There is freedom in being playful and fun and not caring about what people think. This overall freedom adds to the positivity and fun and makes one feel light.
– Shaun Williams, Acting Coach and Toybank workshop curator
On the hot and humid day of 28th May, amidst the sweltering heat of Mumbai, a palpable sense of excitement filled the air as Team Toybank headed to celebrate World Play Day. The teachers from Toybank’s partner, SHARE, eagerly awaited the children at the community centre located inside the one of the serpentine bylanes of the Golibaar neighbourhood in Santacruz East, Mumbai. Soon, a teeming crowd of children surrounded Shaun Williams, the actor and drama coach, who was leading our curated World Play Day drama workshop.
After brief introductions, Shaun engaged them with questions ranging from pop culture to their favourite songs and games. And so began a round of fun vocal exercises through imitation of animal sounds and enactments of everyday activities like eating a sandwich or an ice cream. The short ice-breaker helped the children overcome their initial hesitation and dive into the ongoing playful engagements. As minutes passed, they could not wait to show their best ghost or lion impressions to Shaun.
The children made a circle as they sat on the floor. They intently focussed their attention as Shaun challenged them to get agile with a quick standing up and sitting down game. He first made a mixed group of all the children and divided the kids into two groups. Each group took turns and walked around the room as Shaun instructed them to double up their pace or lessen it by half the speed. While walking, they enacted eating a chocolate or a sandwich through their gestures. Sometimes they imagined that the floor was flowing with lava. Children were seen jumping around in glee and spontaneously acting out scenarios that evoked a range of emotions, like admiring a flower or reacting to a cockroach near their feet.
They were further divided into smaller groups of six and asked to use their bodies to showcase a flower, a car, a plane, or spell three letter words together. The kids surprised us all with their imaginative depictions. They worked as a team, strategically placing themselves, some pretending as if they were driving cars and bikes.
Even with the sun blazing, the children enthusiastically played in a large, open quadrangle. Shaun taught them many versions of Lock and Key, one remarkably had the catcher tap and ‘lock’’ as many players as they could, while the untapped ‘free’ players would try to ‘unlock’ their fellow mates by crawling through their feet. Another version had kids acting out a zombie apocalypse, where if touched, they would turn into zombies and start turning others one too. The kids loved enacting the dramatic metamorphosis into zombies.
These games invigorated the children, the sweltering heat did not matter, nor did the hot ground – there were only giggles, laughter and some zombie squeals that echoed. After this exhausting exercise, the children went back into the room, still laughing, and were instructed to hydrate and rest for five minutes. But even within those five minutes, they began playing games amongst themselves and the Toybank Team. Shaun then instructed them to lie down and guided them through calming exercises and meditation to soothe them while engaging their imagination.
After the kids seemed rested, they were again asked to sit in a circle and use a dupatta as anything but the dupatta. As an example, Shaun folded the dupatta and used it as a phone. Almost immediately the kids came up with ideas, using the piece of cloth as a steering wheel, a bike handle, headgear, as a skipping rope. Even more fascinatingly, they used it to make jackets which the children laughingly said that they learnt from ‘Five Minutes Craft’ on YouTube. Post this, a group of boys decided to present a play where they showed interactions with the police and a young boy caught speeding.
At the end of the session, this is what our workshop curator Shaun had to say: “I had a good time with the kids because I get to be a kid and be silly with them. There is freedom in being playful and fun and not caring (about what people think). This overall freedom adds to the positivity and the fun and makes one feel light. Play makes life a little more bearable and you become happy. You can be nice to other people that would make them happy and this chain reaction would cause everyone in the world, in theory, to be happy.”
It was great to see how the kids enjoyed the session and promised to not only come for more sessions but also get all their friends to join in too. This session highlighted the importance of physical play sessions. During this workshop, there were no electronics used showing the children that they can have fun and creatively express themselves through physical play sessions. The workshop made them think out of the box. In fact, the kids were sad as the session came to an end.
In today’s time when children’s favourite games are played mostly on phones, it is important to show how playing with each other without glaring at screens can be even more fun. This drama workshop helped them to develop their social and creative skills through play.
By Shanaya Dastoor