CCDC has been working with senior citizens since 2011. We have offered over 25 workshops in collaboration with organisations working with the elderly. Many of the workshops culminated in public forum performances that saw first time actors assaying challenging roles with great ease!
The workshops provide a space where senior citizens feel free to express themselves, and learn to use creative theatre tools to tell their stories. The process is empowering at a personal level, and also helps build community.
The workshops are usually short, about 3 hours each, offered over a few weeks or months, depending on the group's convenience.
Our Forum Theatre performances focus on issues related to challenges faced by senior citizens, such as loneliness, abuse, and mental health issues. The plays are created from real stories offered by groups of senior citizens during workshops and discussions. The scripts are written collaboratively, and the plays are usually performed for other senior citizen groups. Occasionally, we have also performed for other communities.
We have collaborated with Nightingale’s Medical Trust, the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India, Senior Citizens' Club of Rotary Bangalore Cantonment, and Dignity Foundation.
We receive enthusiastic response from all our senior citizen groups. They find the workshops unique - unlike other theatre workshops, these are not about acting. They are so excited to discover that without any theatre experience they could create their own plays, and act in them too! They get to tell their own stories, in their own words, and - the biggest wonder of all- when the Forum performance happens, they find that everyone in the audience relates to their stories!
For us at CCDC, working with senior citizen groups from different socio-economic and linguistic backgrounds has been very enlightening. The same play is received differently in different settings.
Men and women responded differently to "Retirement Blues"- in fact, by the time we finished rehearsals for this play with just two characters- the husband and the wife- we realised that we had a play with two protagonists, both struggling equally! And our audiences explored the play from both points of view. Sometimes funny, sometimes unexpectedly sombre, this play touches audiences at many levels.
Gender seemed to play a crucial role when we watched audience response to the problem of elder abuse. Sometimes the strategies offered conformed so much to the stereotype of 'emotional women' and 'practical men' that we felt obliged to explore that too as an issue!
Class and gender were important when we explored the struggles of a family where an elder has symptoms of dementia, but caregivers find themselves battling so many more issues other than providing care for the person with dementia.
A forum performance enhances our understanding of the problems, and helps us see possibilities where earlier there seemed none.
The following are the Forum Theatre plays we have created with senior citizen groups:
"Happy Birthday, Amma!" - A play on elder abuse
"There’s Nothing Wrong with my Mother!" - A play on the struggles that a family faces as they look after an elder affected by dementia.
"Retirement Blues" - A play on the struggles faced by an elder couple following the husband’s retirement from work.