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My Journey into Applied Theatre

Aanand Chabukswar

Thanks to my mother, my first acting adventure was at age three at the All India Radio! A commercial stage production at the age of seven followed, and so on. All through my childhood, I got a chance to immerse myself in theatre, music, and dance, and of course there was enough ‘drama’ in me as a child, even off-stage! 

When in college, I was volunteering for a school in tribal areas, and while trying to ‘teach’ the children, I ended up doing more theatre with them than Marathi or Math. This continued in the Pune slums, where I was ‘pretending’ to be a teacher. More theatre in Pune’s experimental theatre scene followed. The vastness of theatre as a medium, its innumerable possibilities beckoned. 

After post-graduation, while working in rural and urban schools for a few years, I found friends and training in outdoor and experiential education. They taught me about facilitation as an approach to learning. I settled into the realisation that theatre has immense potential to teach and heal, and it should be systematically explored. For this, I eventually reached the UK to train in Dramatherapy with Dr. Sue Emmy Jennings, a pioneer in the field. An affirmation during the Dramatherapy training was very encouraging. What I had been trying out in India was indeed part of dramatherapy! I also got trained in Commedia del’arte (Italian Theatre of Masks and Movement) in Latvia. 


Back in India, I witnessed the creation of an NGO dedicated to the arts in therapy by my friends and wholeheartedly participated in its projects. There, at the World Centre for Creative Learning (WCCL) Foundation, ably guided by our leader, I have spent 19 years learning, practising, fine-tuning, and teaching ABT (arts-based therapy). WCCL Foundation is the pioneering organisation, and ABT is now being taught and practised all across India. We also systematically researched and wrote about our projects, published as books, articles, and chapters in international publications.


I have been working for many years now as a therapist, teacher, and facilitator. Dr. Jennings invited me to be the co-director of International Dramatherapy Summer Schools and projects in Romania. I have facilitated 

training, presented workshops and papers in Europe and SE Asia. I have directly worked with children, teachers, special needs persons, communities, and institutions from almost all states of India, including Andaman and Nicobar! The Centre for Performing Arts (Lalit Kala Kendra), Savitribai Phule Pune University, under Prof. Satish Alekar in 2007, invited me to design Applied Theatre for Masters’ course, which I have been teaching every year since. 


All through this journey, I have found that the application of theatre in life, education, and healing is not only effective, it is almost essential! On the other hand, too much drama in life without any on stage, is a recipe for misery! In theatre we learn to put thoughts, ideas, emotions, actions, and imagination in the spotlight. This builds awareness. To bring this awareness to everyone through the ‘Applied Theatre School’ is my intention. May it serve as a ground for energy, power, freshness, and joy.

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