Theatre for kids

Shalini Rana

In the present ‘digital age’, post modern parents are finding it difficult  to keep  their children away from TV Channels, hi-tech gadgets, video games and social networking sites.  At times, they boast off about how easily their kids can handle complex gadgets but when the same kid refuses to leave the gadgets even at the dining table, they wonder whether the same technology is proving  bane for their  child’s development.  Technology makes our lives easy  but  then it also isolates us from others and sometimes from our own selves. India  is going through a rapid transitional  phase  and in this process the most important stake  holders  are the young people. How are we assessing  our young children? The usual mode of examining a child’s development is his/her Report Card. On the one hand , India is dreaming  of becoming a global leader.  But will it be able to achieve the goal if its booming young populace is not  enough  curious, creative  and courageous . Can we say that the present day report cards reflect any of these qualities ?
For meeting the present day developmental  challenges, we need to find dynamic, energetic  and wholesome medium of education. Better training and valuable  tutelage. Theatre is a powerful live medium for developing confidence, courage  and creativity.  It provides a wonderful platform  for active learning along with the academics. Live performance sparks the imagination of a child – which is a prime requisite of a valuable education. Mere academics is not enough for the refinement of aesthetic sensibilities.
In the current educational practices, theatre can play a significant role in developing communication skills , balanced self – expression, voice modulation, body moments and a connection of the heart with the mind.
Inspirational stories related to the lives of great scientists, writers, philosophers and world leaders;  when played on stage by the kids themselves can provide a life-long enriching experience.  Theatre is a powerful , potent and productive  medium for providing wide cultural  experience  which otherwise is not provided by useless TV serials and violent video games.
When  children work  in a group and rehearse for a live performance they cultivate  empathy,  a strong sense of community, and togetherness which otherwise is missing in the present day social life of a child.  Not only this  through theatre, children get an opportunity to learn how to balance their pent –up  energies.
In a live performance, when children face the live audience, it automatically imbues confidence and courage. When a child plays  the role  of a character  other than himself it fires his imagination and deep critical thinking. Portrayal of different kinds of human emotions, situations, socio – political circumstances help in developing problem solving capabilities.  In the era of globalization, theatre can provide rich educational experiences through international plays like that of Western writers viz.  Shakespeare, Ibsen & Brecht; ancient Indian Sanskrit plays as well as contemporary Indian and Hindustani plays. Exposure to oriental stories and regional folklores again helps in developing an understanding of one’s own culture  in context  with a larger world  which is strongly inter-connected. Theatre is a wonderful medium for providing a holistic learning environment.
Is “Theatre for Kids”, new to Indian culture? Professionally it may be a new area  but traditionally it was very much a part of our custom, both in the urban as well as rural areas.  “Ramleela” is a testimony of our theatrical heritage. Children loved to play the role of Hanuman, Vanar Sena, Luv- Kush and boys  disguised as girls played the role of “Sita Ki Sahelian” (friends of Sita) .
Is Jammu lagging behind? No. Young theatre professionals in Jammu are striving enthusiastically to provide a world class theatrical training to children of various age groups.  Aarushi Thakur,  Sumit Sharma & Ifra  Kak are some of the well trained theatre professionals who are giving invaluable contribution to the revival of theatre particularly for kids.
All the cultured and civilized societies value theatre because of its spontaneity, creativity and the magic that leaves the audience spell bound.  Technology has its advantages but we should not let it subdue the fertile imagination of young minds. We should promote theatre for kids  in order to bring back creativity, ingenuity and spontaneity, which otherwise is overpowered by the gadgets around them.
(The author is Assistant Professor GGM Sc. College Jammu)