THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The actors of ‘Theatre Magic’ project have never seen a play before. They also have severe to profound hearing loss. Two facts that won’t cross your mind when they step on to the dais on Tuesday, formally kick-starting the year-long theatre project at Government VHSS for Deaf, Jagathy.
The idea of ‘Theatre Magic’ germinated in a two-hour theatre workshop organised by a group of performers from a city-based theatre group. Teachers at the Jagathy school felt a discernible difference among children. Parents of a student, who would often throw tantrums due to ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), noted that the boy calmed down after the workshop.
That, and their performance at the Special School Youth Festival, is what prompted the teachers at the school to make the proposal for ‘Theatre Magic’ to the Directorate of Public Instruction (DPI). The project was approved by Biju Prabhakar, who was then the Director of Public Instruction. A joint project of Social Justice Department and DPI, ‘Theatre Magic’ has now been allocated an amount of Rs 6 lakh.
Baiju, the school’s lab technician who invited the theatre group to the school, says, “According to the proposal, the year-long programme is envisaged as a course in acting. There will be modules for acting and body language. Consulting with the performance instructors, we plan to include a counselling session as well.”
“This is an experimental project. I believe that if they use their pent-up energy here, they will perform well in studies too. We are going to document the classes and results. If successful, the DPI can implement it in schools across the state,” he adds.
The project is aimed at students in high school, higher secondary and vocational higher secondary.
M G Jyothish, who has performed around the the world, has directed the three short skits for the inaugural function. The instructors realised with great astonishment that the students took to acting, like fish to water. Pratheesh, who helps direct the skits, says that, “The students have improvised on the original play. In fact, some of them would start showing others how to act their part.”
Adds Akhil, one of the instructors, “Mime is the art form of people with hearing disability. It is we who borrowed it from them.”
However, the instructors face difficulty in communicating with the children. They also find that it is not easy to teach theatre, which needs rigour and discipline, to a group of children who are very sensitive. Pratheesh says, “Our focus is on the process rather than on the end result of turning them into great performers. A simple example: There is that shyness when you are around the opposite sex. The programme will help them drop such inhibitions, be more open and communicate better.”