Playing stage games

A pre-lockdown Drama Jam at a park in Nizamuddin West, New Delhi

Everyone who is there is the right person. It is like an unconference, but for drama games. It’s a space for you to fail,” says Sanyukta Saha, founding members of Delhi-based Aagaaz Theatre Trust talking about their two-and-a-half-year-old initiative Drama Jam. Every second Sunday, a park in the Nizamuddin West area in New Delhi comes alive with 35 to 40 adults (and some children) with chatter and games. Anyone can be a facilitator and you can bring any game that you would like people to play. While this monthly three-hour-long ritual first began in partnership with Theatre Professionals Mumbai in 2017, it has continued to run independently since.

Aagaaz Theatre Trust, founded as an applied theatre organisation in 2015 with inclusivity as a guiding principle, is known for its work in Nizamuddin basti, for introducing children in the neighbourhood to the wonders of stage acting. Over the years, they have produced acclaimed works including Duniya Sabki, Bhagi Huyi Ladkiyan and more recently, Rihla, that have made it to theatre festivals around the country.

A scene from the play Rihla

It then seemed natural for them to conceive and run an activity that invites one and all to join in. Things, however, changed with the lockdown. “We were feeling very isolated and were grappling with the online medium. A lot of the people we work with regularly don’t have access to a smartphone and cannot participate in a virtual activity,” says Saha. As an experiment they began hosting webinars online and slowly the Drama Jams got the virtual treatment too. The transition however, took some time. “Initially, we had to invite facilitators [four in a session] to conduct games; this is something we are trying to avoid in the future. The web medium also requires more scaffolding than usual and we have a host [from Aagaaz Theatre] for purely technological purposes,” explains Saha, adding , “It was intended to be a safe space where you can voice your challenges as a practitioner, try out activities you want to use in your practice and workshops. And now, people from other cities and smaller towns have been joining in too”.

The online Drama Jams are two hours in duration (to avoid video call fatigue) and six such sessions have been held so far, one each of nearly every Sunday since March 29. Once you express interest, you are sent a Google form that requires you to fill out details and whether you would like to facilitate a game or simply play. You will also need to give some detail about the game for any logistical support that you may need. “Some of the interesting games that have been played at the session include one called Tota Pinjra Toofan, where two people form a pinjra [cage], one plays the tota and one remains outside of these three-member groups. If the person says ‘tota’, the parrots have to reorganise themselves and if the person says ‘pinjra’, the cages do. If s/he says toofan, everybody reassembles and tries not to be the one left out. It is a game I have played many times since,” Saha says. “On our online sessions too, we played a game where sentences need to alternate with the words ‘fortunately’ and ‘unfortunately’ to build a story. It turned out to be a lot of fun,” she adds.

Sanyukta Saha facilitates a game
Sanyukta Saha facilitates a game

On Every Sunday, 11.30 am
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