BANGALORE: In 2007, Italian theatre artiste Elisa Fontana founded Wunderchildren Contemporary Art for Young People, a research project taking art to young audiences. Now, Elisa is collaborating with Bangalore-based performance space Jagriti Theatre to organise a workshop called ‘Theatre for babies' for children between two and six.
City Express caught up with her to know more.
How was your programme conceptualised? What was the aim?
‘Theatre for babies’ was part of my production for about 10 years in Italy and in several festivals across the world. Early this year, when I was travelling in India, I met Stephanie Mangano, an Italian theatre manager who has been with Jagriti for over a year.
She invited me to participate in the ‘Kids Carnival’, a theatre festival organised by Jagriti in May every year. I had presented a short performance for young kids. Since it got a good response, we decided to offer it directly to children in various schools, the objective being to create a greater connect between theatre and the community. The schools have responded with great curiosity and interest. Initially we planned to have two groups of students, but now we have increased it to four. So far, we have visited three schools in Whitefield : The Bangalore School, Viha Pre-Primary School and Vivero International Pre-school. We will be taking the project to Legacy School soon.
What's the workshop like?
The methodology is completely hands-on. The teacher is a facilitator, who helps kids to experiment, using different activities. The curriculum is based on a story narrated during the first session presented at the school. This fictional pretext is the starting point — devising a playful and fun way to take part in the story, dramatising the characters. The project includes one performance in the school, a five-session workshop, and one open session where parents and relatives can participate in a demonstration.
Any interesting experience you want to recount?
At a session, I found a four-year-old girl, who was sitting all by herself, watching her friends move around and have fun. So in the second session, I proposed to repeat the activity, to try to get her out of her shell. To my delight, she started mingling with the others. Instances like these make me really happy and affirm the importance of creating a space for kids where they feel free and unfettered.
How do you think theatre will help children?
Theatre is a discipline that involves the whole body, encompassing both the physical areas and the emotional. It creates a space in which the child can fathom, under the tutelage of a teacher, the various components of his character -- his ability to move, his imaginative skills, his ability to work in teams, his verbal and non-verbal language. According to American Researcher Howard Gardner, every individual has different types of intelligence: verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, musical, bodily/kinesthetic, interacting, intrapersonal, naturalist. Teaching theatre and drama gives kids the tool to discover all these different skills, in a very playful way.
I am sometimes asked - ‘What will children 2 to 6 years old learn from a theatre course? Will they become actors?’
My answer is: Maybe, some of them will, in the future. At this stage of their life though, theatre can teach them a lot more, like how to be a good person. But first, we want them to be themselves and be able to tell us what it’s like being a kid.
This is what Theatre for Babies is all about. It develops their ability to express ideas and describe experiences in all the wonderful ways they possibly can.
For details, contact project coordinator Rebecca Spurgeon at 08041248298 or email email@example.com.