Saturday, 16 July 2016

15th July 2016 - Invisible Cities?

Participants : Shobit, Shruti, Anant, Pritha, Manishikha, Aditi, Shena
Observers : Manishikha and Evleen

Essence Machines and Imagination Games + One Slo Mo walk towards a Pink Bucket

Since this was a Do being done in association with Lost & Found* and their theme for the season is ‘Invisible Cities’ we decided to work with ‘Essence Machines’ (a theatre exercise introduced by Geoff Readman to Shena) dealing with various aspects of city life. An ‘Essence Machine’ is a group freeze based on a catch phrase such as ‘Delhi Traffic’, ‘Men in Delhi’, ‘Foods of Delhi’, ‘City of Dreams’, etc. The freeze can come to life as well, with each character then speaking and moving.

We did some practice Essence Machines on the charming rooftop floor of Jugaad Hostel – the space that Lost & Found will be activating as a performance venue in the coming months, and then headed down into a neighbourhood playground park, as we thought it may be valuable to begin the TDWK with kindred souls – i.e. children.

Quickly, there was a large circle around us – which grew to include not just children but adults as well. We began with ‘School’ and moved on to various other Essence Machines. It turned into a wonderful game in which the audience tried to guess what we were depicting. Phrases such as ‘City of Dreams’ and ‘City built on Water’ elicited responses like “trees that grow toffees on them” and “but you’ll drown”! One lady put up her hands and waved them about to indicate the fresh air in the Dream City of her mind’s eye, and we all followed suit.

Armed with the experience of this positive encounter we decided to brave the Friday (pop up) Market and made our way towards the crowded bazaar. We tried to do a ‘Foods of Delhi’ near a chaat stall, but soon realized that there was too much traffic to attempt the exercise without causing a jam. A quick shift of plan, and we began a long ‘slo mo’ walk towards a stall with a bright pink bucket hanging up at a height as our goal. We had to move single-file as there was a lot of traffic. (We had assumed that this pop up market would be similar to the one in Vasant Kunj where they cordon off the area to keep it only for pedestrians. Learning – never skip the recee!)

This activity was looked upon with great curiosity – particularly as the long line of us moving in slow motion amongst the hustle and bustle of the market was difficult to miss. When we reached our destination, a man actually took the bucket off the hook and handed it to one of us, and it was passed back along the line until it reached Shobit in a victorious moment that was quite beautiful – attention given to a bright pink object as it seemed to float above people’s heads – it was as though the bucket acquired a life of its own. Some people thought we were crazy, then rationalized what they were seeing by saying “naatak kar rahe hain.” One woman asked us why “acche ghar ke log” were doing this. It was difficult to engage in conversation however, due to the nature of the space. It was observed that many people did slow down, watch the surreal travel of the bucket, and then snap out of it and go on their way once the performance was over. Wonder what they’ll carry with them…

We then moved from this road towards a part of the market that had a little less vehicle traffic. Our first stop was at a space in front of a mobile repair shop. After doing a “mobile phones” Essence Machine, we moved to “Delhi Traffic” and then “City of Dreams”. This last one seemed to touch a cord amongst the crowd that gathered, and there was a lovely moment of sharing imaginary mithai with onlookers. From enthusiastic kids to shy-but-eventually-won-over adults, the act of sharing (literally) our imagination resulted in a smattering of applause.

Other stoppages included an imaginary kite-flying exercise played next to (well of course) a kite stall (the lady gave us an empty spool to use as well!), a ‘crossing the road with great difficulty’ performance and of course the current hot favourite – playing with an imaginary ball. As always, this brought people together. One young man was inspired to sing a song for us and the gathered crowd, as a parting gift.

We ended the evening by going back to the playground park and playing a game of imagination cricket. It is amazing how everyone falls into the game, no one magically produces extra ‘balls’ or ‘bats’ and how quickly it begins to feel ‘real’.

In the post-discussion we all agreed that the ratio of people who thought we were nuts or who passed derogatory remarks to the number of people who were happy to join in or who were watching with a sense of happiness and community, was very few of the former and many more of the latter! As Anant pointed out, having children around at all times perhaps added to the almost ‘family community’ feeling of the encounters.

The playground space is a good space for further TDWKs and we could consider doing Dos there regularly – an option that would deepen our engagement both with the community and with the work (or play?).

*check out the amazing work Lost & Found is doing @ facebook - milodekhokhelo

Feb 2016 - Catch!

Vasant Kunj Mall

Participants:  Manishikha, Parul, Abhilash, Mallika, Mohit    
Observers : Mallika and Manishikha

A quieter mall with a lot of people just hanging around. Less crowded as well. We started playing and soon people got curious. As curiousity grew, the anxiety of the guards grew as well and as usually does happen in malls, we were asked to stop and taken to speak to the security head. They had a problem with the ball... what ball? we asked! After convincing them of the 'harmlessness' of what we were doing, we carried on. It was a high energy game... the ball went afar many a times... we ran around a lot to catch it... after a burst of 45 minutes, we stopped and had ice cream at Gianis. The same questions surface again and again... why do you do this? What for? For whom? People play but I [Mallika] wonder if they hold on to anything afterwards... I wondered if we needed to get those small chits of paper with the blog address etc like we had spoken of once...
I felt like we can keep doing this. In new places. Between new people. But perhaps we need to revisit or perhaps we need to define or redefine what we want out of this... in as gentle a way as possible.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

17th Feb - The tea and cake were real...

'Ball' again to the power n
B10 Market, Vasant Kunj

Participants: Abhilash, Ishaan, Pritha, Rea, Shena
Observer : Mallika

Another Do another ‘ball’ another seemingly endless game…
It’s a fine balance indeed – between having fun and sharing fun. The twain are brethren of course – and never was this more apparent than at the Do at B-10 Vasant Kunj market. The DOers were having so much fun, that the game could have lasted forever just between the lot of them. The added bonus of onlookers, busy shoppers and shopkeepers joining in – well, that just ensured that the game DID in fact, go on and on and on – with no one seeming to want it to end. Rea got tired (after she spied B&R ice-cream, one might add), Shena got tired (just because she did) and YET the game continued… Young Ishaan was a star – not just with amazing ‘catches’ but for his immediate grasp of how best to share the game with others.
There was the cricket duo who produced a bat for us, the few who stuck around for ages playing, the old gentleman who let go of his cane in order to catch and throw the ‘ball’, the affable sabjiwala who is keeping the ‘ball’ for us till next time and generous Rachna and her son Manan who not only played with us, but also hosted us for tea and cake (she bakes!) afterwards.

The crew from Lost & Found handed out information about upcoming events at the C2 Vasant Kunj Community Centre. Read more about their great work at FB:

8th February - Class-ical Ball

'Ball' again again again & Slow Motion Walk/Race
Monday Market, C2 Vasant Kunj

Participants: Mallika, Monka, Abhilash, Govind, Jaya, Simran, Jahnvi, Virkein, Nalin, Nalin's mother, Juee, 

( wow thats a lot!)

We met in front of the mini cooper showroom. All new TDWK-ers! It was a great day for TDWK. I quickly explained the two tasks we were going to indulge in - the invisible catch and the slow walk and we proceeded. We started playing invisible catch in the middle of the Monday market. People looked curiously at us. They were bemused, amused, hesitant and eventually, they joined in. The kids are always the first ones to start believing with you, to start playing. The adults remain reluctant for longer. Some oblige because they have been caught in an embarrassing moment by us, some just walk away and then there are the precious few who want to know more about you.

The 'Do-ers' played the game for a very long time. Slowly, the young boys around joined in, started buying into the belief, started seeing the ball and at one point, there was in fact, a complete suspension of disbelief  wherein they played themselves, without our 'help' seeing, catching, missing and finding the ball again and again. The slow walks took many forms... and we had a line of children who did everything we did. Quietly. Intently. They just wanted to do. 

There is always a tension of classes when one goes to markets. I remember feeling this a year or so ago when we had gone to Sarojini Nagar with a TDWK. Young men ( and even older ones) so keen and curious to join, especially if there are women around, but can't make up their mind if they would like to be cheeky or if they would like to be friendly. There is always a huge class tension between 'us' actors and 'them' audience members. One sabzi wala purposely poked his thela into Simran, another purposely ran into her... there is misplaced 'playfulness' during the game. It is always the sellers who get more involved than the buyers but the class barrier between the sellers and the Do-ers is a difficult one to cross over. The children of course just want to have a good time. So they join, follow, obey, play. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

29th January - FREE COFFEE!

Mirror & The Imaginary Ball Again Again
SDA MARKET (opposite IIT)

Participants - Shruti, Shivam, Rea, Archana, Shena
Observer - Niranjani

The mirror exercise was fun for us to do, but did not create too much of an impact as the space was already quite still and slow moving.

The imaginary ball, of course, was the usual ice-breaker fun that it always is. One gentleman stopped in the middle of the game and pontificated : “The most important thing in life is to put a smile on peoples’ faces, and you all are doing that, please carry on.”

Folks from the coffee shop #nofilter played with us through their window on the first floor.. and then they came down and invited us up for free coffee! Which we enjoyed muchly! Ah the benefits of having a good time…

Friday, 22 January 2016

22nd Jan - BELIEF !

The Imaginary Ball Again

Participants - Shruti, Saif, Gaurav, Neel, Rajesh, Shena, Suparna
Observer - Pali

All the kids on the roof moving backwards in unison to catch the ‘ball’ – Shy people dying to join in, and eventually joining in – Amiable chai walla throwing back the ‘ball’ – Little boy who dashed back into his house rather than have to catch the ‘ball’ – Neel holding up the ‘ball’ for kids to grab, and how perfectly they imagined it – Suparna joining in out of nowhere – Rajesh landing up thinking he’s coming for a meeting – Performance mode of participants; magic ball, eating the ball, spitting out the ball, cleaning the ball… – “catch tho karo theek se”, “mujhe ball de do”, “kahan gai?” … “vahan hai, gaadi ke peeche” – Peer pressure to be cool, but clear desire to join in – The entire space activated by belief. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

14th OCTOBER - CP!

Freeze Frames 

Participants - Rea, Shruti, Pranav, Vik, Mallika, Shena
Observer - Niranjani

Decided to work with: Celebration, Suspicion, Division, Devastation, Resurrection... and back to Celebration. The idea was to explore stages of 'otherness', as that's a topic that has been on a lot of our minds lately, and then hopefully to engage in conversation with audience members. 'Resurrection' was added as a way to get back to Celebration in order to make the action cyclic. However, Rain Gods decided otherwise... and just as we were getting into it, the effort was rained out - and Doggie Doers and audience alike were seen rushing towards the dryer sanctum of the CP corridors! 
Most of us felt that we were just about finding the exercise when we had to stop, and that it would be worth exploring the idea again, although perhaps with a re-look at the 'resurrection' frame as it was difficult for some of us to move from devastation to celebration with only one stage in between. Other notes: more use of body, less of facial expression would be a good idea.

Play Ball!

Participants - Rea, Shruti, Pranav, Vik, Mallika, Shena
Observer - Niranjani

Since it was raining, and folks were drenched and disgruntled, we decided to lighten things up with one of our favourites - the imaginary ball game! As always, super great fun. Lots of people who got into the action, and some lovely moments : the guy inside the Nike store who waved through the glass that he wanted to join in (and Pranav promptly opening the door and throwing him the 'ball'!), the few sporty types who did tricks with the 'ball', heading it, bouncing it off their bodies, spinning it, and fancy footwork with it, and of course the shy ones who were dying to join in, and were happy to do so after a few attempts... 

The good-natured bonding fun served as a momentary antidote to 'otherness', at least for a while.

The ending was a collective moment - the 'ball' grew bigger and floated upwards, then popped and ended up as a little piece of balloon - to universal laughter and a few scattered bits of applause.