Children’s theatre: Grown up and ready to lead

Children’s theatre: Grown up and ready to lead
Highlights

With themes like gender stereotypes, womens empowerment and social justice, childrens theatre is not just about childs play anymore The realisation that children, regardless of their age, are also opinion makers are being mirrored in stages big and small, say theatre veterans At the ground level, in small towns and cities, almost all schools do at least one production every year as part of t

New Delhi: With themes like gender stereotypes, women's empowerment and social justice, children's theatre is not just about child's play anymore. The realisation that children, regardless of their age, are also opinion makers are being mirrored in stages big and small, say theatre veterans. "At the ground level, in small towns and cities, almost all schools do at least one production every year as part of their annual functions.

Apart from established theatre groups taking up children's projects, there are groups that are devotedly working for and with children," Abdul Latif Khatana, chief of Theatre in Education (TIE) Company at the National School of Drama (NSD), told PTI. Despite a short history of 30-35 years, children's theatre has grown rapidly with serious work happening at the grassroots level, he said. In its early years, children's theatre was all about enacting fairy tales and dressing children up but now the subjects have "matured" to issues like women's empowerment, gender stereotypes and cases of social justice, he said.

Children are now considered capable of making and projecting their own opinions, a message going out through the medium of theatre. "The earlier tradition of children's theatre met with this strong and exactly opposite version of it. We started realising that children's lives are not entirely different from grownups. They have their own issues, troubles and points of views. They are capable of making opinions too. They are complete individuals,” Khatana said.

One evidence of the changing scenario is the ongoing JashneBachpan international theatre festival here with over 500 artistes, young and adults, taking part in 23 theatrical productions in various languages, including Hindi, English, Assamese, Malayalam and Bengali. One of the plays staged at the nine-day festival, which ends on Sunday, was "Puberty", a non-verbal play from Sri Lanka's Red Apple International Theatre Gathering, which discussed the growing up years of a girl child. Then there was "She Stood Up", from Chandigarh's Wings Theatre Academy and Vivek High School, which centred on women's empowerment and gender stereotypes.

“The women's movement has been gaining momentum in our country in the last decade, but we are still dealing with the horrors of Nirbhaya and Kathua," said director Zubin Mehta, referring to the rape and murder of a physiotherapy intern in Delhi and an eight-year-old in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. "Real empowerment should happen at a young age. It is the young girls that we need to empower to make a significant difference,” the "She Stood Up" director added. The dramatis personae of this changing scenario are youngsters like 10-year-old Yuvraj Mavi, who speaks about his aspirations and reasons for taking up theatre it all begins to come together.

- Manish Sain

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