I have just returned from an intense, challenging, energising 11-day workshop at Adishakti. Called SOPE (Source of Performance Energy), the workshop explores the universal language of theatre communication, as defined in the 2500 year old Sanskrit text, “Natyasasthra”. Attributed to Sage Bharata, the text defines with precision almost every aspect of theatre performance, stage design, and stagecraft.
Participants in the workshop included theatre, film, and tv actors, directors, producers, businessmen, dancers, an architect, a doctor. They came from various parts of India, and from abroad, from countries like Portugal, USA, and China. Irrespective of their background, we found that the essentials of performance that engages audiences and makes them resonate with the performers, are exactly the same across cultures and across ages.
The gruelling regimen started with Kalari (martial arts) practice at 7 in the morning. This was intended to tone the body and cultivate balance and awareness of the body and its movement. Kalari was followed by eye training and awareness of the body’s energy centres (Chakras). Breakfast was followed by emoting classes in the Navarasas, and voice training. It was amazing to see how a deliberate shift in the position of the tongue within the mouth, and a shift in the breathing pattern, a slight shift in posture, could produce primal emotions that affect all those around, without the actor himself being unaffected the emotion.
A short break for lunch and then came drumming classes to instil rhythm into the system. Drumming on the traditional mizhavu made fingers swell and palms discoloured. All the same, there were several ‘aha’ moments when the beats synchronised and the body swayed unknowingly and instinctively to ancient rhythms.
After drumming we went into voice training in the swimming pool to increase lung capacity and diaphragm control, with many of the exercises done underwater. A short break and we got into the last session of the day, on performance and improvisation, with special focus on performance rhythm.This went on till past 9.30 in the night and often till almost 9.45.
I have been involved in theatre for nearly half a century, having done my first full-fledged play in 1968. For the last 15 years I have been doing theatre workshops for various corporates across India and outside to facilitate experiential learning in Leadership and Team Dynamics. More than 41,000 people have experienced theatre through these workshops.
For now it has significantly increased my confidence as an actor and I am looking forward to our group’s next production starting September end.
I would recommend this course highly for all those who wish to be powerful communicators and leaders who are sensitive to the body language and the energy of the people that they influence.