Published: 11th August 2021
Joy of Drama is teaching kids life skills and killing their social anxiety. This is how
We converse with the people involved with the programme that is striving to develop the identity of children through a novel means
Drama is often mistaken as being synonymous to theatre. The reality is that theatre is only a minor subset of it. Vaishali Chakravarty has been associated with drama for years now and it is her profession as well. She has, in her vast career, experienced several facets of drama that are applicable in real life. One pioneering aspect of drama is that it inculcated life skills in children at a very early stage. She founded her venture Joy of Drama for realising this very purpose.
Speaking about the humble beginnings of Joy of Drama, Vaishali says, "I have been into theatre since my schooling days. Then I went on to start my own theatre company called the Actor Factor Theatre Company. We all came together to do original work. In 2009, I quit my day job as a copywriter after seeing the difference a theatre workshop had on children. Then I started to do little workshops for children and I started teaching myself. A couple of years later, I realised that I had to come up with something more formal and regular for children. At that time we only had one assessment board for performance arts in India — the Trinity College London. Then I thought that this could be something that I could take up to the schools and children over there."
She continues about the origin of Joy of Drama, "The fact I learned was that assessments only test the performance skill of the students but not the life skills they possess. Drama has the capability of breaking your inhibitions, making you more aware and observant, being a better listener and speaker and making you think critically. Then I carried out several visits to schools across the nation to bring in drama as a means to engage with existing literature through drama. It was then that I started Joy of Drama in 2015."
This one's for the kids
Vaishali expands her vision behind drama for children, "I immediately knew that children have to be brought into drama by means of a process and not as a product. My idea was that children should be able to engage with literature more meaningfully. This meant that they were encouraged to come up with their own understanding rather than something being imposed by the teacher. For me, it was important that those children who are introverted get to participate."
Speaking about the different age levels of the students she adds, "We now have several age groups that are participating with us. The most difficult of them is the 5-7 years old group because the tutors need to be extremely sensitive and use the proper language with them. They often have a lot of questions and excessive energy, so the teacher needs to cope a lot."
Your life before your eyes
She also lets us in on the true objective of Joy of Drama. "Our ultimate goal is to inculcate children with life skills, such as looking at an event from multiple perspectives. Children have the habit of asking 'why' a lot. Here, the teacher collaborates with the student to achieve authentic learning. And when the teacher acknowledges the understanding gained by the child, the latter's confidence gets boosted. We feel that reflection is a very important outcome for the children as they are made aware of their own skill sets. It is then that they come up with solutions on their own which normal learning does not inculcate," she says.
Vaishali speaks about her endgame when it comes to these kids, "Once the child has gone through the drama programme, they have shown tremendous growth in academics. The children do not wait for the teacher to speak up. They take the initiative to ask the questions for which they want to seek answers. This is something that I have observed in them. I have been trained in old-school theatre, and there, nobody hands you the answers on a platter. You have to seek it by yourself. This is what I love to impart to the children."
Virtually amazing time
Speaking about the challenges encountered while imparting drama to the children, Vaishali says "There are some specific challenges associated with the online mode of lessons. Physical inactivity is one major drawback. We give them short breaks at different time periods so that they can refresh themselves and keep themselves charged during the classes. In fact, the online mode of delivery has been very fruitful for us. There is effective usage of time because during physical classes, there used to be several hindrances like somebody would turn up late or time would be lost while putting on the costumes. But now there are no delays like that. Also, we do not take more than six children per batch of a class so in a 90 minute session, the teachers are able to provide individualised attention to all of them."
There have been several instances where Joy of Drama has been able to set things straight for children with regards to moral values. "I remember a particular instance when a kid was stealing money from his parents and instead of approaching a counsellor, the parents approached me. I can say for a fact that drama has the ability to safely ask questions that are otherwise very difficult to ask. There was a tremendous change in the child after that and he learnt that stealing is wrong all by himself," Vaishali narrates.
Changing it up now
The transformation in the children can be really gauged through the words of some of the trainers. "At the start, most of the kids would be in a defensive and passive position all the time. Then with due time given to them for acclimatising themselves to drama, they became comfortable with the fact that they are all here to perform roles so their own selves would not be judged by anyone. From then on, the change in them was tremendous. They scripted their own plays, they wrote the dialogues and performed as well. They truly became active in the sense of the word," says Gayathri Radhakrishnan, a teacher who has worked with Joy of Drama for the last four years.
She also speaks about how there's a whole lot of joy in the teaching process they employ. "During teaching per se, there is always an expectation of a lecture. But there is no reflection in that or even fun. I feel in that way no one really benefits at all. At Joy of Drama, the lessons are meant to engage everyone and thus, there is fun but at the same time proper learning is also induced," she explains. She also spoke on the benefits of online classes, "One major benefit has been that a lot of information can be disseminated via the online mode. This is not possible via in person classes."
And it is not just the trainers who are all praise for Joy of Drama either. Parents too have identified it as a tool that really clicks for their children. "Joy of Drama has been therapeutic for both my children. It is not at all about theater, acting or performance on stage. Both of them were initially very shy personalities but are now confident young teens who have learnt to speak for themselves and feel normal conversing with extended family, peers and even new people. They absolutely love the weekly classes and we highly recommend it to parents and children who struggle socially. It has been an incredible journey over the past four years," says Ekta Gupta, whose kids attend classes here.
Vaishali narrates the specific ideal that she wants to achieve with the children, "I feel the research mode of learning needs to be internalised by all children. It is only then that they have a zeal to learn on their own. Otherwise, we are all just puppets waiting to be trained in the same old mundane way and coming up with nothing new at all."