Rajesh, our Happy Cow faculty from Chennai, has had a busy year. Handling back to back workshops, putting up productions with four different schools and amidst of this squeezing in time for his wedding shopping as well. Here’s what he had to say about Happy Cow’s recent Alice in Wonderland production.
It was April. We got a call from Mahindra. They asked us to conduct a “play creation workshop” for the kids of housekeeping and gardening staff of Mahindra research valley. For the past 2 years we had trained those kids so we didn’t find it difficult. We started the play with full excitement. And there was a twist here. They told us that play has to be showcased on the month of May. Yes we had only a month’s time to train those kids. You may feel it’s easy to complete a play in 30 days. But we had a huge challenge – classes will be only on Sundays! So, essentially, 5 days is all we have!
When I was thinking what play should we choose for them, I got a call from my boss. He asked me “Why don’t we do Alice in Wonderland, Rajesh?” I couldn’t even talk after his question. Also it took me to a flashback. Yes “Alice in wonderland”. We trained a matriculation school kids to perform “Alice in Wonderland ” play. That was a 1 hour play. We trained them for 4 months, we couldn’t even complete 3 scenes in 2 months. It’s a different story how we successfully completed it. But what I thought is “How are we gonna manage with Tamizh medium kids when we found it challenging with English medium kids?” And now coming to the reality. Boss is on line. “Rajesh? You there? What do you say?” I said “Ok John, let’s do it”. And we decided to do it as a musical. We trimmed it into a 15 mins play. 2 classes went by only for play reading and character selection. At the end of second class, we gave them the scripts to mug up.
It was a shock when I entered the class next week with utmost excitement! Nobody was ready with even a single line of their dialog! I throw away all the scripts and I had to conduct an advice session for 1 hour and then started the class. But the kids did not seem too serious about my words. And the next class, John was about to check out the performance of the kids. I was so scared as everything was incomplete and the performance was not satisfactory. And John came. He asked me “Rajesh, is everything done?” I gave a mixed reaction. He said “Ok let’s start, ACTIONNNNN” … It was 15 mins of magical movement once he uttered “action!” Those children delivered each and every dialog without a single mistake. I was surprised and started getting fresh hope for the production! We decided to practise all the days in last week.
Kids were ready at 6 pm with makeup on. I was restless and roaming for no reason. Volunteers said “Guys it’s time to get onto the stage”. Post the MC’s speech, children started stepping on to the stage. There was pin drop silence, in spite of 2000 people in the audience. This is the second time I heard my own heart beat (First time was when I proposed to my girlfriend ;) ). Play starts off with live music.
“Alice in the wonderland, Alice is coolest indeed, We’ll tell you the story of little girl called Alice in theeeeeeee wonderlaaaaannnnddddddddddd…”
The third scene was nearing completion. I couldn’t see any reaction from audience. One of my friend who is a volunteer looked at me and said “It’s not happening”. At the beginning of 4th scene, I lost all hope. But I realised I was wrong. There was a dialog in 4th scene “Everyone’s mad here” followed by a long pause and the punchline – “Except Mahindra people”. By then I could hear a very loud laughter from the audience and I realised I had not been breathing for a long time. With a great sigh of relief, the scene had ended really well. From there on, it was claps and whistle for every action and dialog. I joined the audience too and started shouting for their performance instead of giving them a queues. We got a standing ovation before the play even ended! One kid looked at me and silently said “Anna, we’re not done”. And I smiled at him and said “No, you have done it.”
I just stepped out the auditorium with great relief and started my bullet with joy and happiness and unconsciously I started singing
“Alice in the wonderland, Alice is coolest indeed, We’ll tell you the story of little girl called Alice in theeeeeeee wonderlaaaaannnnddddddddddd…….”