Dramatic Space - Theatre as Transformation : A Workshop in Delhi

Monday May 17, 2010,

6 min Read

Dramatic Space - Theatre as Transformation

Worlds Within and Without

A workshop for teachers/ facilitators/ activists/ youth/ performers || From May 27th to June 3rd, New Delhi || Facilitated by : Arka Mukhopadhyay

Theatre : What, Whose, Why?

There are as many different kinds of theatre as there are people. As Augusto Boal said, "We are all actors: Being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it” . For some of us it's a profession, for some, a tool. For some, entertainment, for some others, a spiritual experience. For some, it is about mirth and having fun, games and icebreakers, while for others, it is about dedication, discipline, rigorous exercises of body and mind, and an absolute, monastic submission to craft. It is process, and it is product. It is an intellectual exercise, requiring written scripts, lights, sets, props, video projectors and more, and it is the dance of the Baul and the whirl of the Sufi, the deadly grace of the Kalari master, the drum-beat of the primal ritual, the excitement of the hunt, the detachment of Zen meditation, only breathing, only being, Buddhist chants resonating across high plateaus, Upanishadic hymns resonating in the forests, and the simple beauty of folk songs and dances - all this is theatre. It is the Way of the Warrior, and it is the Way of Love. Theatre is only beauty, only aesthetics, but by its very nature, theatre is an act of protest. Theatre is living in the world and transcending it.

Theatre is thus a place of paradoxes - a place of meeting. It is a place of conflict, and hence a place of change, of transformation. It is a liminal space where the human consciousness looks at the universe within and the world without.

Workshop context :

This workshop is meant as a safe space for people from different vocations to come together to collectively engage with their own selves, with others, and with their professions. While it is open to actors and dancers, it is not restricted to them alone. It is also open to musicians, painters, writers, to teachers, facilitators, activists, and to young people - essentially to anybody above the age of 18 with a reasonably fit body and mind. It is not meant to teach any specific methods or techniques of acting, movement or performance. Rather, through and intense engagement with body and spirit, and through a process of ensemble based creation, it is designed to take us to a free, natural state of being where we break free from our inhibitions and engage deeply with our selves, and thus with our vocations. At the same time, it is also designed to to leave those who do or can use theatre directly, such as performers, activists, facilitators, teachers, etc., with specific creative approaches to performancemaking relevant to their context. It will thus be process-centric, but will also extend towards production.


The workshop is firmly rooted in Grotowski's aesthetic of poor theatre - a theatre that is poor because it shuns external elements such as sets, props, costume, furniture, and relies only on the fundamental constants of breath, body, space, actor and spectator. It will thus be governed by an approach 'grounded in the body'. As Grotowski said, "The body has no memory. The body is memory". Far from being elite and distant, such an approach is grounded in the principles of equality, rootedness, connectedness and harmony. In returning theatre to its mythical, ritual roots, such an approach automatically calls for renouncing a culture of consumption, and a return to a culture of sustainability. It returns theatre to its rightful place among the natural rhythms of life - that of the harvest dance, the sound of boatmen's songs, the cobbler's needle and the blacksmith's anvil. It thus tries to equate art and artisanship, beauty and politics, in a common meeting place which transcends these dialectic definitions.


The group will work through ensemble exercises and warm-ups based on running and walking activities, creative usage of space, levels and textures of movement, breath, vision and levels of focus, meditation, chanting, working as a speaking and moving chorus, humour and physical comedy, rhythm, partnering, somatic work, awakening the five senses, devising and creating as an ensemble.

The group will work on scene fragments from Tagore's Rakta Karabi (Red Oleanders). Participants are requested to read up on the background of the play. A synopsis and the scenes for use will be given on the first day.

At the end of the workshop, participants will present these scenes in the form of a work-in-progress.

Key Learning Areas:

1. Deep engagement with the self through work on breath, meditation, hymns, the Navarasaas, group walking and running, etc., and in turn, how to facilitate the environment and process for such engagement for 'transformation from within', especially in the context or work with young people.

2. A physically and musically intensive technique of performance based on the ensemble approach

3. For performers, a philosophical and spiritual basis drawn from Buddhist, Sufi and Baul principles, that will help them engage with the roots of their craft

4. For both professional performers and others, a heightened sensitivity to one's environment and an embodied awareness of oneself and of others; discovering the Self through Others.

5. Techniques of devising performances, both from textual sources and through improvization, through a process of ensemble based creation

6. Using the philosophy and techniques encountered in the workshop within the context of one's own practice (such as teaching, developmental or community work, conflict mediation, etc.), to promote a culture of peace, tolerance and diversity.

About the facilitator :

Arka Mukhopadhyay has been active in diverse fields such as theatre, poetry and performance poetry, education and more. As a performer, he has travelled all over India and has also performed abroad in festivals such as the Festival of Alternative Theatrical Expressions, Zagreb, and Lit Up, Singapore. He has also given workshops and masterclasses for professional performers in India, Europe and Singapore, as well as in schools, colleges, and universities. As a poet, his works have been published in various international journals, and he was the recipient of the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing in 2008. His work in performance poetry has also taken him all over India and abroad, including festivals such as Kala Ghoda in Bombay, Delhi International Arts Festival and Delhi International Book Fair. He is also a recipient of the Inlaks India Theatre Awards grant for 2010. He has worked extensively on Shakespeare in Education, through workshops with teachers as well as students in schools, and workshops and lectures in universities such as JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia and others. He conducts workshops for educators on theatre in education, performance based approaches to teaching Shakespeare, and theatre as a tool for transformational practices in schools, and has worked both with mainstream schools as also schools in non-mainstream, non-urban spaces.

Workshop Timings : 4 PM to 9 PM Everyday

Fees : Rs. 3,500/- inclusive of course materials.

Venue: Akshara Theatre, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi.

Contact: [email protected]/ 9311689319

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