This essay discusses the making of a participatory theatre programme in India, and considers its signiﬁcance in expanding the concept of drama as a participatory form of learning, both for teachers and for students – especially in a country where, within the school system, such a concept is barely known. The subject of the programme is the extraordinary life and work of a woman social reformer of nineteenth-century India, a subject that resonates with themes that are still relevant today. Pandita Ramabai was devised with thirteen actor-teachers of the
Theatre in Education Company of the National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi. It was completed in September 2010 after two and a half months of research, a ten-day preparatory workshop, and then the production of the play itself. Although originally intended for students of class IX (14-year-olds), once the show began to tour schools we realised that, with a little adjustment by the actors, older students could also be involved. Thus the show now goes out to students of classes X and XI (15-and 16-year-olds) as well. It has had seventy performances to date, involving more than 5,000 participants. Although we initially thought we should play to gatherings of no more than forty-ﬁve students, given the size of a class in schools in the Delhi area, we were obliged to push this to around seventy. We were, of course, conscious that the quality of participation can suﬀer when, at a given session, the participants are so many. Pandita Ramabai has also toured teacher education colleges, with
the aim of introducing the role of drama in primary school classroom
teaching. In fact, a positive (and unplanned) spin-oﬀ of the programme has been the interest it has generated in teacher workshops. On account of the impact it has wherever it goes, it is deemed to be one of the NSD TIE Company’s most important productions.