Thursday, January 18, 2007


The other day, I read about All India Democratic Youth Organisation and Aavishkar’s street play festival (held in the 1st week of January) and it brought memories of the solitary street play I’ve ever been a part of, a few yrs ago. The play was conducted by the Department of Community Dentistry and we as cast & crew were required to go to a few slums and enact the play. To be effective, street plays should be the regional language because the message is intended to be as far reaching & easily understood as possible. Since there weren’t enough volunteers who spoke Kannada, I was selected too with a small role. I did not understand or speak Kannada at that time, & had to remember my lines by rote. The experience was both scary and exciting. We went to the heart of nearby slums & in traditional style attracted the attention of onlookers by creating some noise. The play was to educate them of the virtues of cleanliness, oral hygiene & the importance of visiting a dental check up camp, whenever possible or accessible. The play was a moderate success & we were asked to be on standby in case a repeat performance were to be required anytime soon.

The purpose of a street play is to highlight social problems like crime against women, unemployment, poverty, discrimination, awareness about critical issues, or as in this case, ill-effects of poor health. That is why, most of the street play artists are often activists, teachers or students committed at bringing about a change in society. Street theatre as a medium of communication has been deeply rooted in Indian tradition. The major advantage of street theatre is that it transcends all formal barriers and approaches the people directly. Street plays can happen in the most unexpected of places – the vegetable market, bus terminals or perhaps a street adjoining your workplace.

I remember a friend, Riya and her group who were actively involved in spreading messages regarding a plethora of socially relevant topics through the medium of street plays. It is another fact altogether that the friends of such street-players have to constantly put up with their impromptu rehearsals in front of you, and for your honest opinions
J Street play is a situation in which the audience has not come prepared to watch a play. They do not know what to expect, and most often have no time to watch a play. Within these severe constraints lies the challenge for the street plays to be concise & entertaining, yet catch the eye of the public and get the message across. In order to draw crowds from all walks of life, the plays are usually loud and humorous, with catchy songs often thrown in for mass appeal. Our play had no songs, but the humor element was added by painted faces, and of course, with a Chinese boy speaking in Kannada.

Since street plays are almost impromptu in terms of location, stage props cannot be used, thus making it an extremely simple form of expression where the volume and expressiveness of the actor really matters, though the acting prowess does not. These plays have a good potential to get socialy relevant messages across. This concise & no frills method of play-acting serves a good purpose,is efficient and cost-effective. And unlike its more contemporary, well-sketched lengthier & costlier productions, they are usually not subject to criticism.


  1. street plays bring back meories 2 me... :)
    nice one....

  2. Just when I was searchng the net for some first hand info on street plays. . enlightening! :)