A report by Shreya Sarkar, Student, CCMG
On 3rd February 2016, the usually quiet campus of the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance (CCMG), Jamia Millia, came alive with the creative energy of its First-Year Masters students. At the heart of all the frenzied activity was the Society for Promoting Arts, Culture and Education (SPACE) Theatre Ensemble, from Goa. Led by renowned journalist, activist, writer, educator and theatre person Hartman de Souza, the theatre repertory conducted a one-day skill-development workshop at the centre, with the twin-agenda of training students at the fundamentals of theatre, as well as to cultivate their voice talent for public speaking.
The chilly but sunny day began with the three principal actors of SPACE Theatre Ensemble – Andrea Pereira, Heidi Pereira and Katheeja Talha – taking the centre stage to perform warm-up exercises with the students. Droopy shoulders, slouched backs and half-shut eyes sprang to life, as the actors began to demonstrate the first of the several unique exercises in loosening up the voice as well as the body. Soon after, the students were engaged in a series of rapid, rhythmic handclaps going around the circular formation, followed by myriad organic sounds doing the rounds in a similar style. Next up was a short performance by Heidi Pereira, called “Shake What Ya Mamma Gave Ya”, highlighting the issue of fat shaming, and promoting a positive body image. SPACE’s style of theatre is a distinct combination of spontaneous acts, snappy choruses and freestyle dance-like movements, with their acts focusing on socio-political issues. So, while Heidi received a thunderous applause for the feisty dramatization, the performance also provided enough fodder for analyzing the role of mass media in the construction of youth culture.
Besides working the students into simple acting exercises, which ranged from personifying wind and water to walking like an injured person, the workshop aimed at developing the art of vocal harmony. What began as a simple task of each student singing a vowel note at an even pitch, soon transformed into a complex harmony, with everyone coming together with different notes, albeit at a steady pitch. The effect of this soundscape was nothing short of magical as it resonated through the covered space around the courtyard. However, the highlight of the workshop was a watered-down version of improvisational theatre, which was reserved for the final quarter of the schedule. With subjects ranging from “marriage” and “the city of Delhi” to quirky ones such as “large bearded men” and “lady in short skirt”, the activity was a real test of creativity. There were revelations, and then there were spoilsports.
At the end of it all entered Hartman de Souza, the erstwhile artistic director of the theatre repertory. After a brief yet fruitful interaction with the students about life in the theatre company, there was a whoosh and a flurry of other such dramatic sounds, in SPACE Ensemble’s signature style, and Andrea, Heidi and Katheeja took the stage to perform an act to the scathingly humorous poem The Development Set by Ross Coggins. Even as the actors took a bow to the roaring applause, there were shout-outs from the audience for the wonderful experience that it had been to be part of this workshop. For all the fun and high-energy workout that the workshop had been, it was also a tremendous exercise in building confidence and dismantling comfort zones. And then it was time to pack up for the day and head for a scrumptious lunch of biryani and raita.