This piece has been long pending. Pending I say, one, because of the habit of procrastinating anything till no end, and two, because of the wait for that moment of sheer passion and will which would guide this piece of writing.
A bit about me first. I work with children in drama in education and it’s been a journey of only a few months so far and there is a long way to go, to study, to engage deeply and lay a roadmap for myself and the children.
So yes, I work with two groups of children – One, the students of an elite English-medium school in Delhi, two, a group of children who are part of an NGO in Noida. While the former setting has me working in accordance with the school and a full-fledged team of drama instructors and coordinators, the latter setting gives me an upper-hand and is a freewheeling arrangement where the children and I are the sole decision-makers. These statements may look like comparisons but I do not intend to make any. These differences aside, the essence of the work done with all the children is the way the drama class has been approached. This approach has nothing to do with what I as a child experienced in a drama class a decade ago; it does away with the ‘read-rote-reproduce’ approach. Here, the process is not that of teacher giving out an alien script to children, asking them to memorize the dialogues and then rehearse without children making much sense of what’s going on. It is a complete shift.
So what exactly has this shift been, and what have we arrived at so far?
To understand the process and experience better, let us first simply understand what drama is. In our work so far, be it doing basic drama games or creating scenes or bigger acts, children and the drama facilitator have been collaboratively taking part in the process of thinking, responding, reasoning, and reflecting.
Let me tell you a story. This was with the second group of children, aged between 13 and 16 years. It had been just two months of inconsistent drama sessions with them. Coming up soon was the Annual Day where this group had to present a play. We all brainstormed together. The first step was to decide on a theme. After lots of suggestions, we unanimously decided on the theme – a human being is nothing but a puppet. The next step was to ask the children to think of situations where we humans behave like puppets. Having come up with a few situations, they were then asked to write in groups or individually, the scripts for the situations to be enacted. Each of these scripts was discussed, argued, and critiqued in the larger group and then finalized. One thing made very clear before the discussion was that the critique would have to be backed by logic; one cannot simply discard the script because it doesn’t feel right. Another thing was to suspend our judgments and instead respect what the other child has written. That is, if a child has created a certain situation depicting how a human being behaves like a puppet, others cannot discard it simply by saying that such a situation is not possible based on their own worldview.
The author is drama instructor, Heritage School, Vasant Kunj, as part of the Drama-in-Schools Programme by Theatre Professionals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.