“Theatre is a way to express meaning, feeling, and spirit so that the audience will have an opportunity to experience what we want them to experience. Yet the experience of theatre is more than this. It is a part of human nature to separate ourselves from people who are different and live in different situations. The theatre breaks that barrier of separation. Somehow, the theatre allows us to experience the world of another person and at the same time experience ourselves in our own world.” – beautiful thought, well put if these are your words, if not you must cite source.
I have always thought of theatre as a platform where anyone can express themselves not only by words but by actions and movements. In my very early school days, and I am talking about the time when I was in class 3-4, I took part in plays such as Matilda (one of my fav poems☺), Mind your Language etc. I was not afraid of the stage even at such a young age. It was great fun and attracted a lot of attention from the audience. But as I entered into higher classes, I somehow lost touch with theatre completely, mostly due to issues I had with my speech. Being born with a bone defect at birth, I used to breathe only from my mouth and that made my speech very unclear and heavy. This shortcoming made me so conscious that I used to shy away from events which involved speaking out in front of a crowd. Even when I came to college, the same fear refrained me from participating in events. It’s only when I started working that I mustered the courage and went in for such events. So when I got to know that SOIL would be having a theatre class, I was eagerly waiting for it as one of my objectives of joining a PG program was to re-discover myself and participate in things I had not done before.
On the first day we had the ‘Check-in, Check-out’ exercise. This was an exercise which most of us had already gone through as part of the ‘Humour Me’ workshop earlier in the year. It served as an excellent ice-breaker and also served as a great source of entertainment. People told stories about themselves, some funny and some personal. I chose to share an experience from my youth which involved a gun, a victim and a shooter, the last one being me. Everyone felt so comfortable with the whole group, something which the class desperately needed. Most of us were able to relate the stories with our own lives, bringing us even close to one another.
The following days, the session would start with warm-up exercises. These exercises were aimed at clearing the mind of any thoughts which may be affecting you and also to make you peek into your inner self. Personally I so looked forward to these early morning sessions as they gave me moments of peace even in times of stress. Most if not all of the exercises that we did during the workshop were aimed at building trust, not only with each other in the class but also with your own self, the latter being more important. One such exercise was the ‘trust-fall’ exercise in which a person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on the other members of the group to catch the person. Although I’ve played this game many times before, but during this instance, I didn’t even hesitate for a second while falling backwards as I completely trusted my classmates and knew that they would protect me. This exercise also challenges you to confront your fears. You might feel insecure, you might fear heights or you might even have issues trusting people. Some people did hesitate during this exercise but eventually they were able to confront their fears and came out winning. Another exercise asked us to pair up with a partner, standing at an arm’s distance facing each other and looking into each other’s eyes. The exercise was all about focus, concentration and feeling your partner’s energy. I can recall that my mind was fixed only on my partner and we were able to communicate by only looking into each other’s eyes. This took a lot of resolve as being comfortable was key to this exercise. This situation made a lot of us feel very awkward. I could relate this to many instances in our lives where the atmosphere is not what we want it to be but the situation demands of us to venture out of our comfort zone, not to give in and to fight to get what we want.
One incident from the workshop that was a highlight for me was when we were asked in groups, to present about speakers we thought were good communicators. Vidushi Mehra, our instructor, raised an objection to one of the speakers and in response the whole class challenged her decision. It was the first time in the last 9 months here at SOIL that the class came together as one cohesive group and took up a stand. They say that a spark is needed to light a fire and I think this was the spark that this class desperately needed. This incident may have led to a heated discussion with some tempers soaring but outcome was far more vital and crucial. It depicted Diversity? as people left behind their petty issues with each other and came together to fight for a common cause.
The whole class came to each other’s aid especially when some people were asked to do tasks which tested them not only physically but mentally as well. Being a sportsman all of my life, I know the importance of having friends cheer you on when you play. It somehow helps you to find the strength from within you and perform herculean tasks. It was amazing to witness people cheer for each other, absorb each other’s energy and go way beyond the levels of fatigue. They were perfect examples of Compassion, not only for each other but towards own self as well. The central themes of the whole exercise were perhaps Mindfulness and Ethics. To be aware of what is around you: the people, the space, the barriers etc. To always be in control so that if things go out of hand, you are there to act to make it right. Being able to sense and absorb the energy of your peers was the key funda behind all the exercises. To venture out of your comfort zone in order to fight evil or wrongdoings towards you and your loved ones but remaining within the framework of what is morally ethical or morally correct. With all the energy that exists within us, Sustainability of this force is vital for our survival interesting connect. We all have it; all we have to do is to channelize it the right way and in the right direction.
The theatre workshop did exactly what it was meant to do: bring the whole class together and at the same time it made us look within ourselves to identify our potential and highlight it for the world to see. The final assessment of the workshop was the theatre performance, where all the groups chose different topics: some social issues while some groups exploring the area of humor and suspense. I unfortunately could not be there for the final group performance as I had to leave for the exchange program to Italy. I personally want to thank our instructor, Vidushi. She was a pillar of strength for of us and exercised extreme patience and calm when guiding us through this journey.
The workshop was an immense success as most of us felt transformed in one or the other. This one week was my best experience here at SOIL and something which I would takeaway for the rest of my life.
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