ITLP in India 2012

In January 2012, Marianna Houston and David Schultz journeyed to Varanasi, India to conduct a month-long theatre residency at the Nirman School. Working with a group of 25 students as well as Nirman teachers, the program culminated in the performance of an original play, “Journey of a Dream,” written and performed by the 25 twelve- to fourteen-year-old impoverished youth in the workshop.

The Nirman school’s focus in “learning through the arts” has a tradition of exploring alternative teaching techniques and incorporating the arts into its curriculum. The ITLP workshop was the first time, the children got to write their own lines and create their own play from the stories they wanted to tell.

As Marianna explained, “our goal is to foster their creativity and imaginations, to provide opportunities for the students to value their personal stories and to provide multiple opportunities for independent thinking.”

Jaya from the eighth grade put it in plain words, “we wrote all the dialogues and we did everything by ourself… By writing we open our mind and think.” Fellow student Azeem agreed, “My favorite part was writing the poems and scenes… we can write or perform anything that we want to do.” Their classmate Shweta added, “I have learned that we all have a talent inside we just have to let it come out.”

The result was a beautiful original drama, Journey of a Dream, which the students performed at the end of the workshop at the Batawar and Nagwa Nirman parent open houses for the school community, parents, friends and city officials.

Read more about the play and performance here.

Barghav Rani, who led a workshop with ITLP, described the experience as follows: “Although most students had some previous training or experience of theatre, this was the first time they were engaged in the creation and development of a piece of theatre that they could call their own. ITLP provided them with the necessary tools for the accomplishment of the same, and it was fascinating to see the kind of interactions and exchanges that the students developed with these tools.”

See photos of the workshop and play in the photo gallery (LINK).

Teacher training

Marianna and David also conducted a week-long teacher training workshop with twenty Nirman teachers. The goal of the teacher professional development workshop was to stimulate greater creativity in the classroom and more innovative approaches to the class presentations that occur twice a year.

The Nirman teachers received ITLP certificates of completion for the teacher workshop which celebrated their class presentations, experiential exploration of Bloom’s taxonomy for the elements of knowledge and their learning and its relevancy to their teaching and Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences and brainstorming sessions on how to customize challenging lessons for students with unconventional learning styles.

Barghav, one of the participating teachers, said, “this workshop played a crucial role in discouraging linear, rote-based pedagogy in favor of more discursive, student-centered and knowledge-based teaching.”

Nita Kumar, the head of Nirman school, thanked ITLP for the opportunity for both students and teachers to have several days of classes and workshops and added: “Within our broader scheme of things for improving school education in India, integrating the arts into curriculum, and integrating marginalized children into mainstream learning, your contribution was unique and highly appreciated.”

Read more about ITLP’s teacher training programs .

ITLP will return to India in fall 2012.

To learn more about other ITLP programs choose from the dropdown menu above.


The play: Journey of a Dream

The Nirman students wrote an original story, involving one girl and one boy, Bhargavi and Prithveerag, who both come from Benares on the River Ganges and want to be dancers. Their journey starts when they both find a flyer about a big dance audition for a Bollywood sequence and leave home to pursue their dreams.

Along the way they each encounter challenges, obstacles and victories, and ultimately they learn important lessons about life, family, India and themselves. The obstacles involve situations and individuals who challenge them on what role a boy and a girl “should” play in Indian society today –what is expected of them by their families and by traditional Indian culture. They also each encounter a “mentor,” who gives them inspiration and a special talisman.

Everything was decided and created by original writing, improvisation and consensus from brainstorming, and all students were involved in the presentation:

Starting with traditional tabla music, two narrators set the scene for the audience in the school’s outdoor courtyard. Our hero and heroine introduced themselves with original poems. The play unfolded according to the students’ choices. The final scene expanded into an interlude with the whole group of children dancing a choreographed dance.