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. Even so, I found the learning
at Adishakti so relevant and so vast, that I intend to do the workshop again
after a year. 11 days is not enough to fully internalise all that was
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.