A couple of months ago, I read Murugan’s Facebook status updates with increasing curiosity. Murugan is one of the program managers at THI and works in the craft and farming initiatives. His updates were about dancing and practicing for theatre. I didn’t immediately see the connection between livelihood promotion among the tribals and some dancing. The last time I went to Sittilingi, Murugan drew a line and connected them for me.
The THI team was going to start using street theatre plays to create awareness on several issues in the villages. Now street theatre has been known to be very effective in information dissemination on health, hygiene and other matters; it has always helped people to relate to something that is enacted than to be impressed just with pamphlets and long talks.
And so it happened that a street theatre expert from Krishnagiri, called Arumugam was invited to hold a ten day camp at THI. Including Murugan, 12 of the staff participated, including Tha. There were some participants from nearby Thulir as well who came on a part time basis.
“We started with exercises that are necessary for street theatre, like yoga, voice throwing, etc to improve flexibility. Arumugam taught us dancing, facial and body expressions, mono-acting, singing, scrip writing, etc,” tells Murugan.
It wasn’t all song and dance at the camp. By the end of the camp, the team developed scripts for two plays that they would practice and stage in the villages. Though Arumugam composed the songs for the plays, it was the THI staff that came up with the themes and the story lines. Thus, Murugan told me, they are ready now with two plays. “One is on the importance of organic farming called “Uyirmann”, meaning ‘living soil’ and the other is on the importance of ante-natal care called “Kalyani”, named after the main character in the play,” he says.
The last time I was there, Murugan, Manju and the others were discussing when to practice for the play. There are weekly rehearsals these days and the first time that they staged the plays was just before the elections at Thulir. Murugan told me that it went off well. The team will stage these street plays up in the Kalrayan Hills as well.
Acting out a theme helps people relate more to the message that is to be conveyed. The characters are often people they can very easily recognize and this makes a greater impact. Street theatre is extensively used to create awareness on various critical issues. It is great that THI is using this mode as well. So now you know not to be surprised if the next time you are there, you hear claps and the stomping of feet to music on practice days!