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For the blind, by the blindfolded

IT was an experience of a lifetime for the young Dhananjay. The six-year-old, for the first time in his life, heard a live play.

“He was initially a bit frightened. But he told me he liked the play very much,” says his mother Munirajamma, who accompanied her son with low vision. Dhananjay was not alone; along with him were 40 other visually challenged children who had come to hear the first interactive play.

It was also a novel experience for people with normal vision to hear the play, blindfolded. As if to ensure a ‘level playing field,’ the four actors from Yours Truly Theatre, who performed the bilingual play under the group’s Black Rainbow project, and the guitarist accompanying them were also blindfolded while enacting the play.

The theatre group, in collaboration with Sankara Eye Hospital and City-based Yours Truly Theatre, held the interactive and impromptu story composition, as part of their initiative to create awareness about eye care and regular eye checkups on the occasion of World Sight Day to be observed next week.

The group claims that it is the first interactive play for the visually challenged people in the country.

Divided into four parts, the play began with one of the actors asking the audience what comes to mind when they hear the word ‘friend.’ The group created a rhythmic medley from the feedback they received.

The same format was followed in the next session where the audience were asked which word they associated with Bangalore. In the third segment, a person from the audience narrated an incident from his life, which was enacted very well by the actors. The audience were asked about their feedback in the final part. The children, many of whom were being taught life skills from National Association for the Blind and Enable India, listened to the play with rapt attention and enjoyed themselves.

“The format of the interactive play is a reflective tool, where we mirror the feelings of the audience. We replace the protagonist with someone from the audience,” said Nandini Rao, one of the art directors of the group. She added that humour was an important component to gain the confidence of the audience and in the play too, an actor enacting a moody but highly entertaining dog won the hearts of the children.

The play even touched the doctors from Sankara Eye Hospital who had come to witness the show. Dr Kaushik Murali, director of  ‘Nanna Kannu’ project, said that the play was an eye opener for even doctors, who looked at the children as patients.

“But the play gives a peek into the human side of it. We are planning to organise the play at the hospital to sensitise our staff,” he said.

Meanwhile, Munirajamma felt that more such plays should be perfor­med for the children. The theatre group will host the same play at their premises on CMH Road on Saturday evening.

(Published in Deccan Herald on 11th October, 2011) *This does not have my byline, since other newspapers too covered it.

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