Thursday, February 21, 2013

Theater workshop 2012

Off-Kendrik held a two-day theater workshop on Saturday, 15 September and Sunday, 16 September, 2012 at the Riley Commons of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts. The regular members were joined by a few interested non-members, and the workshop was conducted by Dipankar Mukherjee, Artistic Director of Pangea World Theater of Minneapolis. There were sixteen participants of various ages and both genders, with a ten-year-old girl as the youngest of the team. A recent script titled “Ba Ra Ha La Ja”, built on the legendary “Ha Ja Ba Ra La” by Sukumar Ray and written by Sankha Bhowmick, was the primary impetus behind the workshop.

Following self-introductions, a team warm-up was led, under the direction of Mukherjee, by the two youngest participants. The team then became engaged in a variety of tasks. The following are a few of the assignments.

Different kinds of gait involving the different areas of the torso, the point of which was to notice the very different expressions they generate: head walking (thoughtfulness), chest walking (pomposity), and waist walking (shyness or instability). Then each participant employed all three styles, switching at random. Finally, each person emulated the walking style of someone else in the team.

Next, the participants were lined in two rows, and then steadily marched to the end of the workshop arena and back, without looking at the rest of the line to adjust space or pace. The turn-around for the return trip was particularly tricky, as no one knew for sure which way (right or left) the others were going to rotate to face the opposite direction. The purpose of this exercise was to develop group coordination through perceptive vision.

For the next task, the whole team arranged itself in an equilateral triangle, with someone at the apex acting as the leader. The team would then blindly follow the leader’s gestures (for example, the leader could wave both hands in the air, or pat her/his head while walking, which the others would have to mimic) as the entire triangle advanced to the other end of the arena, all the while maintaining the triangular formation. Once there, the triangle swiftly inverted itself, with someone previously at the base assuming the leadership position at the apex. The team then advanced toward the opposite end, following the physical cues from the new leader.

For another assignment, each participant walked casually, until the ring of a bell prompted the individual to react to an imagined scene of a vehicle about to run over a child who has just run into the street, chasing a ball. The goal was to generate instantaneous expressions of horror and despair.

“Sculpture building” took three forms. First, the participants were divided into groups of four, each of which made a static group formation based on a concept that created a theatrical moment. Next, the four members of each built another structure by touching one another, yet remaining on different levels from the ground.  Finally, each group moved through the arena, while its members maintained bodily contact with one another. 

Character acting took several forms as well. First, each participant, having chosen a picture of a fashion model from a sales catalog, imagined and enacted the movements and mannerisms of the person in the picture in social spaces. Since the pictures were distributed randomly, some of the male participants ended up with images of women, and vice versa. The objective here was to invent characters via pictorial clues. Next, all the characters inhabited a shopping mall, where one of them suddenly passed out and dropped to the ground. All the other characters in the crowd then had to address that incident according to the invented character traits. Finally, the characters interacted with one another as guests at a Bengali wedding reception. 

In a different mode of character acting, each participant read a poem written by the youngest member of the group, and acted out a short sequence based on the content of the poem.

The workshop was a novel and immensely beneficial experience for the entire team, but especially for those who had never attended a theater workshop.