Jehan Sam Manekshaw of Theatre Professionals, a theatre training organisation, conducts a workshop
I factor Amey Wagh could turn back the clock, he would like to be studying theatre at school or junior college level, instead of relying only on theatre groups. “When I was in school, there were no avenues to study theatre academically. Theatre is similar to sports and music, skills should ideally be inculcated in a student at an early age.
We did have a theatre group, and while that helped create a foundation for my passion, I had to learn the nuances of the field by myself. In retrospect, if I were given the opportunity, I would have loved to receive formal training in the field,” Wagh, who has been active in Pune theatre circles for the past eight years says. Wagh, and other theatre enthusiasts with similar sentiments will soon have a reason to smile.
Beginning from the forthcoming academic year, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will be introducing Theatre Studies as an elective subject at the junior college level.
The course, the only one at this academic level, will be offered across 13,500 schools from the forthcoming academic year for Std XI, and for Std XII from 2014.
Sandeep Sethi, CBSE Education Officer from CBSE who has been instrumental in spearheading the initiative said, “The concept has been under discussion since the begining of 2013. It is rooted in the Board wanting to change to a more holistic and multi-disciplinary pattern of imparting formal education, inspired by American universities.”
Sethi, a teacher for the past 22 years, has previously experimented with translating textbooks into theatrical presentations. Sethi went ahead and proposed the move of introducing formal theatre studies in the CBSE curriculum. “Understanding the finer nuances of theatre would give students a chance to explore their aptitude and interest.
Additionally, theatre can also be used as a powerful teaching aid,” he added. The syllabus has been conceived and designed by the National School of Drama, Delhi in collaboration with Barry John, founder and director of Theatre Action Group, Delhi and Sandeep Sethi, and will be spread across a theory paper of 70 marks and practical application for the remaining 30 marks.
The curriculum will encapsulate the fundamentals of theatre and explore components such as space, time, audiences and performances. Students will be exploring various genres of drama, along with exercises like creating scripts, practising voice and pitch modulation, discussing and setting up plays and so on.
Brian Herwood, Programme Director, Barry John Acting Studio said, "The module is dynamic and promises experiential learning, in addition to theoretical clarity. The idea is to facilitate use of drama as a teaching tool; it would be intriguing to translate text book content into dramatic works and make education more exciting and less stressful."
Teachers were more cautious in their reactions. Kirti Sharma, Principal of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Ganeshkhind said, “This looks like a welcome change. The fact that education is breaking through the shackles of traditional subjects is laudable. I have not examined the syllabus, but I am hoping it will provide students with an edge and make learning more enriching and activity-based.”
Principal of the Army Public School, Pune, Vinita Punekar raised some concerns, “Although it is a positive change from the cliched curriculum, there are certain questions. If acclaimed theatre personalities are to come and teach, they will have to be paid well.
That is going to entail some financial challenges for schools. Also, monetary arrangements for setting up and screening plays, renting auditoriums, designing costumes and so on need to be addressed.”
Scripting the syllabus
The Class XI syllabus begins with a basic introduction to theatre and the different forms of drama, including street theatre and Indian folk theatre, before opening students up to the history of theatre, Indian, Asian and Western.
The syllabus then goes on to the transition from theatre to film and the use of Sanskrit and classical stories and characters in Indian films and finally goes on to explain the application of theatre in academics. In Class XII, the emphasis is more on reading plays, theatre production and student activity.
Playwrights such as Vijay Tendulkar, Girish Karnad, Samuel Becket and Harold Pinter are examined and analysed. Students also work on collaborative scene work from selected scripts. Finally, students work on a research project, while studying the different aspects of theatre production, from design, to direction to acting.
► While it’s a noble initiative on CBSE’s part, I have serious doubts about the response. As long as it is an elective, I don’t think students will take it up in a big way. I’ve seen art and music — which are already part of school syllabus suffer the same fate
- Satish Alekar, Veteran playwright
► A serious study of theatre is essential at school level, and I welcome the CBSE’s decision. Theatre has percolated into the streams of psychology and education, where it is applied as a medium of therapy and teaching, respectively
- Atul Pethe, Veteran play director
► Studying theatre academically will shed light on the close relationship between the form and the content of not just plays, but all art forms. I’ve also always believed in the power of history as a tool to study the minutiae of the society
- Dharmakirti Sumant, playwright
► Theatre, like sports and music,should be inculcated in students early age. I’d have loved formal training in the field
- Amey Wagh, Actor