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Monday, September 07, 2009

Ask Not

Slim Tool

Should theatre be compulsory in the play of life?

We all remember those hard-hitting ads by the Indian army which ask – Do you have it in you? Here they were asking if we had the courage, discipline and the desire to face danger for a noble cause. Unfortunately some of us have it in us, others don’t have.

That’s why many countries have made it mandatory for everybody to serve at least a couple of years in military. Even if they don’t end up becoming soldiers, they unfailingly develop the qualities of soldiers which serve well even in the ordinary life.

How about making theatre mandatory for at least six months just like they do with the military training? But, what are you saying? Are you comparing nachna-gana-bajana-nautanki with serving in army? Isn’t theatre made for those who have nothing real to do in life?

Let’s find the answer, together. Do you remember at least one incident in your life where you had something to express but you couldn’t? The reason could have been anything. You didn’t have proper words. Or maybe your inhibitions stopped you. Or maybe you were scared of being laughed at. Or maybe you got paralyzed. Did you feel helpless then? Theatre could have helped you there.

Theatre is the art of expressing oneself without inhibitions. Not only with words, but also with proper expressions and physical gestures. Nothing inside stops you. No inhibitions, no fear and no hesitation.

When you join a good theatre group, first you learn to speak up. Loudly. Even if it may sound strange to you but you would be surprised to see how clearer you become in communication as you get louder.

Then you learn not to speak up. Yeah! You have to say it without saying. You learn to express one thousand expressions with moving your lips. That’s tough to do. But when you learn to do it, you won’t depend upon your vocal cords much.

After that you learn to speak from your source. Generally you speak from your vocal cords which is shallow. You learn to speak from your belly which adds bass to your voice. It brings gravity in what you say. And the listen really listens.

You learn to feel. Well, feeling isn’t that easy. If somebody asks you to feel the feelings of a person who just lost everything in a riot, would you able to do so? You would definitely able to do so if you have put your heart and soul into theatre.

Then you learn team work. No, there are no power point presentations and long lectures teaching you the technicalities of team work. You just learn it without even knowing that you are learning. When you have to prepare a small drama with people you have met just minutes ago, your inner compass tells you which direction to go for team effort.

Meanwhile you learn acting also. Sounds funny, no? After all you joined theatre just to learn acting, right? But the point is when you have simultaneously learnt so many things, acting happens. You feel the character, and you become that character. Acting is not something you force yourself to do. It becomes a part of your nature.

And then comes the bonanza gift of being in theatre. I remember Russell Crowe, a tough cop in the movie “American Gangster”, saying, “the number one thing people are afraid of isn't dying, it's public speaking". So, when you perform in front of people, you look into the eyes of your stage fright. Then you conquer it. And you think, “Damn! It was not that scary at all.”

Well, that’s the tip of the iceberg. Theatre just keeps adding to your learning and overall development in its myriad ways. And you discover qualities in yourself you always had but never saw.

If some ad for a good theatre comes across asking if you have it in you, you know the answer. We all have it in us. We just need a little pruning to bring it out. So, why not make theatre training compulsory for everybody?