We have been having a football match in our school for the past two days, and the students sat today in order to cheer our girl and boy teams. What fun! Some of the preppies – 5 year olds chanted cheer songs in the loudest volume possible, and earned great smiles from their other school mates and some from the visiting schools / rival football teams. (and I wish again I could show videos or pictures). The name of our school is Aditi, and they inserted it everywhere. Here are some popular cheer poems that they used.
North South East West /
Aditi Is the best/
Here is another one.
Lemon Soda Ginger Pop
We Want Aditi On the Top
They were so enthused by the whole process, they kept it going for a long time. Many repetitions later, when their enthusiasm dipped, they changed to another song.
What was happening in front of me was that the children automatically demoed one of the big questions that assiles teachers of drama / any teacher in class.
The question being: When is it a good time to stop an activity in class?
This is something that you cannot write in a lesson plan, or time with a watch. Rather it is something, I believe, i have learned from experience. If we for example play a game, a simple tag game let us say, I wonder when it is a good time to say – “All right, moving on …” in class. There were some classes which I lost and let completely fall down on the ground because I overkilled a game, and then kids did not want to play it anymore. It was appalling, because even though the game by itself was perfect, the children had lost all interest for it.
How? By the simple means of over doing it / over playing it. So really, when is it the right time to stop? Agyatmitra of PLAY explained this to me using a visual. Our own learning curve/ plot map graphic. I will try to create it here, though I may not be that successful.
Image Made with Paper (app)
Basically Agyat taught me that we need to stop an activity before it reached the peak of excitement. He said that once the children experience that satiation, they may not reach out to play that game again. Made a lot of sense for me. Now this combined with observation in class can make any teacher notice those moments just before a peak and save the best for future and stop the game. It has helped me plenty too.
Here is some more advice to me from friends who have been in the world of play and theatre.
I find that quiet a few times on the bus back home from school, children want to play games and reach a dead end. Some drama based games have come in handy at these times. This is something that you can play with a few children only and not larger groups. It is an extended family member of the Dumb Charades game that we all know and love. Here is how it is played.
In my sewing kit
The group are split into pairs and told to stand by their imaginary sewing kit. When the leader orders the group to start, one person from each pair must open their sewing kit (a box, or basket for example) and take out invisible objects from their kit. This could include needles, materials, thread etc and should be done as quick as possible with their partner encouraging them to keep going. Once they have paused for more than 10 seconds they swap over and the other person repeats this. All of the items taken from the sewing basket must be mimed and shared with their partner.
Today: Was most thrilled to take that step forward with the kids from prep. After about three months of plinth-ing our relationship, we explored some regular, acting bits in class, and I am so surprised to note that in three months, these children have amassed so much confidence and keenness about the arts. I was working today with a few children who are very new to the school, and are about 5 years old. So, we were working on emotional responses and reacting with gestures and bodily stances. I would toss out words and situations, and the children would act them out. At one point of time, it became clear that children were ending up copying each other’s way of reaction. Nothing wrong with it, since I too had not told them to go beyond and explore themselves in my interaction.
In a bit I explained that like the different flavours of ice cream are expressions of the same dish, there may be different ways in which we can express the same feeling? Then the children began their own trials of the same, and it produced various expressions of different feelings. I wish I could show you with pictures. Unfortunately, they are not possible at the moment.
This is a wonderful autobiographical video called Teachers and Teaching, by Leonard Bernstein. He pays homage by taking about the teaching styles of his teachers and how they shaped him, and the clips of his own teaching are the most inspirational for any teacher of the arts who wants students to delve into the logic, the notions and the depths of art.
Writing a history play is really hard. I am going around in circles writing this play for my standard 05 class. The task is to write about the advent of the Aryans into India.
I have made two big attempts – finished two versions of the play. Version 01 I have left as it were, because it is the story of a boy and his life and does not give an integrated view of the human history behind the advent of the Aryans. Bhimak and his friends, very much like Swamy and His friends. Bhimak and His friends is a story from So began play 02. I sit at it daily for about an hour at work or home, and I keep looking at the lines sometimes with great dissatisfaction, and so within play two, there are 4 versions. Argh! this is killing me.
Research and reference to the second play comes with the books that are age appropriate for children such as Roshan Dahal’s A history of India for children and Sunita Pant Bansal’s History of India, not to mention the several other spaces on the internet where I have made pit stops. But the information, leaves me asking questions, about the Harappans and the Aryans, I have fallen in love with people Dasyus. Where did they go off to when the Aryans came?
Research leads me on to interesting books like the Story of Sarasvati, and the Aryans (myth and Archeology) by R K Dhavalikar.
In class 02, we discussed WHO IS AN AUDIENCE? WHAT IS AUDIENCE ETIQUETTE? Most interesting. How do you go from being a passive observant of an act to actually helping the actor develop his storytelling? Unfortunately, audience memebers in class and sometimes in a theatre audience members go yak yak yak. Our classrooms are not new to this trend. So today, we had a conversation about this trend. What can the audience do while the person acts and how can we use this in their own play?
WRITE, WRITE , WRITE, WRITE WRITE, and copious amounts of tea! How awesome is this opportunity!!
Today: The one thing that I do love a great deal as a theatre teacher is introduce the different local artists to children, and the various places that you can access such art. In class today we spoke about theatre buildings, troupes, and productions. I felt so energised when we had discussions around them. Today we spoke of the different theatre spaces in Bangalore, and how there are shows going on every day of the year. So much culture in our lives.
Congrats to Abhishek Majumdhar’s Djinns of Eidgah cast and crew who are performing @ Royal Court Theatre having Peter Brook in the audience and receiving his compliments for the play!! Makes me so happy to hear this!! Congrats Abhishek!! Check out Abhishek’s brief interview about the play below
I remember watching a theatre actor from Chennai, Kalairani perform her one person act – Varagalama in Neenasam in 2008. This is one of the many plays that has left a mark on me. One actor telling the story of a dalit woman who wishes to enter the gates of the temple and pay homage to her most favourite god. She is not allowed. Her bhakti keeps her circling the temple, and all she wants is an entrance. What I found most potent about this play was that Kalairani – the artist, used only two words in the play. No long sentences telling us about her inner conflicts, no paragraph length monologues or soliloquies about the caste ridden society that she was from or the obstacles on her spiritual path. Just the singing of, the pleading with two words Swamy Varagalama. I wondered who this swamy was! The deity, her saviour or the Brahmin who stood guarding the door of the temple.
Characters could convey so much in just two words, they could convey so much in silence, and a play could be constructed out of it. Repeatedly I find myself veering towards it. It is really hard to break this in mainstream drama though. I find play after play tells us many things rather than showing us.
An actor once had the following lines to say “I have a head ache, and I will take a pill” he later touched his forehead and massaged it, walked to the table and took a pill with water. I find that such things really are unnecessary. But it is a challenge.
Even when working with children, some challenges are that children will sometimes tell you the story, rather than show us what happened. In a sketch about showing invisible objects in class, a child had the task of making a fruit salad using different kinds of invisible fruits and without talking. After some practice time, the child came up to me and told me that he first used an apple, and then a banana etc.. Showing in the absence of speaking is really hard. It is a skill that we need to develop.