Dramebaaz, is an initiative to bring theatre into the lives of underprivileged children in order to hone their skills and values of confidence, collaboration, self-esteem and problem-solving..
The challenge is that today’s education system focuses only on academics. An orientation to teaching life skills is missing in the curriculum. This leads to lower academic achievements and lower employability. The solution is to provide a platform to hone kids’ creativity and confidence while building other essential life skills through drama. Now, Dramebaaz is working with 1,500 kids from Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad.
Dramebaaz aims to build essential skills and values among underprivileged children through theatre. The initiative is the brainchild of Prasanth Nori and Soumya Kavi, fellows with Teach for India. Dramebaaz helps kids to express themselves through the stories they carry in a creative manner. It gives them the platform to hone and showcase their talents. The kids underwent training from August to December 2015 and were taught different aspects of the theatre. In the process of practicing for the play, the focus is also on key values the kids need to learn from Dramebaaz. Values like confidence, self-esteem, problem-solving and collaboration.
Mr. Rathna Shekhar Reddy, a National Award winning actor conducted a small workshop before the showcase that impacted over 150 students’ across 15 schools in Hyderabad in December 2015. Besides, a lot of theatre professionals acted as mentors who visited the schools and looked after their rehearsals twice a month.
In December 2015, Dramebaaz had conducted its first theatre festival in Hyderabad, in which about 150 underprivileged students from 15 schools, participated in the festival. The majority of the dramas highlighted the issues such as religious intolerance, accident victims, gender discrimination and society’s hypocrisy.
Dramebaaz has also helped to change the perspectives of parents that studies are not everything and there are more scopes and possibilities beyond classroom learning. Both the founders, Prasanth and Soumya firmly believe in the idea that education has to move beyond the traditional system of blackboards and benches. They have a keen interest in theatre and feel that theatre is one of the most powerful mediums of expression for children. It will help mold children who are conscientious, compassionate and well-rounded individuals.
Hyderabad, 13th April 2016: Four teams from the December 2015 showcase and two other teams performed their plays at Lamakaan, the cultural hub of Hyderabad where legends have performed. It was a house full with each play receiving a standing ovation. The plays dealt with various issues that the children faced in their lives – religious intolerance, gender discrimination, self-doubt, garbage etc.
Karthik Rapaka, City Director – Hyderabad for Teach for India says,”Having seen the evolution of the idea of Dramebaaz play out in Hyderabad, number of diverse people it engaged and acclaims it received as one of the top 10 innovate ideas coming out of Teach For India’s 2015 InnovatED process, I am only proud and eager to see the idea spread across cities and be viable to many more children. I am confident that Dramebaaz will continue to push our latest thinking and be a shining example of how to bring theatre for children across schools.”
Revathi Ramanan, Senior Program Manager for Teach for India had this to say about the event, “It would be an understatement to say that the children blew me away. Dramebaaz really pushed my vision of excellence for what is possible with children and what children can do if only given exposure to the right opportunities created by a bunch of committed people.
The confidence, the articulation, the nuances, the emotions, the delivery – every single thing on stage yesterday blew me away. There wasn’t a single play where I felt the children could have done a better job. And I go to quite a number of plays where I feel like the adults could have done a better job! Thank you for all the inspiration.”
Muskan’s Dramebaaz Journey
Muskan Fatima, a 10-year-old girl from M.A. Ideal School, was silent, shy and reserved. While her academics were never a concern, she remained invisible in the classroom. This invisibility is always a coveted spot for everyone; teachers are happy because the child isn’t causing any trouble, parents are happy since complaints never go home and the other children are happy because they have someone to boss around who won’t ever react. This invisibility is also crippling in the long term, because Muskan, like so many other children out there, would go out into the world without a voice. Without either the confidence or the self-esteem needed to speak up.
Before she entered the program, she was apprehensive of expressing herself. When she spent the subsequent 4-6 months in the Dramebaaz rehearsals with her Drama teacher, Abhishek Dey, we quickly saw how liberating and empowering a medium, theater truly is. She quickly started participating in discussions in class, answering questions with excitement and speaking confidently to the entire class. When she walked up onto the stage on December 13 in front of an audience of hundreds of people, we saw a silent 10-year-old girl from one of the poorest slums in Hyderabad, inspire the audience with her stories of the world she saw around her. When the audience erupted into applause at the end of her performance, we saw a confident and motivated child take a bow on stage. We saw the true power of a child with a voice.
Muskan inspires us every day to give a voice to the millions of children out there who enter the world without a voice, ill-equipped to handle the world around them.
About the founders
Prasanth Nori currently works at Meghshala. He taught at M.A. Ideal School for 2 years as part of his Teach for India Fellowship. Soumya Kavi, a 2014-16 Teach for India Fellow taught 4th grade at Government school, Kulsumpura.