It’s three in the afternoon and I am in the midst of a highly enthusiastic group of Grade 5 students. They are exploring “How the World Works”; their focus: “technology down the ages”. The first idea they come up with is a Time Machine – time travel, as a dramatic device, will give them the freedom to “explore” the past and the future without a very elaborate plotline.
The next step is to create a few characters: some time travellers and others playing multiple roles – natives of a certain age. In a jiffy, we have four young people taking off in the time machine. They land in the Stone Age. Here four students take over as the “native” people. “What are you all doing?” I ask them. Immediately, two of them beginning to make stone tools; two others start making a fire – all through mime. “What sort of communication took place between them?” I ask again. Instantly, they are native speakers of gibberish!
The play goes on, partly improvised by them, with ideas suggested by their mentor – and incredibly, all the while, all I (the Drama Facilitator) am doing is to help give a shape to the drama.
The technique is very simple – we place children WITHIN the context, and ask a few leading questions. The theory behind this is that human beings in any day or age have some things in common – they FEEL, they THINK, they IMAGINE, they CREATE and they OFTEN makes mistakes from which they learn.
Theatre creates the safe space in which someone can step out of his/her own shoes and into someone else’s. There is nothing right and there is also nothing wrong. For kinaesthetic learners, theatre is the greatest boon of all – when they can get out from BEHIND the desks and out of their chairs: they can BECOME rivers, oceans, planets, starts, atoms, electrons… the possibilities are endless. And finally, the connection all children make with concepts they have explored through theatre is completely unparalleled.
Cathy Anubha Banerji
Drama Facilitator at Pathways World School, Aravali