This is the mode that Sanjay Kumar has projected as a means of amelioration of social margins, creating and enabling the margins to create theatre from their own stories. Theatre that speaks to the mainstream in its language an purports to make the mainstream more conducive to understanding the questions raised by the margins that challenge the dominant modes of developmental thought as they emanate from the dominant sectors. Exploring this form along with members of pandies’ theatre, he has used the workshops mode successfully with margins of class, religion, gender, caste and region.
Workshop theatre works in addressing diverse traumas and issues from the margins. At the very basic level it works from catharsis to a more prolonged mode of therapy but it is enabling in larger modes as those in the margins address the mainstream with a view to bring about social and legislative change.
Pandies combines many ingredients of western methodologies with Eastern modes to come with a unique comprehensive workshop method. There is Stanislavsky, Brecht and of course Augusto Boal, and there is also use of the sutradhar (Bibek) tradition and Dastan goi modes of narration apart from the obvious influence of folk traditions of playing and singing (tamasha and Jatra to name just two). As compared to western methods (specially Boal), the pandies mode is a highly flexible mode and concentrates a lot on narration methods and building the trust of the participants as they aren’t usually given that trust and their stories are seldom articulated, much less heard. For an in-depth study of the form and its methodology refer to Sanjay Kumar’s book: Exploring Play, The pandies’ Way: Performing, teaching and writing theatre in Delhi, contemporary India under publication from Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK.
The tryst with this mode starts in late 90s: awareness theatre in schools, gender sensitisation in slum zone around Yamuna Pushta, sporadic work in shelters for the poor and destitute specially women and children.
It started with presenting small performances with pandies’ members and initiating a discussion along the topics above. The transition from audience to the Boalian spectactor to a writer/director/actor/activist was slow but organic. One was seeking the ripple effect. Creating short performances with the participants, and in the early workshops, pandies’ members too participating, the mode moved towards enabling the participant sectors create their own theatre and first present it in their own communities.
Four strong successful experiments in this form have been in the shelters of the women’s organisation Shaktishalini, with the survivors (neighbours and siblings of those who died/disappeared) of the Nithari pogrom 2007, with young boys rescued from platforms of India’s railway stations and in the tough terrain of Kashmir. For more on these workshops: