Experiments from the first half

Over the past few days in Meza, we have been exploring different ways to engage with people through art. The first day, the mentors of food, theatre and music introduced their approaches towards art and community. The same day the participants chose one of the three approaches to learn and play with for the two weeks. I am part of the theatre group with nine participants.

Recognizing that the word “community” can bring to mind many different ideas and associations, Meza begins with our community of participants, and then slowly expands to the communtiy at MUWCI, the villages and  towns around, Pune city and finally Ahmedabad. 

So, we began by exploring the community within the theatre group by preparing monologues/performances with the prompt “What would I do with my performance skills in an ideal world… ” Through this activity we got to know the people in our group better.

The next day, we moved to the community on campus- Meza participants and the people who work on campus. Each of the groups played with different groups of people- food group with chefs and kitchen staff, music group with construction workers and theatre group with drivers and guards. The idea in the theatre group was to experiment, to find inspiration in the people that surround us. So, we split into groups and talked to and played some games with various people on campus. In the evening, we discussed the dynamics of the interaction, which are complex on account of class and an institutional divide between students and people who work on campus. For instance, the campus land used to be owned by people who now work here and are in uniform while the students aren’t.

The next day, we explored the approaches used by three theatre groups- Yuyachkani inPeru, SAFE (Sponsored Arts For Education) inKenyaand Janasanskriti in Kolkata. Keeping in mind their approaches, we then expanded community to include a small town near campus, Kolavan. We walked around the town, talking to people, observing potential spaces to perform. The following day, we went back to Kolavan and the music and theatre groups formed a procession in the town. The intention was to simply have fun, since we did not have enough time to create an issue based performance that would be relevant to the area. During the procession, the local government head and a principal asked us if we were doing social work and what message we wanted to deliver. On finding out that we didn’t have a message and just wanted to sing and dance they were taken aback as the expectation now is that if outsiders come to perform, they would have an agenda. So, in not having a social agenda or message, we inadvertently made a political statement.

Yesterday, all the groups visited Pune city. The theatre group teamed up with the food group to perform issue based invisible theatre on themes discussed in the food group. We split up into groups of 3-4 people and performed invisible theatre on themes like the freshness of “fresh” juices served in restaurants that are actually canned juice, or   how food travels around the world to reach the markets we buy it from, or how the chicken in most commercial food chains in Pune is poultry chicken with hormones.

Today we leave for Ahmedabad,Gujaratto explore these themes further, to see how many people are doing interesting work in and around these themes.

While this is an update from my perspective of the theatre group, there is a Meza blog where every night a couple of participants blog. Mezauwcindia.wordpress.com is a great way to get a holistic sense of our experiments and projects.

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