An artist shares his experience of a theater production, Tara, Compass Crow, which hopes to create environmental awareness among young audiences

Can theater talk to the younger generation about important issues like species extinction and climate change?

Can theater talk to the younger generation about important issues like species extinction and climate change?

As a child growing up in the Potala Palace (Lhasa, Tibet), the Dalai Lama would often run up to the roof and train his binoculars as a herd of yak was taken to the market. Seeing them, he would run to a shrine, confiscating some of the offerings, instructing a palace worker to buy the whole herd and set them free.

This powerful spirit of direct action inspires us to rehearse a new dance-drama for young people to the beat of the live tabla before the scorching sun at Lodhi Gardens. Imbibing the natural beauty of Delhi, we feel the grass beneath our feet and wake up to a chorus of birds.

No one is too young to find their creative wings and fly. , Photo Credit: Dixit Sharma and Athan Jimikey

as screenwriter and mask producer for the production of star, compass crow – A story set in the times of the Indus Valley with a present day environmental message , I found a balcony in Manali, which had to be sewn on, spent more than a month ( non-violence) Silk feathers on the largest head-dress for the dancers to wear. While I was working, crows, hail of the Himalayas, tortoise pigeons were swooping all around me. It was time to consider the big questions: Can theater talk to the younger generation about important issues like species extinction and climate change? Is an interactive performance the best platform in which to inspire real change for good? As producers, we decided that our programs should be printed on khadi paper, our fabrics for apparel, hand-woven fabrics, our sets biodegradable: but will the young audience pick up on this attention to detail of the environment? And if so, will it help them recognize the urgent need for change?

immerse the audience

Vanshika Ahlawat, a Class X student, feels optimistic that eco-theater audiences carry a strong message: “If we are the way we are now, our earth will be destroyed by the time we grow up. But awareness is spreading. I feel mixed emotions: scared, but also lucky to be in India where there is still so much greenery and wildlife,” she says.

Heatwaves, violent storms and epic floods now occur every day somewhere on the planet.

Heatwaves, violent storms and epic floods now occur every day somewhere on the planet. , Photo Credit: Dixit Sharma and Athan Jimikey

Benjamin Jacob, choreographer, director and principal dancer star, expresses the need to completely immerse the audience as soon as they enter the auditorium. “Even though it is an indoor space, I want them to feel that the theater is a place where they can connect with nature. During the 60-minute performance, I want them to feel gratitude, as if nature is talking to them. This is the right time to hear this message, especially when 200 species of plants, insects, birds and mammals go extinct every 24 hours,” he says.

protest dance

As 150 school children danced with human birds in the corridors of a small theater in Delhi, 22 wildfires broke out across Britain, a foggy, dreary island in the North Sea. Heatwaves, violent storms and epic floods now occur every day somewhere on the planet. Bill McGuire in his book hothouse earth, Warns that ‘a child born in 2020 will face a world far more hostile than their grandparents.’ Our kids already know about it and are voicing it.

Yashita Dhaliya, a Class VIII student, admits that she is “honestly very scared about our future.” However, she feels “a piece of hope”.

Sundays are spent making bird masks and dancing with groups of young artists.

Sundays are spent making bird masks and dancing with groups of young artists. , Photo Credit: Dixit Sharma and Athan Jimikey

star The subcontinent of India is among friends on the stage, where many initiatives explore environmental awareness through performance storytelling. TierraThe five-day playhouse, held at the beginning of the year in Kerala’s Begur forest, focused on climate change, nature conservation and human-animal relationships. Flash mob-style protest dances by young farmers are taking place in Goa’s Molem forest, where pipelines, high-speed rail tracks and multi-lane highways threaten to tear down the ancient home of several endangered species.

Back in Delhi, our Sundays are spent with groups of young artists making bird masks and preparing dances, a process we hope will better connect us all to our natural surroundings, even. That too in the heart of the capital. Watching our students engage and their enjoyment of imitating the movement of wild things leads us to believe that the transformative, healing power of nature can inspire positive change.

bare feet

No one is too young to find their creative wings and fly. I am transported back to my third year at Cambridge when eco-theater was in its infancy and only a few brave directors had enough intelligence to predict the planetary madness ahead. After a year in Guatemala director Rosanna Lowe produced an acclaimed piece after watching garbage collectors talk to children who lived on the city’s garbage dumps. In his play, the characters communicated only through the cries and songs of the birds. twenty years later, bbc force “Power Out,” an eco-thriller podcast written by award-winning author and activist Sarah Woods, begins with the premise, “The world is dying.” It’s time to take action. McGuire believes that some kind of miracle will happen to keep us all from crashing through the 1.5°C climate change railing. “It’s a call to arms,” ​​he says. “So if you feel the need to stick yourself to a motorway or block an oil refinery, do it.”

Our response to this call to arms is to create a theater inspired by nature, inspired by the energy of the earth beneath our bare feet, our connection to the spirit that makes us stand on a stage, or in a forest, or on the road. To inspire, and make our hearts sing, dance and leap into the unknown.

star, compass crow Will travel to Bengaluru in October, Haryana in November and New Delhi again in December.

The author is a teacher and performance artist, currently residing at Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi. @taracompasscrow