creating their own theatre, participants spoke in Hindi. This allowed for a more creative buzz, and more freedom of expression in their work. Given the stimuli of pictures of life in India, including rituals, people at work, traffic accidents, domestic life and scenes from childhood, small groups of 5-6 students set about using these images to create their own short plays, while applying the skills they had learnt from the morning. The two workshop leaders commented to me on how quickly the groups worked together, and how creative they were with their ideas. The community spirit and sense of support enabled each group to produce a piece that was meaningful for them and relevant to the lives of the audience.
In performance each group was motivated, focused and disciplined, with the audience being excited, attentive and supportive. The final presentations covered such themes as disloyalty in relationships, equality for women, corruption in politics, arranged marriages, harassment in the work place, and other issues that were clearly close to the participants’ hearts. Although the short plays nearly all addressed topics that were serious and relevant, the atmosphere was not weighed down by the intensity of the issues, as there was a good balance of drama, comedy and discussion. One group asked questions directly to the audience about justice, and this sparked a lively discussion, again reflecting every participants’ willingness to be involved.
We ended the day by handing out participation certificates and congratulated everyone on their hard work. Everyone left on a high, and I am sure many of the participants would like to repeat the experience, as do we also hope to one day. Matt and Joe were wonderfully supportive throughout, and we are so glad that we got to meet them and to know them during this eventful and rewarding day.