UWC Mahindra College monthly newsletter

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Selfish Rakshas - theatre season 2012

This year’s Theatre Season had an unusual opening: an Oscar Wilde adaptation whose main stars were not UWC Mahindra College students, but 32 nine graders from a local school in Asade, a village 3 km from the campus. 

The fact that a similar project had already been accomplished twice before, through an initiative of Radha Sarkar a student of 2010, encouraged Ben Clark, the college Theatre teacher who directed the play, to work on a larger scale this year.

Preparatory workshops began in early November, when a group of second year theatre students started coming down the village to assist Ben and Sindhu in teaching a full temple of children various radically new theatrical techniques, such as how to impersonate a robot or how to imitate the effect of rain of an increasing intensity by collectively clicking their tongues. Rahul and other coordinators from Akshara, an NGO responsible for empowering the local community and linking it with the UWC movement worldwide, helped with the necessary translations to Marathi the local language.

In particular, the college students seemed to enjoy the cultural aspects of putting the play together. One of the most demanding tasks was to cajole the ninth grade girls into mingling with the boys. Guiding the students to overcome their inhibitions and to express themselves using body language was also a challenge. UWC Mahindra College students Olga and Mark, who worked on the script, had to figure out a way to transform the ‘Selfish Giant’ story to fit the context of rural Maharashtra, where punishing an egoistic garden-owner with snow and frost would seem out of place – a draught proved to be a better choice. 

Although the script had to be appropriate for children learning English as their third language, it was not necessary to oversimplify it. The outcome was an allegory addressing the issue of rural emigration to cities: the wicked Rakshas with his costume made of old cans and an ominous satellite-dish helmet, was juxtaposed onto the serenity of his own lush garden.
The final performance was a spectacle that made use of a variety of different art forms: Music students agreed to compose, play and sing the accompaniment, Weronika choreographed her own dance with a burning hoop and Katherina performed an acrobatic number on a strip of cloth hanging from a tree. Finally, the student actors impressed the audience with their confident performance which earned them a huge applause. Their parents, who had also been invited to come and watch the performance, were especially proud to see them on a big outdoor stage. 

GAP year volunteer from UWCSEA working with the Akshara programme

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