As students from Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School (LMSS) staged a drama about the life of Jetsun Milarepa, a deeply revered Tibetan saint on Thursday at Motithang Higher Secondary School, the audience broke into applause.
Initiated by the Ministry of Education to promote holistic approach to education especially drama culture, a 50-day drama festival to be performed by selected schools across the country kick-started on August 16.
Nidup Dorji, a class X student from LMSS who played both the father of Milarepa and Marpa, the teacher, in the drama said: “Although I knew Jetsun Milarepa’s story I understand and empathize more now. I have learnt the story in depth.”
Nidup Dorji was interested in drama since he was in class VI. He took part in many dramas in school. However, compared to previous dramas he participated in, he found this drama festival more fun and very well-managed.
“I call it modern drama because we are using projection as background stage with high quality sound system. Forget about stage management, previously we did not even have proper stage costumes,” said Nidup Dorji.
Loday Jamtsho, a class IX student played Milarepa’s uncle. “We could express ourselves in different ways and I was surprised that I could manage that. I have started taking part in drama and am enjoying it to the hilt,” said Loday who wants to take up acting as a career. “I believe I will make a fine actor.”
According to Charmi Chheda, the education ministry’s Performing Arts Director, all the schools were given a fair chance to participate in this initiative and the students have an opportunity to express and prove themselves in an area other than academics.
“Some of the students are visiting Thimphu for the first time and they are extremely excited to perform in front of a new audience,” she said.
She added there is no culture barrier for theater.
“The students and kids do not have much exposure but they follow instructions and instinct well.”
With the drama festival to be an annual education feature, most schools have started drama clubs and will integrate it into the teaching curriculum as well.
The drama movement started with the reintroduction of Shakespeare last year in school syllabus.
Since then, the education ministry’s theater ensemble has managed to stage many productions.
For the drama festival, dzongkhag-level competitions took place and the top two selections from each dzongkhag are getting to stage at Thimphu.
Every evening, starting 6pm at Motithang Higher Secondary School, one play will be hosted for the general public and students who can watch the plays for free.
Participating schools have acting groups with 30-35 participants each including teacher escorts. The ministry is providing participants food and accommodation. The festival will host nearly 1,500 students on a rotation basis.
Pema Seldon from Thimphu