It’s the last day of the Children’s Theatre School in Shiroka Luka in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria, after three weeks of workshops in masks, drama, photography, music, mime, dance, martial arts and yoga, and the children are getting ready for this afternoon’s final performance. This year’s theme is India.
The costumes are the best ever, a colourful, though sometimes fragile confection of silks, linens and acetates gathered from India, Oman and London’s Brick Lane. There will be a story, of course, told in Bulgarian, concerning the doings of a large handful of Indian Gods, Princes, Princesses and Devils (the latter role easy to cast from the 90 children who’ve come from schools and children’s homes around the country). Cultural accuracy isn’t our highest goal, but we do our best, and this year we have two dancers from Aurangebad in India to guide us.
If you’re not here already, it’s probably too late, but in any case the village is full of colleagues, children, teachers, social workers, politicians, artists, musicians, journalists, spectators, and tourists. Talking to some of them last night, I was reassured, as I am every year, that what Elena Panayotova and her artists do through three weeks of hard and difficult work, and through their final presentation, makes a difference to the lives of the children who participate. Many of them come from the more disadvantaged sectors of Bulgarian society (a large number of them are Roma), and through the Theatre School they acquire confidence, openness and reassurance that they matter. If some go back to their classrooms believing that if they work hard they can achieve something for themselves and their families then it is all worthwhile.
But above all it is enormous fun, and for me, immensely rewarding simply to see how much the children enjoy themselves.
Wow, what a fantastic (in every sense of the word) combination of cultures. Theater is such an excellent tool to elicit thoughts and emotions that might otherwise remain unexplored and unexpressed. There are similar programs to that of The Theatre School here in Washington, DC, and for similarly disadvantaged populations. Bravo both to the organizers and to the children themselves.
Thanks for your comment. Is there a website for the Washington Theatre School. I’d love to learn more about it.
I don’t know that there is anything precisely titled under that name. I was thinking more generally about theater programs in the city. However, here is a link to a program I just heard about recently: http://www.galatheatre.org/galita.php?cmd=loadEvent&id=121
India is an endless source of themes and stands close to Roma nature. Very good choice, fantastic costumes, all children must love the event …