Juvenile Dramatics

There are people who are gushy about juvenile dramatics. They feel that nothing could be better for kids than to spend their evenings in the company of a couple of hundred other kids, rehearsing a play. So much better than watching TV, they say, and it helps so much in developing the childrens’ personalities. It makes them confident and well-rounded, they say.

These people are absolutely wrong. Juvenile dramatics do nothing of the sort. The effect they do have on children is to turn them into obnoxious little twerps. The effect they have on adults is far, far worse.

Of course, rehearsing plays is better than watching TV. But then, pretty much everything is better than watching TV. Reading books, to take but one example. And, at the risk of belabouring an obvious point, I would like to point out that you can read a book on a DTC bus, in your bed, or, of course, on the pot, which happens to be my preferred spot. You don’t have to do it in the company of two hundred other juvenile histrionicians, all of whom are hungry and bad tempered, and most of whom are mentally negligible to boot.

Juvenile dramatics does make the participants confident, yes. I have to agree there. The misfortune, however, is that after two or three productions of assorted plays, the confidence crosses all healthy limts, and egomania sets in. Look at Shah Rukh Khan. Look at Raghav Bhalla and Tariq Vasudeva, those two pots of histrionic poison from The Shri Ram School. From my own school, look at Avani Jain. Or Ilina and Ira Dubey. I don’t know them personally, but seniors and juniors alike assure me that they were even more bitchy than I’m being right now.

To be fair and honest, of course, I cannot claim to be free of the stain myself. I have been involved with the juvenile theatre twice. The first time was seven years ago- Class IX. A class function was scheduled. I auditioned for a part in The Taming of the Shrew, and got it. Of course, in those days, I was young and innocent, and did not know of the peril posed to me and those around me by getting myself involved in highjinks of this sort.

For two long months, we would rehearse The Taming of the Shrew after school hours. Rehearsals would begin at half past two, so that left us, the cast, about forty minutes of free time. During this period, we would injure our bodies by champing on McBurgers, and injure our souls by indulging in idle gossip. All I recall about the gossip now was that some of it was about frogs.

Our director- a bad-tempered and foul-mouthed ex-student called Radhika Gupta was prone to wild mood swings and irrationality. She fired the leading lady twice, shuffled the rest of the cast among a bewildering variety of roles, and, as a matter of course, rent the air with ear-piercing creams that made the local fauna pack its bags up and head for ITO crossing. Her one saving grace, as Baldy pointed out, was that her bottom would jiggle up and down while she walked. But of what use are bottoms when the soul is black. Skin deep, or rather adipose-layer deep only.

After two months, Radhika Gupta exhibited a mood swing to end all mood swings, and returned home to Philadelphia, leaving us quite in the lurch. Thus showing that juvenile dramatics poison the soul of directors no less than members of the cast.

The second instance of my involvement was two years after this, in Class XI. I was older and wiser, and should have known better than to get involved. On the other hand, the alternative to assitant-directing the Class IX play was either to go on the class trip to Jim Corbett National Park or watch the Chennai Test between India and Pakistan (yes, the one where Chennai gave Pakistan a standing ovation). Sunlight dappled through forest greenery gives me motion sickness, and cricket just makes me sick. Besides, at the time, I looked upon this as a golden opportunity to rise in the esteem of Arunima Sinha, who was the other assistant director, in addition to being costumier and makeup person.

My assistant-directorial responsibilities consisted mostly of shouting at the cast when they turned up late for rehearsals or fought with each other, and also of composing the plot and the script. This latter task was done by Avani asking me ‘What should happen next’ and me coming up with stuff off the top of my head. This did allow us to come up with a fifteen minute play very fast- which is a good thing, as there were only three days earmarked for rehearsals. On the other hand, this speedramatisation did lead to the plot being ineffably rotten.

Despite the rottenness of the plot, the blood feuds between the leading gentlemen and the leading ladies, and one of the leading gentleman refusing to show up for rehearsals on the grounds that he had to be playing the piano for the duet-singers at the same time, and could not be humanely expected to be in two places, and the cast speaking their lines fast and finishing in ten minutes instead of fifteen; the play was staggeringly well received by the audience- students, teachers and parents alike. I was extremely surprised.

Anyway. The reason I got started on juvenile dramatics in the first place is because of the current dramatics teacher at MSVV- a pompous old ass called Yuvraj. This bearded son-of-a-gun was the cause of much grief to me a week ago, when he insisted on having the curtain cutting the size of the stage in half, all to prevent his wonderful backdrop from being revealed to the public.

I ask you! A wonderful screen, on which text and images would have been six times as large, making it all that more convenient for the teams, and more interesting for the audience, denied to the organisers simply because of this senile old coot’s runaway ego. In addition to which, the teams were forced to sit scrunched up, practically closer to each other than ticketless travellers on the Bhatinda express, all because the old geezer refuses to compromise.

This, you see, is the result of over fifty years of involvement with the theatre and juvenile dramtics. You take yourself far too seriously. You develop a God-complex. You mumble in your beard. You become a rigid old menace to society. The small children who have been entrusted to you to learn dramatics fear and loathe you. Their attention wanders and they become delinquent. A world that could have been better and sweeter becomes toxic. All because children are spending time that could have been much better utilised getting in some healthy exercise, or reading improving books, pandering to the fancies of a long-dead playwright (or worse, one who is still alive).

That pretty much sums up what I had to say. Now that I have worked the vitriol out of my system, I shall go back to spreading sweetness and light. Have a nice day.

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