Theatre Wallay engaged children aged 10-18 year old through its project ‘Theatre for Tolerance and Peace.’ The project was implemented with support from Critical Connections USA, Karuna Center for Peace, and Peace and Education Foundation. It was a pilot project – 6 months long – to make experimental use of theater techniques to engage children (and by extension their parents) in building a peaceful and more tolerant society. It consisted of a series of workshops for children, and a concluding performance aimed at generating dialogue among children on intolerance and encouraging them to address these issues in their surroundings.
Between January and March 2016, Theatre Wallay team conducted workshops which engaged around 120 children from varied socio-economic, educational, and religious backgrounds. Our team used theatre techniques and exercises to encourage children to express their concerns, hopes and fears; improv and role-playing exercises were used to come up with strategies to address conflict and impart values of peace, empathy and compassion among children.
For the final phase of the project, Theatre Wallay team put together a performance which was presented to an audience, mainly of children, on May 19, 2016. The play, an adaptation of Dr Seuss’ The Butter Battle, was meant to further emphasize the importance of breaking down barriers, and questioning social divides that lead to stereotypes and conflict. The 25-minute performance was followed by an interactive discussion with children in the audience. The audience also included several teachers and parents who lauded the effort, and emphasized the need for creative methods in tackling issues of social concern, particularly among children.
The enthusiastic participation of young participants in this project indicates the effectiveness of using creative methods in encouraging thought and action among children. It was very encouraging to see that children understood the symbolism of erecting walls, and could relate this symbolism of the play with their real lives. The discussion was very lively, and the comments and arguments by children surprised many adults. They discussed the walls of social status, ethnicity, sectarian or religious identities, and the enmity between India and Pakistan. Theatre Wallay will continue to facilitate such spaces for dialogue, and impart positive values for social change in our community.
Dewar Ke Uss Paar in Media