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Dynamic Image, Cantastoria & Giant Puppets

Theatre and Picture Story in Bengal

April 3rd, a group of 15 gathered in the newly inaugurated Augusto Boal auditorium at the home of Jana Sanskriti at Badu,Kolkata to spend 6 days learning how to create Cantastoria— a form of picture story performance— and how to build giant puppets and bring them to life through dynamic image theatre.

The workshop was facilitated by Tamara Lynne, visiting artist from Portland, Oregon (USA), Founder and Creative Director of the Theatre organization, Living Stages. Workshop participants included primary school teachers from the villages of South 24 Parganas as well as long-time members of Jana Sanskriti. This workshop is part of the first season of activities at JSSIRI, the Jana Sanskriti International Research and Resource Institute, which was inaugurated in November 2015.

During the workshop, participants engaged in community-building games to strengthen connection, focus and energy, developed lists of issues faced in the village communities, practiced theatre to understand connections between these issues, and designed long paper scrolls of pictures exploring topics of education, health and unemployment and the impact of these on village children.


Once the scrolls were painted, the groups developed songs and stories for each scroll and began to rehearse the presentations.

Cantastoria run through

After this we began the Puppets! Using cardboard, newspaper and a flour and water paste, participants began to construct the giant puppet heads and design the face and features. Building up the face with paper mache, layering strips of newspaper dipped in paste over cardboard, they created eyebrows, nose, eyes and lips; each puppet had a unique shape and personality and represented familiar roles: The Politician, The Capitalist and The Common Man.

Cardboard and paper mache

After letting the paper mache dry overnight, the puppets were painted in vibrant colors, and puppet heads and hands attached to bamboo poles. Clothes were added using tape and needle and thread, and the puppets were finally up on their feet!

Puppet head drying after paint

Puppet head drying

Attaching hair

Adding hair

Painting the Capitalist

Capitalist painting

The final day, the team took one of the giant puppets out into the neighborhood to invite the community to the presentation, and children as well as adults of Badu joined Jana Sanskriti for an event performance of Puppets and Cantastoria. Owing to the on-going West Bengal elections, the group could not travel to the villages to perform.

Outreach with Puppets

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During the performance, Jana Sanskriti made an additional innovation in the Cantastoria, inviting neighborhood children onto the stage to identify the frames in the picture where something could be done and urging them to share their ideas of responses and possible solutions. Cantastoria-forum was born!


As the Shadows Rise

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JSIRRI launched its 2016 public workshop series last week with a Shadow Liberation workshop facilitated by Evan Hastings. The workshop engaged 13 students from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, along with six members from Jana Sanskriti to create an original Forum play on gender violence.

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In this workshop, the participants engaged with Jana Sanskriti’s dramatic methods and Shadow Liberation’s highly visual approach to theatre dialogue in order to devise a dynamic piece that was performed for the public.

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“Realisation of change sometime comes from within people and cannot be imposed upon them by others.” 

The workshop started with a series of games to demechanize the senses and dialogue about patriarchy and misogyny. For example, the variation of Colombian Hypnosis with one person in the middle with extended hands being followed by two people, whose hands are being followed by two more people. This was played with the central character speaking a monologue from the point of view of patriarchy while  leading the movements of the others with hand gestures. In addition to the leader/follower dynamic of Colombian Hypnosis, the debrief of this activity also got into the idea of ideological proximity. Some of us are closer to the core beliefs of patriarchy, while others distance ourselves, but make no mistake, we are all affected.  In our Forum Plays, we can use this idea of ideological proximity when considering bystander characters or other potential allies in our scenes. To what extent do we, and do our characters, carry the oppressive ideology that we are struggling against?

The participants also went into sudden, uncomfortable silent zones while exploring the oppressed-oppressor relationships through Image Theatre. This gave raise to personal reflection and sharing that gave material for the development of the play.

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“Issues considered a taboo in terms of thoughts, actions and/or conversations in the society have to be questioned and deconstructed.”

Leading up to the workshop, the participants traveled to Kochuberiya, a village tucked away in the Sunderbans, West Bengal, to watch Jana Sanskriti’s all-women team conduct a community Forum Theatre event.

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A group of ten women entered the village in bright yellow and red sarees, walked on to the Manch (the stage), and huddled up for an energetic performance. They brought to light issues ranging from girls’ education to dowry deaths, through a vibrant display of characters.

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The power of the play was palpable and the intimate setting was conducive to personal interactions between workshop participants and village residents.

The show was culturally rooted, integrating folk dance and mask forms, and the energy levels were high throughout the performance as they were singing, dancing and acting simultaneously.

“When the play ended and the forum began, the local men either maintained distance or left the forum space. This also goes to show that forum theatre in villages is intimate and requires courage because the participants are going to be facing the other villagers on an everyday basis.”

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After the village the students went to Lok Indie Studio, a theatre group in Kolkata, to collaboratively devise and produce a two-minute short-film overnight. 

The workshop in Badu continued with Theatre of the Oppressed based activities adapted to the Shadow stage with the aim of learning Shadow Theatre techniques while developing a more critical perspective. As everyone warmed up, the investigation of patriarchy, power structures and gender specific violence grew deeper.

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“Women internalize the idea of being the weaker sex in their minds and patriarchy is further entrenched with women becoming partners in reinforcing the concept.”

The participants experimented with the shadows, lights and equipment to create a sequence of short acts depicting forms of  gender violence. Shadows lend themselves to the representation of traumatic memories, dreams and the unspeakable.  In front of the screen on-stage performers enact problematized social encounters to complicate the abstract Shadow representations and invite audience intervention into concrete situations.

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The workshop cultivated a safe space for the participants to move through emotions, deal with differences within the group and function as a collective while holding ourselves accountable for the part we play in the system of patriarchy and rape culture.

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“I took away lessons of feeling the moment and being present,” expressed a student.

Sanjoy Ganguly, author and director of Jana Sanskriti,  graced the workshop with an exercise and dialogue about the journey from Being to Becoming. Sanjoy spoke about the importance of Love in this work and shared stories from his decades of experience practicing Theatre of the Oppressed in rural West Bengal, India.

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On February 25, the original Forum play developed in the workshop met a live audience for the first time in the Augusto Boal auditorium at Girish Bhavan in Badu, Kolkata. The audience was full of women and children from the surrounding area, who were riveted by the visually lush performance.

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During the Forum, spectators sprung to the stage offering interventions into scenes depicting sexual harassment on public transportation and work, as well as a scene depicting a woman facing lack of family support while attempting to leave her marriage because of marital rape.

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The Jana Sanskriti team reflected on the session and one of them stated, “There was a powerplay even among the spectators, wherein some women came on to the stage and interacted while the other belonging to lower strata did not. But, the ideas echoed in their minds too, which is important.”

The workshop culminated in a public performance at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kolkata. The lively auditorium roared with spectators ready to jump on the stage. The students and other public reacted to situations spontaneously, and when the 1.5 hour Forum concluded, the audience longed for more.

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In a scene depicting sexual harassment at work, when the boss flicked the earring of a female employee, one of the spectactors, who replaced a co-employee, slapped the boss and threw a pad at him to protest his actions. The audience clapped and responded saying they would react similarly to such situations.

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“It was interesting how we did not know until the last couple of days that we are putting up a full-fledged show. Whatever we created through our sessions pieced together beautifully in our final performance”

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The workshop was filled with moments of humor, serious reflections, uncomfortable silences, creative expressions through shadows, art and dance, as people from different cultural contexts worked together to create truly meaningful theatre.

Click here to know more about upcoming 2016 activities.


We are a non-profit organization, with a strong basis in emancipator theatre (Theatre of the Oppressed), pedagogy and activism.

JSIRRI ‘s intention is to explore how Theatre of the Oppressed and related theatre and art forms can foster a culture of dialogue, strengthen participation and stimulate liberation by engaging with a wide range of disciplines and fields of work.

As a globally active arts hub JSIRRI connects artists and activists, practitioners and researchers both south to south and south to north, virtually and physically.

International connectivity, inclusion of all sections of society and interdisciplinary of approaches are fundamental to us.

Program Summary


JSIRRI inaugural celebrations held between 28 Oct – 13 Nov 2015 comprised of three workshops and two inaugural events:

  1. Rainbow of Desire workshop led by Jean-François Martel,France.
  2. Introduction to Theatre of the Oppressed led by Birgit Fritz(Austria), Jale Karabekir(Turkey) and members of the Jana Sanskriti core team
  3. Introduction to Hula – by Ka `Imi Na`auao o Hawai`i Nei Institute, Hawaii
  4. Inauguration of JSIRRI: November 7, 2015, ICCR Auditorium, Kolkata
  5. Inauguration of the new Augusto Boal Auditorium: November 8, 2015, Girish Bhavan, Badu, Kolkata

and a short tour to the villages of Digambapur and Shrinarayanpur,South 24 Parganas.

Performances by Jana Sanskriti teams and the visiting Hawaaiian troupe Ka `Imi Na`auao o Hawai`i Nei Institute occurred on the latter two occasions, as a marker of the first trans-cultural exchange under the aegis of JSIRRI. At the Inauguration, short statements were made by Directors in 7 languages, and a recorded video message from Julian Boal was screened. Special guests for the evening were Mr. Stéphane AMALIR, Director, Alliance Française du Bengale and Mr. Gautam De, Regional Director,Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Kolkata. A visual documentation of the inauguration events and performances will follow soon.

Post these celebrations, on Nov. 12-13, 2015, seventeen people from four continents, 7 women and 10 men, gathered live at the first directors/volunteers meeting of the Jana Sanskriti International Research and Resource Institute (JSIRRI) in Badu, Kolkata, India. Another 10 joined during Skype interactions, adding important issues and offering their assistance. The main issue of the meeting was the potential added value of JSIRRI to the world of art/activism in general and Theatre of the Oppressed in particular.

Sanjoy Ganguly opened the meeting with a key address, pointing at the importance of shaping and reshaping of the work of theatre and other arts as ways of delivering internal and external activism. He also pointed to the need to work with complexity, instead of being satisfied with easy answers, and to avoid narrow or egocentric perspectives. He added that we should make use of the fact that knowledge builds on what has already been understood through experience by many. Knowledge does not consist of isolated facts and art has the power to do research by unveiling people’s experience and presenting it to a larger audience.

The meeting produced a whole range of ideas on art- and action-based research methods. It also emphasized the importance of dialogue with conventional researchers, artists from the entire range of the arts and activists who use the arts as a tool for liberation as well  as  research method. The eventual goal is to provide an alternative to research which only cements oppression and, by channeling experiences of the oppressed using art as a research tool, provide powerful images of a world without oppression. JSIRRI activities can take place anywhere in the world,if they are relevant to the cause. The directors have phrased a vision/mission statement which defines this relevance.

Both the directors/volunteers who were present and other affiliates each provided their personal contribution to the JSIRRI program by announcing workshops, offering voluntary work on several committees and other concrete actions.  JSIRRI’s scopes of operations broadly are – Academic and performance  Research, Workshops, Seminars, Artist residencies, Internships, Publications (books, newsletters & journals).

Please stay tuned for the JSIRRI Event Calendar 2016 for more details.

People present volunteered to be a part of committees/working groups (any further offers will be gratefully accepted). These committees are – Research, Fundraising, Events and activities, Communications- Translation-Media, Publications and Archiving. We welcome everyone to contribute their expertise in these areas. The outline of these committees will show the potential JSIRRI is going to develop in the next 2 years, especially regarding research projects, fundraising and the sharing of resources. The next global meeting, during which we hope to host directors/volunteers from all continents and many research and activist partners, will take place in Badu in 2017.

For any communication with JSIRRI, please write to

Stay connected with the JSIRRI via Facebook and Twitter (@JSIRRI_info).



With JSIRRI we are hosting a space in which artists and non-artists can shape and reshape their world and work. An arena where learning is a process of exchange and sharing, where knowledge is achieved through action and where change is documented and made accessible  to  communities around the world.

JSIRRI’s vision to use the arts to recognize and bring together different ways of knowing and of knowledge identifies bodies, participants and their contexts as landscapes of investigation.

As that research grows it will chart, explore, activate and archive the human potential for self-creation, co-creation and transformation.

JSIRRI’s open space extends an invitation to all those who want to propose projects, research into practice and/or offer resources in line with these goals, creating interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange to frame new challenges and nurture embodied and productive knowledge.

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Idees a la pràctica

Blog Banner Final 07 10 2015

Hi ha molts tipus d’idees, com també moltes maneres de ser. En aquest sentit, les activitats culturals i artístiques per la seva riquesa característica ofereixen un ventall molt ampli de possibilitats per fer-les/los més visibles, audibles i presents. Aquest és un acte d’estètica política i JSRIRRI vol mantenir un enfocament ètic en aquesta pràctica.

D’aquesta manera, JSIRRI vol acollir diferents tallers a càrrec de professionals especialitzats en arts visuals, escèniques i sonores vinculades a la transformació social. Alguns tallers es plantejaran com una introducció o un anàlisi de diferents formes de treballar; els quals poden conduir a la seva aplicació en altres contextos o al desenvolupament d’habilitats. Molts d’ells es centraran principalment en el Teatre de l’Oprimit (TO); d’altres oferiran presentacions per a altres aplicacions i dimensions de pràctiques artístiques i culturals d’arreu del món. El preu dels tallers i de les activitats associades resultarà raonable per poder cobrir despeses; Es farà un càcul a escala aproximat segons l’origen gogràfic dels participants.

JSRRI també vol donar la benvinguda i col·laborar en l’establiment de vincles i xarxes entre professionales de diferents llocs de vàries maneres. L’actuació d’un grup de dança hawaià en la innauguració del mes de novembre marcarà el llançament d’aquest tipus d’esdeveniments. Aquest col·lectiu descriu el seu art com una visió estètica en vers als casos de violència intercultural, de destrucció i de devastació tant a nivell històric com els que ens trobem a l’actualitat. Aquest grup participarà i compartirà la seva filosofia i experiències amb tots els presents. Utilitzaran rituals indígenes i dances per tal d’articular una política cultural. Tindreu més detalls sobre el programa innaugural ala pròxima publicació.

Els actes innaugurals es finançaran a través de donacions i d’activitats de capatació de fons a càrrec dels nostres convidats de Hawai. A llarg termini és possible que es destinin alguns fons per tal de facilitar intercanvis artístics –actualment estem explorant vies en aquest sentit, per tant s’accepten idees i contribucions. A curt termini, es preveu que tant particulars, com grups, com institucions busquin les seves pròpies vies de finançament per establir projectes enllaçats amb JSIRRI.

Estigues al dia i no et perdis la pròxima publicació que comptarà amb tots els detalls de les emocionants celebracions innaugurals que es duran a terme entre el 28 d’octubre i el 13 de novembre a Jana Sansriti (Calcuta, Índia).

Trobeu-nos a Facebook, Twitter,

Translated by Sandra Vargas Gañan.

Blog Banner Final 07 10 2015

Ideias na Prática

Blog Banner Final 07 10 2015

Existem muitos tipos de ideias e modos de ser. A atividade cultural e artística é particularmente rica em criar espaços onde estas ideias e modos de ser se possam tornar mais visíveis, audíveis e presentes. Este é um ato de estética política. JSIRRI quer manter um foco ético sobre esta prática.

Portanto JSIRRI pretende organizar workshops com profissionais que trabalham na representação teatral, artes visuais e sonoras ligadas à transformação social. Alguns workshops serão introduções e avaliações de diferentes metodologias; para que estas possam ser aplicadas noutros contextos ou para servir enquanto especialização profissional. Muitos destes workshops serão focalizados em Teatro do Oprimido (TO), outros vão oferecer introduções para outras dimensões e aplicações da prática artística e cultural de todo o mundo. Os custos de workshops e atividades relacionadas serão limitados, apenas com o objetivo de cobrir as despesas e existirá um escalonamento baseado na origem geográfica dos participantes.

JSRRI também pretende ajudar no estabelecimento de interações e colaborações entre os praticantes dos mais variados lugares, usando metodologias variadas. Um grupo de dança do Havaí atuará na inauguração, em novembro, marcando simbolicamente a abertura do nosso evento. Eles descrevem a sua arte como uma visão estética relacionada com experiências históricas e atuais de violência intercultural, destruição e aniquilação. Este grupo irá interagir com os restantes participantes de forma a compartir filosofias e experiências. Eles usam formas rituais de dança indígenas articuladas com uma política cultural. Mais detalhes sobre o programa de inauguração será desvendado no nosso próximo comunicado.

Os eventos de inauguração do nosso centro serão financiados através de doações e atividades de angariação de fundos dos convidados havaianos. A longo prazo, pode ser possível configurar alguns fundos para facilitar o intercâmbio artístico – situação que está a ser explorada e, claro, agradecemos quaisquer ideias e contribuições nesse sentido. No entanto, enquanto não conseguimos por o nosso plano em prática, recomendamos que indivíduos, grupos ou instituições procurem o seu próprio financiamento para estabelecer projetos relacionados com JSIRRI.

Fique atento ao nosso próximo comunicado, que vai desvendar detalhes sobre as emocionantes JSIRRI celebrações inaugurais de 28 de outubro de 2015 a 13 de Novembro de 2015, Jana Sanskriti, Calcutá, na Índia.

Encontra-nos no Facebook, Twitter and

Translated by Andreia Bessa