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.
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.
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
Painting the Capitalist
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
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!