CHENNAI: Summer plans have had a major rewrite this year, what with the lockdown and the threat of an invisible virus putting everything in perspective. As much as the adult world has seemingly made peace with the changes, the children are left wanting. While certain things certainly look bleak, The Little Theatre comes to their rescue, moving their much-anticipated annual summer camp to the virtual space. They promise to have plenty in store for children, in the arena of theatre and its paraphernalia.
As much as theatre is a very physical art, the need to adapt to current conditions had them improvising their lesson plan, says the group’s artistic director B Krishnakumar. “Usually, we have this in the months of April and May. They were all live sessions. However, people are finding it tough to engage their kids creatively and reached out to us about it. So we decided we have to adapt to this situation. Even though theatre is an art form that thrives on people interacting with each other, there are many aspects of it that we feel can be taught online,” he explains.
Krishnakumar and team have put together a syllabus that covers theatre, dance, music and art. Prop-making and origami find a place in the routine, as a means to keep the kids engaged. “In the end, we try to give children the means to put up a small play or skit,” offers Dr Rohini Rau, trustee of The Little Theatre. All this will be shared through one and a half hour sessions, split into two 45-minute classes.
These highly interactive engagements will happen with the help of the Zoom app, which has gained tremendous global popularity since the virus-influenced lockdown. It’s technology like this that has made such a virtual camp possible, pitches in Rohini. “There’s the Zoom app, Google Meet and more. There are features that allow for bigger groups, lets you change your background, use a white board. So there are a lot of advantages to using these apps for what we have in mind,” she details.
To ensure that every child gets enough attention, the sessions will only engage 15 kids at a time. As more kids sign up, more sessions will be set up, says Krishnakumar. As many as 10 facilitators — people who specialise in clowning, magicians, musicians, dancers and choreographers, and acting professionals who teach different forms of acting, sets and prop-makers — will be handling the classes. And there are some big names in the mix. “Vikas Rao, who was part of the Kannada version of Maanada Mayilada, is handling choreography and he’s fantastic. Then, there’s Lavita Lobo for the music lessons. A song that she and her husband Jerry made a couple of years ago was nominated for the Oscar,” lists Krishnakumar.
Even as they have everything in place for what is working up to be a delightful summer experience, Krishnakumar and Rohini agree that this can get challenging. “Teaching itself is now changing drastically because of the lockdown. There are going to be challenges. As long as you’re well-prepared with the basics and you do a mock session with the core team, you at least have a 90 per cent idea of what works. As you keep going, this format of teaching will get better. I think we’re all on the precipice of learning how to do this right,” offers Krishnakumar.
One such learning is that people have started charging for the content they provide, points out Rohini. “In the beginning of the lockdown, a lot of people were providing a lot of content for free. We, as consumers, just assumed that everything that was going to come online was going to be that way. Hence, anyone who charged for them initially didn’t get as much response. That’s why we didn’t want to do this early on. But we also have to understand that a lot of people depend on this for their full-time income. It’s not something they can keep doing for free. Now, people have realised that it’s not a two-month lockdown and if anyone needs to survive, we have to make it monetarily beneficial for the artists involved. That was a big change that we have seen,” she explains.For a 28-year-old organisation, this was a much-needed innovation to move our content online, she says. Perhaps, we’ll be seeing more of this even past the pandemic.
For registration, fill the form here; https://forms.gle/ze8aEGZwr74GE5ni7
Registration will close when they reach maximum number of participants or by May 18
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