Fun & Learning For Kids

Parul Rana

The pandemic has left each one of us hanging in uncertainty, trapped in our homes. Children too have suffered silently for multiple reasons. They are losing on many learning opportunities and are facing a long waiting period to be able to step out and get back to their classrooms and involve in extra curricular activities. In these difficult times, there are multiple theatre groups and theatre practitioners organizing online workshops, specially designed for children. Faezeh Jalali, the Founder and Artistic Director of the theatre collaborative, FATS TheArts, is an actor, director, teacher, and writer.

Faezeh says, 'I love teaching and I love children. I enjoy teaching theatre to all age groups but I particularly like the age group of 9-12, especially for online classes. I find children very spontaneous, clever, innovative, and open to start new things. Last year I offered a series called ‘Make and Create'' which was a writing and performance workshop for (9-12 and 13-16) age group where they were writing and creating their own performances and there were about five levels, at each level we were developing new things. This year, I have offered another series of the workshop which started with emotions and expressions. From next week we are starting with ''Move and Mime'', and post that we are doing a two-part series called ''Myths and Tales''. Each workshop builds on others but they can also be done as a stand-alone workshop. Each year I try to offer new series so that the students who have been with me, have something new to join and the students who might be excited by any of the topics can join as well. It might sound like a cliché but you actually learn a lot while teaching them especially for this generation, they are so ahead of what we were at their age. The good thing about Zoom is that you can get students from all over India, and abroad too, who are interested. For theatre, it''s harder in terms of all the things you want to do physically but I think we have sort of worked around that bit as well. Also, you as a creator, as a teacher have to keep working around on how to keep things interesting so that it fits this format. So you''re reinventing for the platform which is a great challenge for someone like me particularly who is not very tech-savvy.'

Nidhi Kundra, the founder, and director of Kartab Theatre group, shares, 'With lockdown, the boredom that children faced inspired me to open a virtual platform for children from all walks of life. Ours are inclusive workshops for atypical children and children with special needs. We also include children from orphanages and slums. The workshops train the children to identify their own strengths and polish them, we cover poetry and literature too in our workshops. We also have storytelling and story writing workshops, which inspire creativity in children. Perks of e-teaching definitely are that we have been able to reach out to children of many cities across the country. We also have children from UK and UAE. I find e-teaching to be more productive, as we all have become tech-masters and have been able to successfully script, direct, and record many plays, played for FB events. Our actual victory was when a 13-year-old girl with learning disabilities was so encouraged that she got her mother to start her own YouTube channel as she loved the idea of storytelling. Another 21-year-old on Autism Spectrum from Ahmedabad was so intrigued by recordings that he did for our plays that he insisted on joining an online photography and videography course, he is successfully pursuing the same.'


Kavita Gupta, shares 'The core of our workshop is language development and the way of expressing. This also helps children with their mental health, they actively look up to these classes, they enjoy them and it''s also a place where they can feel free to question. With every batch, I work with students on monologues and elocution pieces. The aim behind these workshops is to work on their confidence, their speaking skills, and their presentation skills. Even though we have gone online, these are the skills they will require throughout. Going online has been a struggle for me initially, now of course the children have got used to it, and the teachers have got used to it. There is a kind of acceptance from parents and us. Getting the children to listen to you, the attention span which on any given day is a challenge in itself, online it became a bigger challenge. Eventually, children accepted and understood.

'The show must go on, so virtually l have had the children perform THE RED RIDING HOOD, RAMAYAN, A MURDER MYSTERY, a play based on ARABIAN NIGHTS, THE FIR TREE, monologues and elocution pieces Right now we are working on a radio play based on STONE SOUP. Another based on pirates.' Kavita Gupta is a theatre artiste and storyteller. She directs Mirror Workshops, which provides theatre training for children.

National School of Drama has also been conducting various workshops for children throughout the lockdown from age 8-16 years. They have conducted five rounds of online summer workshops for children from all around the country. The Prithvi Theatre workshops and Raell Padamsee''s drama workshops for kids are always popular with kids and parents. Art Gyan is another organization conducting Summer Camp for children in collaboration with the GD Goenka group of schools, bringing quality teaching across a wide range of courses from the field of performing and visual arts, with celebrated instructors introducing kids to Theatre, Dance, Music, Storytelling, Arts and Crafts among a host of interesting genres.

*Parul Rana is a theatre enthusiast and movie buff.

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