Community Theatre in India

Parul Rana

Community-based theatre refers to theatrical performances made in relation to a specific community. It aims at bringing a social change by encouraging the community members to think critically and indulge in dialogues through participation. Performances in community-based theatre are usually performed outdoors in the form of traditional meetings in public places. The audience involved is usually on a spontaneous basis and not ticket based. It is also a powerful tool to stimulate unity in the community and to bring them together in order to address the issues for sensitizing them. In India, it is performed mostly in rural areas, where the population may not necessarily indulge themselves in theatre or films, therefore it becomes a medium in reaching out to them and creates awareness on social issues along with entertainment.

Here are a few theatre groups and theatre practitioners who are actively involved and have contributed in community-based theatre in different parts of India:

Jana Sanskriti Centre for Theatre of the oppressed is a nonprofit organization based out of West Bengal which has been working for over 30 years now with the aim of bringing social change with communities across West Bengal and India. "We have over 30 teams, including 10 women's teams, with over 10,000 members. Made up of local people in each area, we continue to spread our work, passing on the tools for change to more and more people." Their mission is to remove oppression by establishing a culture of dialogue and participation at various levels of society. "Jana Sanskriti's goal is to create a space in which the oppressed will have enormous scope for introspection and discovery of the self and to facilitate a meeting between the individual and the perfection within himself."

Source: http://jana-sanskriti.letsendorse.org/about-page#aboutus-main

Centre for community dialogue and change is a Bangalore based organization for the theatre of the oppressed. (Theatre of the oppressed is a popular form of community-based education using theatre as a tool for social change). "Our mission is to promote the practice and use of Theatre for community building, enhancing sensitivity and understanding of human interactions, encouraging and developing critical thinking and applying the insights gained to the exploration of multiple strategies for solving problems of the community". Several workshops are conducted throughout the year to give participants an experiential understanding to encourage critical thinking, furthering dialogues on several social issues.

Source: http://www.ccdc.in/home

V. Padma aka A. Mangai is a Chennai based academician, researcher, and a theatre practitioner. She has been actively involved in both writer's association movement and women's movement from a very early age in her life. She has written and translated several plays and books. She has worked as a playwright, director, and performer. Her contribution in community theatre is equally immense. She has worked actively in creating awareness regarding issues related to women. Some of her women-centric plays include Aurat, Draupadi, voicing silence. She has also been associated with the All India Democratic Women Association, established to perform plays for women.

Her book 'Acting Up: Gender and Theatre in India' traces the work and contribution of women in theatre since 1979.

Amaresh Satapathy is a theatre activist, based out of Koraput (Odisha) and works for the integrated agency for education, environment, and Technology. He is passionate about community-based theatre and travels to different villages to promote and encourage locals to have a healthy discussion on the current problems being faced in the village. The villagers are encouraged to draw on their own storytelling and use their traditional songs, dance, music instruments, etc. The idea is to help the villagers put their problems in front of the local officials in a theatrical performance. This sort of arrangement brings people together and promotes a healthy discussion in bringing a social change.

*Parul Rana is a theatre enthusiast and movie buff.

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