Adding some drama
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Adding some drama

How about taking to the stage to overcome your shyness, boost your confidence, and become self-aware as well as socially-conscious, asks Rahat Bano

education Updated: Jul 13, 2011 11:11 IST
Rahat Bano
Rahat Bano
Hindustan Times

You know that you know the answer. Or, you have a very valid question swirling in your mind but are too diffident to raise your hand? Fear of hordes, uneasiness among strangers, stage fright can dent your academic and professional careers in today’s intensely competitive world. A lot of shy and reserved youth retreat into the shadows in classrooms and workplaces. Whether it’s an assessed academic presentation or a departmental report, speaking before an audience is part and parcel of life in many campuses and industries. And this demands confidence and some eloquence, something not everybody is blessed with. But there’s a way out. How about taking to the stage to overcome your shyness, boost your confidence, and become self-aware as well as socially-conscious?

A number of educational institutions use drama to instil some vital skills in students so they can face the world. One of these is the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi whose just-introduced self-enrichment programme includes theatre classes. Started with help from Calicut-based Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST), an autonomous organisation under the Kerala government, the week-long programme open to all students leverages the potential of dramatics.

Drama is used to make students “self-confident, and in-charge of their body and mind,” explains DD Nampoothiri, executive director, CREST, who was at IIT Delhi for the debut event in which theatre makes up about a quarter and the rest comprises a module each on communication skills and self-enhancement techniques and exercises.

The size of the theatre chunk in CREST’s courses usually depends on the number of modules (and the duration). When the centre started its flagship five-month PG certificate programme in professional development designed by Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, in 2002, it included a “micro-theatre” component, says Nampoothiri. Later on, this part was enlarged to derive more mileage out of the performing art. Today, CREST’s PG course includes about 15% of theatre.

CREST has been running such courses for the IITs, National Institute of Technology in Karnataka, and several government engineering colleges as well as universities in Kerala.

“(Theatre) is the most integrated discipline that involves your intellectual and creative faculties. You are playing a role. Your confidence level goes up. You are in-charge of yourself,” explains Nampoothiri. It’s also about becoming socially aware since the plays have social and ethical themes, and also self-aware. (Of the 40 seats in CREST’s certificate course, 28 are reserved for SC, eight for ST and four for OEC/OBC.)

Students attest to the difference this activity made to them. They are not just those who were shy or introverted. MV Ramanan says theatre training at their private b-school in Gurgaon gave him the skills to face any audience of strangers.

“I joined the course to enhance my communication skills, not just verbal skills but also body language and reading others’ expressions. I learnt that it’s very easy to communicate even without opening your mouth.”

In their theatre class, each student was required to enact the navarasas, the nine emotions such as sorrow and laughter. Next, s/he would enact a skit involving any two emotions simultaneously. Next, students would stage a 10-minute skit in groups. Delivered with help from external resource persons including from the National School of Drama (NSD), the theatre module culminates in a 30- to 40-minute one-act play. In the 30-hour elective course spread over three months, participants are trained in how to write scripts, understand characterisation, use props and sound etc. They take on various roles such as a director’s, scriptwriter’s and so on.

Before starting the drama classes, students do a basic course on communication.
Earlier, “I used to get jittery (before crowds) … These kinds of experiences (theatre) really help. You can stand before a crowd and speak,” says Ramanan, now a senior official with a French multinational company in Gurgaon.

One of his former class fellows remembers how theatre enabled him by teaching how to regulate feelings and actions. After all, life is about role-play, as kin, employee, mentor, he says.

“Controlling your emotions, modulating your tone is very essential in the corporate world,” says Amit Mukherjee, now senior manager - service transition with a London-headquartered company in Gurgaon.

Mukherjee says he was not shy or introverted but “I was not always able to get my point across to others.” That can be taken care of through dramatics, acquiring the confidence to convey your message with conviction and not being bogged down by discouraging stares.

Theatre trainers speak of students learning to let go of their inhibitions. “Once you break your fear, you start opening up,” says Ashok Kapur, a professor of communication who is also in-charge of the course at the b-school.

Pankaj Saxena, coordinator, Children’s Theatre, NSD — which is providing faculty for the IIT-Delhi-CREST programme — says the transformation happens automatically depending on the environment. “When we conduct workshops with 1,000 children across the country, about 50 will be different.” Saxena says that the art does bring about a “dramatic change” in such children but it takes place naturally.

First Published: Jul 12, 2011 11:50 IST