Time… a cold Monday morning. Place… deserted college campus. Four play-backers braved their blues to get their act together for the performance on Saturday 9th October, 2010. As the week went by, the number grew larger; the rapport stronger and the creativity almost infectious. The performance was planned for the children of Shishuvan, a NGO which works towards providing quality education and care for children from economically deprived families.
So, on the morning of 9th, the team of excited play-backers (most of them making their big debut) drove into the school premises; to be greeted by smiling kids distracted from their play. Awe-struck by the aura of the place, we admired the charming building and the little gardens with inspiring quotes painted in each corner. A small class-room was ready for performance with our young audience, about 50 kids lined up neatly on the floor.
When we started interacting with them, they responded in kind with wide grins & loads of warmth. It was a pleasant surprise later when a girl in the teller’s chair addressed an actor by name, calling her out to play a part. This actor was not part of the original team of actors for this story.
The conductor’s role was beautifully managed by Bharat; striking a chord with the audience while juggling between two languages. The music was done by Arif; starting with the soothing classical notes which opened the first fluid, the music consistently enhanced the beauty of the performances that followed. Rajesh played the silent coach, supporting us through the performance. The actors were at their best (Avarina, Abu, Akankcha, Kavita, Mona, Madhuri and I) complementing each other; adding their unique flavour to create a melange of fluids, stories and conflicts.
The kids responded enthusiastically to the conductor’s questions; shaping fluids on ‘what do we expect from the performers’, ‘favourite pastimes’ and the very powerful ‘who do we aspire to become…’ A bit shy when called upon to share stories, it took a little prodding and encouragement to get two girls in the teller’s chair sharing their moments of victory and adventure. In the first story on winning a basketball match; the actors conveyed the feeling of triumph with a victory dance, drawing a roaring applause.
The second teller shared her experience of a frightening encounter with a snake in the woods on her way home from school. Watching the episode re-created larger than life before her eyes, the teller’s satisfaction was evident in her reaction. The conflicts shared were simple childhood dilemmas- to study or play, to sleep or enjoy music. The final fluid depicted the kids’ response to the performance- the amazement, laughter & aspirations said it all. The prayer chorus which they sang for us in the end moved everyone to a humble silence. In the hour and half spent with the children of Shishumandir, we successfully captured a slice of their lives and presented it back to them, gift- wrapped in theatrical taffety. Yet, after all the good-bye hugs, as we reluctantly drove away; the feeling was one of having received much more than we could give…
– Supriya Rakesh
(Supriya is a new Playbacker having done her Certificate Course in Playback Theatre with Script Peoples Theatre in September. She is a Human Resources Professional with Johnson & Johnson.)