THE LITTLE THEATRE IN CORPORATION SCHOOLS
The Little Theatre conducts creative workshops once a week on a Wednesday afternoon at Corporation Middle School, Chetpet.
The children from the adjoining slum attend this school. The creative workshops are in drama, mime, puppetry, wall painting, dance and music. We have also been conducting workshops in spoken English. The Madras Round Table 3 and SkyCell sponsored these workshops for the first year.
In the last twenty-one years, we have given scholarships to more than 130 children thanks to help from various sponsors such as Thakur Bakshani, Ravi Singee, Ranvir Shah, Amrit Mehta, Durga Das and Sterling Ladies Circle. The two best girls and two best boys in the school are selected every year and their education is taken care of for seven years. This year, we hope to support four more talented children. Today we have 31 children on our scholarship programme. Rajesh passed out of Anna University and is now working as a software engineer in Singapore with IBM. Lakshmi has completed her MA Economics. Sashikala passed out of Queen Mary’s College with a distinction in her B Com. Hemavathy is pursuing her post graduation studies while Paneer and Dinesh are working. Divya and Nirmala have successfully graduated and Murali has completed his post graduation in MCA at Gurunanak College. He is still looking for a job.
Dr Murgavale who finished his MBBS at Chenglepattu Govt Medical College is now a full fledged doctor. Sriram graduated as a mechanical engineer with distinction. Five students started their degree courses this year.The remaining students are at MCC Hr Secondary School and Seva Sadan on Harrington Road. .
This year we will select 1 boy and 1 girl for our scholarship. We are changing the format. From this year we will be selecting from within all the Corporation Schools to support 2 deserving children through University.
For the first time, forty children from the Corporation Middle School performed a one hour street theatre show at ten venues in different slums around the city in April/May 1999. This successful programme happened thanks to our sponsors Pizza Corner and the Corporation of Chennai. The following year, April 2000, with Sify as sponsors they did 5 shows in 5 slums. In April 2002, Apollo Hospitals sponsored five shows in five slums. In 2003 they performed 8 shows in March. On March 1st they performed at the Raj Bhavan, on March 3rd at Max Mueller Bhavan and on March 9th at The Taj Coromandel and five shows in five tough slums. In 2004 they were invited to perform again at the Raj Bhavan on February 26, 2004 along with the Choir and Orchestra before going on to perform in five slums. For the last 2 years they performed at Lady Andal School, at Max Mueller Bhavan and five tough slums. The shows are fast gaining in popularity and the children are brilliant actors.
The next Street Theatre production is scheduled for March / April 2016.
Our annual Christmas Pantomime is the main fundraiser for these ongoing school projects and for the scholarships .....
Here's a write up in the December 2013 edition of the Spicejet inflight magazine:
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Mar 10, 2005
Tamil Nadu - Chennai
Bringing child abuse out into the open
By Tejas Ewing
CHENNAI, MARCH 9. The city-based drama group, The Little Theatre, tackled the themes of "child abuse and the bully" in an outdoor performance at Srinivasapuram, attended by actress Revathy.
Held at Foreshore Estate last week, the open-air event attracted many curious onlookers, and a sea of small children eagerly anticipating the annual show.
Children from the Corporation Middle School in Chetpet, who have been performing street theatre for seven years, worked with the well-known director Pralayan to create the script about issues important to children.
"We wanted to create an awareness among the audience with this production," said Pralayan.
In the programme, entitled "Vadhai... means torture" the child performers tackled the general issues of child abuse, including parental neglect, corporal punishment in school, psychological and emotional abuse and domestic abuse, through songs, sketches and dance.
Often the children debated the issues on stage. For example, a song focused on the place of corporal punishment in school.
The performance seemed structured to bring out the simple fact that many parents and children in India are unaware of the adverse effects of such abuse on children. As a result, simply bringing a discussion of abuse into the open, with both parents and their children watching together was the most direct result of this event.
Studies have shown that child abuse is often passed from generation to generation, with abused children becoming abusive parents.
"Street theatre is a powerful tool for spreading this message to the public," says Aysha Rau of The Little Theatre, pointing out that education was an important tool in the breaking of this vicious cycle.
For example, emotional abuse is the most common form of child abuse, and many parents do not realise they are party to it, let alone the effect it might have on their children.
Such productions allow children to have a much-needed voice on these
issues, she explains "and if the lessons are delivered by children from a similar background, then the audience will be more receptive."
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Mar 13, 2003
Published on All days
Messengers were the message
Most of the characters in the play were close to the real world that the children live in.
The little theatre with a social theme.
THE SLUM of Pushpa Nagar in Nungambakkam was awash with lights recently. A temporary stage was set up close to the slum board tenements and the speakers were blaring some of the popular film numbers. The setting was just apt for a group of street theatre actors to take centre stage, in this case `centre street' to present a message to an audience of housewives, auto-rickshaw drivers, tea stall chatters and several children.
The play `Poonga' focused on a theme very pertinent to its audience: `inclusion'. The play explained why no child should be excluded on the basis of caste, community, sex or disability.
And the players who carried forth the message were themselves children from the economically weaker strata of the society that is the most affected. In many ways, the students from Corporation Middle School in McNichols Road, Chetpet were themselves the message to the audience as they danced and sang in unison in the play produced by The Little Theatre.
Most of the characters in the play were close to the real world that the children live in. In one of its segments the play focused on the role of the woman in a household. While the male character keeps bragging about all the `hard work' that men do to earn a livelihood, a part of the stage is taken up by the `woman of the household' who goes through her daily grind without much ado.
When another male character dares to defy the norms and take up household work while his wife goes out to work, all the other actors make fun of him. The audience too laugh... but at their own expense. For a few minutes later, an elderly woman (who is a kind of Soothradari for the play) points out that if domestication of a man is wrong, so too it is for a woman. This is followed by silence for a few seconds for the message to sink in.
Another interesting segment involves the Ramzan fast of a student in the class. When his classmates are having lunch, the student stays away since he does not want to see any food. But the other students do not understand the fast and they tease him with all their lunch boxes. The student cries and leaves the school swearing not to return. Much of the audience is perturbed by the portrayal here, but the setting quickly changes to the next day at school. The Muslim student is absent much to the surprise of his classmates.
The next scene: The lunch hour next day. The teacher of the class is confronted by several parents who want to know why all the students refused to take lunch boxes to the school. After some queries, the students reply that they too were fasting along with their friend, whom they teased earlier. Poignantly done, the scene evokes claps and even whistles from some of the audience. This is followed by a song and dance routine where the students reiterate their unity.
Most of the actors in the performance took pride in spreading the message. "The important thing is that girls must be allowed to go to school," said N. David, a class VIII student, with a twinkle in his eye. He played the key role of an old drummer in play. But more than mere play-acting, the student was speaking from his heart.
And talking of education for the girl child, some of David's classmates were already aiming high. R. Thenmozhi, whose father is a cook and her friend, Nalini, both want to become doctors. As for David, he wants to take the IPS entrance, exuding confidence which was common to the 40 students who participated in the play. During the last two weeks, Poonga was staged at seven slums identified as those having high school dropout rate.
This is the fifth successive year that the school students have performed to audiences across the lanes and by lanes of the city through the workshop organized by The Little Theatre. The play was directed by renowned street theatre activist, Pralayan and choreography was done by Hariharan, artistic director of Abhinaya. For the songs, the students were aided by Carnatic singer, Rageswari.
"The present education system is stressful and youngsters need activities to ventilate and develop their creative talents," says Aysha Rau, founder of
The Little Theatre. People who the saw the children perform will have little doubt on their talent.
By Karthik Subramanian