Experience at the Summer Hulchul Theatre Workshop – Arnab, a participant, shares

“Theatre is the art of Illusion,” said Ritesh Sharma in an almost candid fashion, and thus began our workshop at Pravah. Having had trouble defining creative genres, including theatre, I wondered how pertinent this definition was to theatre alone. Aren’t all creative works illusions, in their own rights? Isn’t a short story nothing more than a mere fabrication, an allegory of real life? Isn’t a painting nothing more than a simplified metaphor of our emotions, giving us the illusion of being able to see what we feel?

Since this was my first foray into the Pravah world, I had no idea what to expect out of the few hours that I was to spend in the workshop. I went only with the promise of a fun-filled creative afternoon. What we got in return was a lot more than just that – a greater appreciation of creativity and theatre as a whole.

Ritesh Sharma, a theatre personality and a filmmaker from Delhi, defined creativity in such easy to grasp terms that it made me wonder about the completeness of it. However, as time passed, and the mutual interactions built up, and our inhibitions were slowly washed away, we realised that there can’t be a simpler and more accurate definition of all creative processes – an illusion to brings about a better understanding of our world, and of ourselves.

Through the many activities that we did throughout the workshop, we understood the many important aspects of theatre. We learnt Improvisation when we each had to come up with a gesture befitting our personalities, and along with the names that we knew ourselves, those gestures became a part of us too for the next few hours.

Although we didn’t go deep into acting as a process, we learnt how important our body is in the world of theatre. On stage, in the midst of putting the illusion into action, our body is the greatest instrument at our disposal. We learnt to master our body through our mind, to become smaller than the smallest insect, and larger than the biggest man alive. Through this exercise, we understood that by feeling the character, we can become as mighty and powerful or as small and fragile as the character we depict – mind over matter, illusion over reality.

In order for an illusion to work, it’s important for both the actors and the audience to believe it to be true. Unless the actors believe that the floor is made of fiery coal, the audience wouldn’t believe it either. For the audience to feel the cold sting of ice on naked feet, it’s important for them to see the expressions of the actors, feel their pain before they can feel it themselves. The actor should be able to break the barriers of the mind, covering the stage in front of him with fire or ice, petals or thorns, feel the pleasure of walking on grass, and wince with pain from stepping on a jagged stone. Slowly, surely, alternating between the actor and the audience, we came to understand the impact that a well portrayed expression can have in the illusion that plays out on stage.

Through improvisations and expressions, by sharing the common stage, we broke the barriers that often linger on between strangers who become friends in a short span of time. With strangers, we painted together, sharing our emotions over the piece of paper we shared, collaborating and creating ourselves as we knew us, only to find that at the end of it all, we knew ourselves so much better than before. The strangers from a few hours ago were no longer strangers, and shared a bond that will last long, a bond that holds strong. When the day was done, and the lights of that little shared space went out, our exploration of ourselves was complete, and we found the hidden creative side of us, once more.

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