Theatre for children is needed for their aesthetic development: Shaili Sathyu

Director of Gillo Theatre Repertory, Shaili Sathyu, talks to After Hrs about her unique group and plans for children’s theatre

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Theatre for children is needed for their aesthetic development: Shaili Sathyu
Team Gillo Theatre Repertory


Over the last couple of years, Gillo Theatre Repertory has been conducting play reading sessions with their team of actors to familiarise them with the kind of theatre works being written for children. Beginning today, the exercise extends to their audiences (they’re the theatre for young audiences) and their parents with Kathasagar, a monthly reading club. To be held once a month on a Saturday, the sessions are aimed at promoting play reading, which is not as common as story reading. The first writer whose works would be read is Poile Sengupta. Director and founder of Gillo, Shaili Sathyu, tells us, “We will try to understand the context of the play and have activities like asking the children to design costumes. Exploration for each play will be different.” The two-hour sessions will include essays and short stories by the writer and will gradually include plays in other languages.

Theatre exclusively for children

Gillo is an arts organisation that works towards content development, performance, training, curating, etc, for children. What sets Gillo apart from the other theatre companies, says Shaili, is the fact that it does work exclusively for children while others also include theatre for adults. “Theatre exclusively for children is needed for their aesthetic development,” she says. Since its inception in 2009, the repertory has adapted stories into plays, Kyun-Kyun Ladki (Mahashweta Devi), Taoos Chaman Ki Myna (Naiyer Masud), She-He-Shey (Rabindranath Tagore’s Shey), and many more. The name of the group comes from gillo gilehri or a squirrel that’s found almost everywhere in India.

It’s a tough space

Shaili remembers, “There was only so much happening in theatre for children when we started.” Convincing people to come on board Gillo was difficult initially and still proves to be a hurdle. “Generally, established theatre actors are not interested in doing plays for children or they teach and conduct workshops, so it’s difficult to have someone for all 12 months.” Getting a place to hold the plays is not easy either. “Not many people invite you to perform and it’s not a long-term deal. It’s tough but the returns are enough to survive,” says Shaili, whose parents are illustrious theatre and film personalities Shama Zaidi and MS Sathyu. Though, things are now looking up. “Every year, more people are showing interest in working for children. But, it will take a few more years to become consistent,” she says.

Future plans

This year, Gillo introduced a tour bus where they travelled across Karnataka to take children’s theatre to a wider audience. Over the next five years, the group aims to build collaboration with other cultural institutions and have artiste exchange. “We’d like more people to create original work for children.” Since 2010, Gillo has built its own tour circuit that includes Bengaluru, Kolkata, Pune, etc. They plan to expand it to Kerala, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and the north. “We want to join the dots and share the roadmap for other people to venture,” Shaili says.

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