Express press service
CHENNAI: Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble and necessary pursuits to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, that’s what we live for. This quote from Dead Poet’s Society still rings true 33 years later. Rather, it cemented its importance, reminding us that in today’s competitive climate, it’s important to step back and indulge in the arts.
Hoping to do the same for the city’s young people after the grim pandemic, The Little Festival, the international theater festival organized by The Little Theatre, returns from July 1-8, after a two-year hiatus, for its eleventh edition. “At every festival, I look at the children who watch our shows, feeling that their souls are satisfied, that there is a lightness in their hearts and that they want more theater because I think that theater is what helps people to understand each other, to develop compassion and empathy. Life is not just about exams, finding a career and drudgery. They need to know the joy of life and you get it through art,” notes Aysha Rau, founder of The Little Theatre.
The festival will feature three productions at Kalakshetra Auditorium, Thiruvanmiyur – two in-house (The Garage Gang and Hansel & Gretel in Taka Din) and one hosted by InKo Center (The Story of the Lake). The Garage Gang, is a celebration of a child’s imagination, informs Krishnakumar Balasubramanian or KK, the artistic director of The Little Theatre.
“It touches home because it reminds us of what we forgot growing up. This is essential now given the pandemic and the fact that children and parents are going through hell trying to navigate entirely new situations. I believe theater is a medium where children can look and feel it is a mirror of what they have been through and find a way to express themselves. The show is heavily laced with physical comedy,” he says, adding that the show is about how we need to nurture our childhood imaginations as we grow.
Where one show provides family entertainment, the next production introduces young people to Indigenous art forms in creative ways. Starring Anu Bhaskararaman and Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, Hansel & Gretel in Taka Din is an attempt to evolve Bharatanatyam and communicate it to the current generation. “Anu is a Bharatanatyam dancer, passionate about making classical art forms accessible to young people. For this, they (Anu and Lakshmy) bring the age-old and well-known story of Hansel and Gretel with music to visually portray history through dance in a fun way to help children understand the nuances of art,” says KK.
Rehearsals are in full swing as the actors also rejoice in their return to the stage. “They are so excited. I realized that art is so important. Finally, being able to rehearse and do everything in person in the studio is liberating and makes them feel like they’re on top of the world. I think that’s what art does to people,” Aysha notes.
Building on old traditions like Taka Din, The Story of the Lake is the third production that focuses on a popular folk tale, told for modern audiences using shadow puppets by Company Young of South Korea. . “It’s a typical folk tale that focuses on good and evil and the importance of compassion and community. The director feels that the latter is important, especially after the pandemic and two years of gloom. This could be a story of hope and resilience and about the greater role of art and the transformation that comes through art,” says Rathi Jafer, director of the InKo centre.
The festival also offers workshops and will host two round tables on July 5 at the Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan. Featuring professionals from the entertainment industry and medicine and moderated by Dr. Rohini Rau, Administrator of the Little Theater, and KK, the discussions will address the importance of art in healthcare and education after covid. “The children have been stuck at home for more than two years. Children can only grow through conversations, meeting people and going to new environments and this (their confinement) can lead to anxiety, depression and various mental illnesses. It’s the arts that can approach this issue comfortably and that’s why I think it’s such an important conversation,” says Aysha. The impact of the arts will be felt soon enough when the school children take the seats in the small theatre.
To book tickets or check the schedule, visit thelittletheatreindia.com or visit Cheria Aana, #2 Village Road, Nungambakkam. For more details call 28211115 or 8778449642.