Aparna Jaishankar is a freelance trainer with Happy Cow, evam’s children’s division. She has always loved the world of stories whether it is oral, aural or visual. Right now she enjoys kindling that passion in young ‘uns.
Its been a year since I started working with children and the journey has been rewarding. At social gatherings, many a time I’m asked what I do and theatre always elicits a pleasant reaction. A frequently asked question is what exactly is taught in a theatre class? And, if my child has gone on stage once is that all that is there to learn.
I used to grapple to answer that question. There, obviously, is so much more to theatre than‘acting’. Now, after dealing with dozens of children, I have more clarity. I believe the most important lesson a child learns in a theatre class is that each one is part of the whole. They learn to collaborate. All groups will have a few hyperactive, expressive children, a few who absorb everything you say like a sponge, a few “I’m here ‘coz my mom forced me’” and a few who are too shy to even greet another person. Each one has a place in the group and children are encouraged to respect the other. Individual personalities are nurtured for the group’s success. The change that one gets to see over a period of time is that the assertive children learn to listen to other ideas, the sulky children are intrigued, the reticent children start voicing their ideas and slowly but surely they all start learning from each other. And because each one has contributed from idea to execution of the final production, the sense of achievement they feel on show day is exhilarating.
Another googly I frequently field is that, how do you know if a program is successful? So how does one measure the success of a theatre program? I love the excitement and energy of the children on stage on show day. And a clockwork production always gives me goosebumps. But for me its not only about the final production. I am satisfied when a three-year old, who has been bawling for the first two weeks of the program, suddenly decides to participate. I love it when children ideate and make their own props and costumes, crooked corners and all. I feel immense pride when a child volunteers and successfully manages the back stage. I almost jig about in joy when toddlers remember their cue on stage. But the real success of the program is what happens after its over. The next time a child reads a book, he/she will do the voices of the characters in his / her head. The next time a child writes something, he/she will visualise the whole scene. The next time a child plans something, a thought might be spared for the back end preparations required. The next time a shy child might feel more confident while meeting new people. The next time a child might be more open to new experiences. The next time …..
If a tiny seed to that effect has been planted by a learning program, I would deem the program a roaring success.
– Aparna Jaishankar