Dad, I want to study theatre!

Today is the last day of my college. I am with my dad in the car and he asks me- “What’s the plan beta? Aage kya karna hain?” to which I reply- “Dad, I want to study theatre!”

Coming from a typical South-Delhi Punjabi family, I had cousins who had studied business, law, medicine or to a stretch- fashion! An education in theatre was an impractical choice.

The acting-ka-keeda like for most of us, bit me in my childhood. The mad passion became an obsession in The Players, the dramatics society of Kirori Mal College, Delhi University. On paper, I was studying a Bachelors in Political Science but for me, it was ‘Players Honors’. Most of my time was spent in creating plays and life revolved around rehearsals. I then realized that I wanted to take theatre seriously and study the craft. Cut to- I get selected in the Drama School Mumbai and graduated with a Diploma in Acting and Theatre Making.

Like my Dad, many have doubts about a formal training in theatre. And the reasons are plenty- the industry isn’t lucrative, the competition is tough and it doesn’t promise you a ‘secure’ job. However in my journey, I discovered few things that one could think about, if stuck in a To-Do, or Not-To-Do situation:

1. Discipline

A drama school aims at training the mind and the body! An early morning class of Kalari or Yoga followed by lessons in speech and voice build stamina and generate body awareness which are important for an actor. A school has rules- short timely breaks, assignment submissions on a deadline and penalties for missing class, absence or misconduct!

In the start, all of it may feel harsh but in the long-run it builds rigor, consistency and confidence that helps you stand apart.

2. Learn from the Best

In a drama school, you get to learn from educators and facilitators who have had a diverse history of theatre making. Veterans like Mahesh Dattani, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Sunil Shanbag and many others get to know you personally and give you feedback which is pure Gold!

3. Exposure

While studying various modules, you expand your knowledge about Indian and world theatre. You are reading works of different playwrights and watching all kinds of performances. Special lessons in fine arts, sculpture, philosophy and film encourage you to open your imagination and gather new perspectives.

4. To be a theatre-maker, not just an actor

Drama school is much more than just the acting! A formal training provides an in-depth knowledge of Light Design, Sound Design, Production Control, Scripting, Stage Management and more. It provides a more wholesome approach towards theatre-making and allows students to create successful careers as writers, stage managers, technical heads and producers.

5. Foster Relationships

During my year long course I made friends for life and learning with them was all about teamwork, patience and generosity. After graduating from school, you often end up working with your friends, exchanging roles as actors, directors, producers and technicians. Having a rapport with them makes the process easier and more fun.

6. Network

Drama school enables interactions with the theatre community which further helps in getting work and creating new work post the training. New theatre-makers, casting directors, film/web producers and directors often keep an eye on the alumni and the running batch.

7. Actor’s Toolkit

You cannot think about your dead dog every time you are in an emotional scene!

A formal training equips you with a toolkit. Whether it’s Chekhov, Stanislavski, Lecoq, Meisner or Natyashatra, you get a basic understanding of different techniques and can then decide what works best for you. Your emotions may fail you and you may not be able to cry and laugh on demand. But the toolkit that drama school provides is almost foolproof and reliable.

8. Create your work

A drama school helps you find your voice as an artist. When we create work, we put everything we have learnt into practice. Work created in school often turns into projects that create more opportunities for the students after graduation. By the time you graduate school, you do so with your first production!

While this has been my experience at Drama School Mumbai. I am sure the list is endless and one could add many more points. The next time your dad asks you ‘Beta, aage kya karna hai?’ let these pointers come to your rescue and help you fight for your dreams!

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