The strategic planning exercise BLT undertook in 2005 led to a restructuring of Bangalore Little Theatre Foundation and the creation of the Academy of Theatre Arts. The planning exercise revealed that the tasks ahead in Bangalore (indeed, all of India) were more in the nature of getting a theatre movement going, practically from scratch. The biggest challenge was doing that in a socio-economic context in which there was little “social investment” in the theatre.
The Academy of Theatre Arts (ATA) was initiated in 2006 as a second programme division, to be oriented to all theatre development activity.
The Foundation’s mission
We begin with a vision of societal development in which the galloping pursuit of economic development is not at the expense of cultural development—a sad state in many “developing” countries, including India.
- The task before us is clearly that of revitalizing the theatre arts in India. However, this cannot be accomplished by mere “product development”, i.e. putting trained actors and technicians into a marketplace in which there is no work for them. An equally important (if not more important) part of the mission is the task of “market development”, i.e. influencing the societal context to absorb the products.
- The pertinent question is: Whose job is “market development”? The real task is that of creating a societal base of appreciation of theatre arts. A dedicated effort would be needed within the Foundation to address this task, to be organised and managed as a separate programme division, to be called the Academy of Theatre Arts. The thrust of the Academy would need to be on Theatre Education – i.e. Influencing curricular activity in schools and colleges. The focus would be on capacity building within the educational institutions.
- One important aim should be to reach the less privileged schooling system.
On the one hand we need to be careful not to be lost in re-inventing wheels, and be ready to learn from good experience world-wide in Theatre Education. On the other hand, we need to guard against theatre studies (and practice of theatre arts) becoming an imitation of a borrowed curriculum, without strong cultural moorings of its own.
ATA’s programme thrusts
The Academy has adopted three main ‘arenas’ of activity in the mission for the first 6 to 8 years, which may also be seen as the three principal constituencies to be reached:
- Work in public appreciation: towards deeper appreciation of theatre arts and, indeed, all performing arts.
- Work in schools and with children: influencing the school system, enabling teachers in the school setting to teach and do drama
- Work in colleges and with youth: influencing the university system, reviving dramaturgical activity in the college/university setting