Peace-building activities by Mandala Theatre-Nepal in 2020

Mandala Theatre Nepal organized implemented a variety of activities under its peacebuilding project in the year 2020, despite the pandemic. We have highlighted these activities and their major outcomes.

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Mandala Theatre Nepal organized implemented a variety of activities under its peacebuilding project in the year 2020, despite the pandemic. We have highlighted these activities and their major outcomes.

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Workshop on Theatre for Social Transformation

  • An 8-day workshop for theatre for social transformation was conducted for Kadam Theatre members and other interested participants (a total of 35 including 4 people living with disabilities) from east Nepal in Damak in January 2020 by Mandala’s Peace Building Team.
  • The local theatre started their own theatre space after the workshop. Mandala is providing ongoing support to them.
  • The workshop gave us an idea about people’s interest in theatre for social transformation and supported developing the concept for the drama school.
  • Challenge was to adapt the space to the different needs of some of the participants, which worked well due to other participants’ support.

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Gender and Diversity Sensitive Work in Theatre and Continuing work of Gender and Diversity Focal Committee

  • Mandala’s Gender and Diversity Focal Committee conducted three workshops in March 2020 with 40 students from the two months’ acting class. The 16 students from the drama school also received a basic workshop in November and a follow-up workshop in December.
  • Gender and Diversity Sensitive Work Policy was translated into Nepali. The policy will be addressed in the contracts of people who join and work in Mandala Theatre.
  • A challenge was to make the students understand the importance of gender and diversity sensitive work at the workshop’s beginning. However, at the end of the workshop, the participants were clear on the objectives, realized that gender and diversity should be an important aspect of Mandala’s work, and appreciated the workshop.
  • It also supported the Mandala team to deepen the understanding of the importance of this issue. For instance, while selecting the drama school applicants, the team decided to have at least 50% female participants.
  • The drama school had to be conducted online. Hence, there were technical challenges and challenges to support the group’s process, including providing psychosocial support. Creating a space to open up (personal stories) was difficult to achieve through online platforms.
  • It has been planned to have the gender & diversity workshop at the beginning of every acting class.
  • Providing psychosocial support during the lockdown and later was only possible online, which was challenging.

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Forum Theatre Production Workshop

  • A two-weeks production-oriented workshop on forum theatre was conducted in February and March with 13 participants (theatre artists and students) at Mandala Theatre. A play entitled ‘I can’ was produced after the workshop and performed from 14-17 March in Mandala Theatre.
  • Short time for the production and the combination of teaching theatre methods and doing a production were challenges. I could not continue to stage performances due to the lockdown.

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Mandala’s Drama School -“Theatre for Social Change, Conflict-Transformation, and Peacebuilding”

ToT: Bringing the trainers together for Drama School

  • Conducted 5-days ToT for 23 teachers (10 female) of drama school before starting the classes to create a common understanding and orient them on the tools of social transformation and peacebuilding.
  • Bringing the teachers together in one space (online and in-person) for 5 days was a challenge. Some could participate only for one or two days. Responding to the teachers’ different needs was challenging due to safety issues, regulations of the government, etc.
  • This kind of program allows us to have a common understanding, which is essential in peacebuilding work. Physical presence is significant to create an atmosphere of common understanding, motivation, and implementation.

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Drama School ‘Theatre for Social Change, Conflict Transformation and Peace Building’ – part 1 (5 months)

  • A drama school about ‘Theatre for Social Change, Conflict Transformation and Peace Building’ was conceived and is implemented by Mandala Theatre with its Peacebuilding Team. More than 150 applications (125 male, 25 female) were received, out of which 16 were selected.
  • The school is divided into four parts. The first part was planned to start in August 2020. Due to the pandemic, the orientation started in August to prepare the school participants, and the course started online in September with ‘Theatre from Home’ with 16 students (half male and half female), mainly from marginalized groups from every province.
  • The students were able to conduct in-person and online playback theatre performance in December. The in-person classes started from November 2020 in an intense mode and are ongoing now with part II.
  • Due to the pandemic, the course could not start on time and had to be conducted online. Participating online was nearly impossible for some students due to the inaccessibility of internet facilities in remote areas. Bringing the participants together as a group was difficult to do online in the initial process. It worked because of the high commitment of the students.
  • The initial processes of doing it online were time-consuming and difficult. Logistic arrangements were a challenge due to the pandemic and the participants being from marginalized groups. For example, some of the hostels did not accept the students due to the participants’ background.
  • Lessons learned – It is good to start a drama school when you know that it is possible to do it physically. However, it might be necessary to start online not to leave the participants demotivated.
  • Only online participation of teachers is not sufficient for a drama school.
  • Long-term training is very effective for theatre for conflict and social transformation and for Mandala to continue in the future.

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Covid-19 related Playback Theatre Project and
Forum Theatre combined with Playback Theatre Project.

  • This activity was added in the proposal during the pandemic to address crises and offer psychosocial support to people through playback theatre.
  • A workshop on playback theatre with 10 artists (4 female and 6 male) and 15 performances online and some privately in physical presence were conducted.
  • We could reach out to diverse communities through online platforms such as people living with disabilities, LGBTIQ+, journalists, schoolteachers, students, waste management workers, and health workers, which we couldn’t before the pandemic.
  • Transformation also happened inside artists after going through the process and hearing the stories. It also motivated other theatres to start playback theatre shows.
  • Also, in between the artists, we had to deal with the fear of Covid, which was responded to by following regulations and keeping safety measures.
  • The challenge to work with new audiences online also created an opportunity to develop a new form of doing Playback Theatre online.
  • It wasn’t easy to find an audience as anticipated, so we collaborated with other artists and social mobilizers to reach out to different communities.
  • Lower quality due to technical challenges – webcam, theatre light, internet, etc.
  • Playback theatre can be conducted well, and messages can be communicated effectively to people through online platforms.
  • A 10 days’ workshop with 11 artists on participatory theatre practices and five participatory theatre performances (online and in-person) connecting playback and forum theatre techniques were conducted in November-December 2020.
  • Getting to know stories from playback theatre is like conducting research – by bringing the stories to a larger scale through forum theatre.
  • Forum theatre needs time – conceptualizing, process, etc. This challenge was a lesson learned because we could give more time to this due to the pandemic.

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Planning and organizing the NITFest 2021

  • The proposal for NITFest was prepared in 2020 to organize the festival in 2021. Conducted preparatory meetings online and in-person happened. Formed a working team on this led by a female member and prepared a detailed plan for organizing the festival. Published a newsletter on the festival and sent it to theatre practitioners all over the world. Received feedback from some organizations on their interest in supporting and collaborate.
  • To conduct the festival being uncertain of the future situation (pandemic) is a challenge. Planned for November 2021 for now.

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Play PALPASA CAFE, Rehearsal, Test Show, and Discussion

  • Mandala supported Theatre Village to produce the play “Palpasa Café” relating to the armed conflict issues, also focusing on enforced disappearance.
  • Due to the pandemic, the play could not be staged to the public till now, so it has been recorded and privately shown as test performance.
  • The drama school students could watch it and learn how to take the content through an artistic approach.
  • Theatre Village publicly announced in January 2021 that they would soon be staging the play, thus generating curiosity and interest among people.

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