By the students of Grade Eleven
(A play in English based on Slawomir Mrozek’s short story 'The Elephant')
Direction: Samta Shikhar & Ashwini Kumar Chakre

Suitable for an audience above the age of seven

This play encapsulates the nature of human existence and is set in a zoo, where animals are caged for display. Inspired by the story “THE ELEPHANT” by Slawomir Mrozek, it seeks for us to collectively reflect on the structures of existence that we as human beings occupy.

Using the trope of a zoo both comically and metaphorically, the play comments on the very nature of human evolution from animals to humans. We may have evolved from primitive animals to the thinking mind, but as thinking minds are we constantly carrying the burden of our own existence? Have we evolved as animals with bent backs rather than human beings capable of owning our decisions? Keeping this question as its central thrust, the play is entirely devised by our 11th graders, in conversation with the story “The Elephant”.

Production Pictures

Rehearsal Pictures

24th & 25th November 2017
24th November, 8 PM

25th November, 6 PM and 8 PM
Head Start Montessori House of Children, Koramangala

‘DAYictionary’ a play presented by HSEA

This play is a devised piece of theatre on the concept of the everyday, put together by the children of Grades 4 to 9.

Our play is about what makes the everyday. Is it the mundane? Is it a routine? Is it the special? Or does the day contain all of this?

Live Production Pictures

Rehearsal & Production Pictures

Directed by : Samta Shikhar & Ashwini Kumar Chakre
Movement Artist: Anitha Santhanam
Sounds: Karen D'Mello
Lights: Ashwini Kumar Chakre & Karen D'Mello
Photography and Videography: Virginia Rodrigues

& 4th December 2016
3:30 pm & 6:00pm, Duration: 60min, Venue: Lshva

Art Installation & Performance

Art Installation & Performance

This is a site-specific art installation in which a room has been turned into an abandoned once-home of a refugee family and the other, a brand new home that a family from a foreign land moves into. The question that we try to raise through this is -  Is a 'home' about memory or is it about functionality?

Using the trope of conceptual art, children of Head Start Educational Academy have created these interactive spaces by using objects that were found from the surrounding environment and in the process, re-imagining the way these objects would exist in an abandoned home and the city.
Refugee Crisis - An event or a tragedy?
This is a devised performance that is conceptualized, written, and created by the children of Grade 4 where they take a look at the irony of celebrating World Refugee Day . There are different dramatic sketches performed by children that question and criticize the way people turn tragedies into events, based on media reporting. This then diminishes the real crisis, though not always intentionally.
2nd April 2016
Venue: Primary Block, HSEA
Time: 11.30am
{Photographs: Nitin Vyas}

Arts & Education – Process versus Outcome

Literature, music and the arts, all are necessary for the development and flowering of a student to form an integrated total personality.- Rabindranath Tagore

Arts & Education – Process versus Outcome

I got an opportunity to attend a play that was presented by the Head Start school children in Cubbon Park, Bangalore. The multilingual (Kannada, Hindi and English) play was about the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses enacted by a young group of children called ‘The BMTC’. This play is directed by Samta and Ashwini, theater facilitators of the school. A synopsis of the play can be viewed on the following link as that shall not be part of this piece: https://headstarteducationalacademy.edu.in/?p=4130

What intrigued me to write the following was actually something that was said towards the end of the play when the children were acknowledging all members involved in the making of it. One girl said, ‘We thank the BMTC officials, drivers and conductors for taking out time to share their views during the interviews conducted by us’ (transcribed). The play was in fact wonderful and did initiate in developing a perspective on the lives of drivers and conductors and also acted as a window to the city and its people. The children enacted the play flawlessly; they clearly had imbibed the characters. These statements are important in summarizing how well the play was done. But one needs to understand that these statements are only the outcome of the play. The process that was involved in the making of this play is inevitably the result of the outcome and therefore this process is equally important to deconstruct. The statement which was made during the acknowledgements, I felt was actually a very loaded statement that just floated by when voiced. Within that statement was a small window into the process, even possibly the reason why the outcome had left a positive impact.  Not as a drama critic but a pedagogue I would like to deconstruct this process and also state the interrelations between art and education and art being more about the process than the outcome.

Head Start school uses BMTC buses to pick and drop the children in the mornings and afternoons respectively. Therefore it is the BMTC bus drivers and conductors that the children interact with during their rides. As soon as the children leave their homes for school the first set of adults they meet are these drivers and conductors. The school believes that they too are educators and therefore were called in for meetings to discuss the importance of their roles in the lives of the children. In fact one parent once shared how excited his child would be when a particular conductor would be there in the bus in the morning and how he would miss him on days he would not come. That in itself shows the impact the drivers and conductors have on these children. These meetings sparked an idea of doing a play in relation to bus experiences (at first) among the theater facilitators. They shared the idea with the children and the children were asked to do improvisations connected to buses. As shared by the facilitator initially the children were not quite able to bring about variety in their improvisations. They mainly revolved around situations such as thefts, accidents, etc. This is when the facilitator decided to give them a flavor of the local buses of Bangalore. They all visited the BMTC main office, met officials, interviewed drivers and conductors, travelled in the buses, visited the Shantinagar bus stand and more. Therefore the children learnt to develop questionnaires, along the process learnt to raise questions on the spur of the moment and also documented their findings once they got back. There was a strong element of research as part of the making of this play that the children got an opportunity to experience and learn from.

While it all began with the BMTC bus drivers and conductors what happened down the lane was that the children also started understanding the city and its people. These children had had an exposure of only a certain space of the city, a certain life a certain perspective but through the exploration of the BMTC they also ended up exploring the functioning of the city, the dynamics of the people and language. They understood the influx of people into this city from other states and the impact it has made at different levels such as language, population, needs and more.  Even aspects like weather conditions in terms of its impact on the city people versus the drivers and conductors, the impact on roads and its effects on the traffic pile ups and over all the weather conditions that have drastically changed in the city over time. All of this came through from the discussions they had with the drivers and conductors during their research.  It was almost like the members of the bus (drivers and conductors) who have been travelling in it around the city for years actually can see the city through the bus windows like a movie. One can see how much history, culture and experience each individual holds which not only gives that person’s perspective on various aspects but also gives a glimpse of the world through that person’s eyes.  So what began as a story of understanding and exploring the BMTC turned out to be much more that also probably helped the children understand their identity and role in this space.

The children through meetings and visits started understanding that perspectives are not one dimensional. One’s perspective of a situation can completely be different from the perspective of another of the very same situation. A good example of this point was shared by the facilitator. During the interviews the children posed questions to the drivers and conductors who travelled together in the same bus for which the responses they got differed to a large extent. On asking them about their point of view on being stuck in traffic jams the driver said it is a painful experience for they are stuck in one place, cannot move for long durations and if the sun is beating down on him it can become excruciating. The conductor on the other hand said that traffic jams give him an opportunity to log all the tickets he has charged so it works well for him. Of course the passengers gave yet another perspective. In another example, while the children were sitting with a lady of the complaints department they witnessed a person whose complaint was that he had been charged Rs.10 extra which he requested to be returned. There were some children who found it rather awkward initially that a person travelled the distance to meet the lady for such a small amount of money.  Later when the children went back and had discussions is when they understood the value of money for people. Such experiences and discussions helped the children to truly understand how perspectives can vary and in fact in the larger scheme of things develop a sense of empathy.  To imbibe this idea of empathy leads the child to always be aware of or at least would try to be aware of the views of others before taking any action or making any judgments.

The visits like that of the Shantinagar bus stand or travelling in the buses gave the children a great sensorial experience as well. Since these children were there with an agenda their senses were heightened in a focused manner. They were trying to absorb every sound, light, colour, texture, taste, culture, etc. that they possibly could. It is said that the arts help in the refinement of the senses and such experiences clearly show how.

Post research the making of the play began its process. The director/facilitators shared that the casting took place in a rather organic fashion. The children during their research were impacted by certain people that they started to enact during improvisations. Of course the improvisations by now had much more variety and depth in terms of situations, dialogues, characters and more.  Children were not told to enact particular characters but rather they chose their own characters which could result in one of the outcome statements like, ‘children had imbibed the characters’. The process of casting was so natural that the children were able to not just live and breathe the characters but also further develop the characters over time.

This play interestingly has no script. The children as they chose their characters and events/situations they wanted to enact, similarly the dialogues flowed that came naturally to the chosen characters and chosen events/situations. As shared by the facilitator the children during their initial performances were more hesitant and focused on just finishing the play but over time they not only became more comfortable and confident but also ended up enacting actions and delivering dialogues on the spur of the moment if they felt like it. What language to do the play in, did involve an interesting debate. On the one hand since the play was about BMTC drivers and conductors it seemed inevitable that the script should also be in language/s they use but on the other hand since there was no script and the children were creating the dialogues it was important for them to deliver in a language they were comfortable in. From a pedagogical perspective I felt that it was wonderful that the second choice was taken into consideration. Since the process was so organic in nature in terms of choosing characters and choosing the situations to enact, it would have just led to inconsistency if at that point the children would have been forced to deliver in a language that did not come naturally to them or to choose children to enact a character just because a child is comfortable in a particular language. Such decisions make artists become pedagogues and I believe that that is exactly what the role of the facilitator here was.

The play was performed multiple times in various settings. These performances also lead to various experiences that the children will probably draw from throughout their life.  Since 6th and 7th graders were working on this play together there was a lot of friction among them initially. They would mostly clump into smaller groups with their own friends or with their own classmates. It was only through various techniques used by the facilitator and the fact that the children were working towards creating something of their own is what got them to unite. Venues like the one in Cubbon Park did not have well equipped washrooms, or were far from their stage area and there were no designated changing areas. Such challenges not only made the children bond but also helped them become aware and sensitive towards varying spaces and facilities. The play was also covered in the newspaper and at that point the facilitators made it a point to have a discussion with the children that they should not merely look at this as coverage but rather understand that they are creating awareness among the public about this play and that holds a certain level of responsibility.

What was the structure of the play, the techniques used, the plot, etc. are all something that I believe one should go and witness for oneself.  All that was shared here was what happened behind the curtains – the process. It was not just a play but the coming together of children to create something that did not exist. It was about getting to know others and in turn also knowing oneself better. It gave the space to question, debate, explore and most importantly there was freedom that was always underlining the process. I believe this play was a fine example to demonstrate the importance of arts in education. It demonstrated how this one play helped in integrating various skills of research, communication, documentation and ideation as well as personality traits like empathy, decision making, responsibility which leads to the development of the child’s Self i.e. his/her personality. Arts cannot be analysed based just on the outcome of a painting made or a dance performed or in this case a play. It is about the process and therefore as educators it becomes important to always peep behind the curtains. One should also develop the ability to let the child free so that s/he can create.  For creation to happen there can be no imposition on the child or else it just becomes a process of replication. If you, going forward, get an opportunity to see any form of creation by a child take a minute to think what must have been the processes involved, if you are not sure ask the child for s/he would be more than happy to share. Based on that observe the change that will come about in your response, from being an outcome driven response to a process driven response.


Research on the Bus Play

Parents’ comments on Oral History and BMTC plays 2015

Dear Samta and the Head Start team,

Thank you so much for the wonderful performance put up yesterday. The entire experience of the presentations was fabulous, right from the approach, conceptualisation, script, performances, production values and the execution.

We as parents were extremely happy to see the calibre of theatre; it truly was professional. Also we would really like to let you know that seeing our child perform and his entire approach to theatre from when he initially started out, the resistance and reluctance metamorphosing to the sheer enjoyment and a sense of ownership that we witnessed last evening, has really given us a lot of joy.

We thank you all for not giving up on him and bringing out a talent that we never knew existed in our child.

For us, Head Start has always been all about nurturing and discovering one's hidden potential and when we see presentations like these it truly validates what the school stands for.

With much gratitude,
Appreciative Parents

Hi Samta and Team,

We attended the theatre performances yesterday and I just want to say that it exceeded all expectations.

What a lovely time we had. Kids laughed and loved it.

The BMTC bus was a masterpiece. Such a brilliant idea and perfectly executed.

It was a shame that more people did not attend. Theatre night should be made mandatory especially when so much hard work goes into it 😉 I think we were one of the few people who attended for the experience and not because our kids were participating.

I suggest going public with the BMTC production. More people need to see this brilliant work. Also it serves a higher social purpose that more people in Bangalore can benefit from.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Good luck.
Kathleen de Saran

The God Play

The God Play


The God Play has been created after a year's devising and research process by the performers and facilitators of this play. It started with a series of questions around what the idea of 'God’ is; where this idea came from; what the need for it was and where it stands now.

The team then conducted interviews and visited places of worship of different religions. They interacted with preachers of each religion. In the midst of all this, what became clear is the difference in what a religion says about God and what kinds of prejudice people carry in their minds about people of other religions.

The God Play is the culmination of a year’s work and we hope the young performers can share this work in the future with both the young and the old.


"I think this is and was a great process. In my opinion it was fun and informative. I would like the audience to come and watch our play because it is funny and the topic (religious prejudice) is very interesting. Also, it talks about the state our country is in now."
- Meher

"The process was extremely enjoyable. There were times where we had to really focus and concentrate. It helped us think out of the box and to overcome our fears. I would invite the audience to come and watch our play because we worked hard and because it is about something pretty serious. Even though the seriousness wasn't really shown (food fight) the play should be watched and endless prejudice should be stopped. People should think about it."
- Anoshka

"Our play is about the very interesting conflict between religious people. Our play is a place to learn a bit about how fights arise in our country. It is also about how people have prejudices amongst each other. Without knowing a person people just discriminate and in the end it might turn out to be entirely different. The journey felt like a long and crazy one. We came up with many stories but in the end we made just one. I think people should watch it because they will realize the impact of things that happen and how stupid the reasons are."
- Vir

"I want people to watch our play because I don't want them to judge others on religion, caste and looks. They should also not think of us as people who are insulting other religions."
- Nandita M

"People should watch our play because it’s about society, prejudice and how they look at you based on your religion, caste, colour etc. Our play conveys the message that not everything is based on these factors."
- Shivali

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Venue: Head Start Educational Academy, Sarjapur, Bangalore
5:00pm and 7:30pm



Bus - a public bus, mundane and regular, used by many, day in and day out.

Fills the road, blocks the lanes, stops suddenly, stops frequently, and drives off without even stopping, noisy heavy vehicle…these buses! We see buses, next to us, beside us, ahead of us, following us every day driving in our cars. What makes a bus special; special enough for us to think about it, to make a play around it?

What does the bus driver see sitting on his seat every day? What does the conductor feel while collecting fares and handing out tickets all day long? What do the driver and conductor think about travelling along the same route day in and day out? How do they see the city and its people? How do we as people of the city see the bus?

The play we have made began with some of these questions and remains a window to think about the city, our lives in the city and what the idea of a city can mean for us; all told through the metaphor of the bus. The bus is a window for us to tell the tale of lives we live in a city.

The events and stories contained in the play are told through the eyes of the driver and the conductor - an eye and a perspective that may be unfamiliar to us.

So we would like to invite you all to come and watch this play, devised by the sixth graders of Head Start Educational Academy, interviewing BMTC drivers and conductors over five months. This process has been very revealing for the children, interacting with the drivers and conductors of their own buses whom they otherwise take for granted, waiting at the bus stop to take them to school and drop them back. Now they have become the heroes of their play.

The process

We travelled in a BMTC bus from Koramangala to school; interviewed drivers and conductors of the BMTC BUS; interviewed regular passengers and the not so frequent bus passenger; thought, discussed, wrote, got bored, cried, laughed and made it! Now we want to share… please be a part of this journey on 21st March 2015.

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Saturday, 21st March & Sunday, 22 March 2015
Time: 5pm Onwards
Location: At Head Start Educational Academy, Sarjapur, Bangalore

Oral History

Oral History


Does the city have emotions? Who defines landmarks in a locality? What remains of the past in a city?

With some of the above questions and oral history interviews that trace the journey of Head Start as an institution and in turn, the transformation of a locality like Koramangala, the performance draws upon two parallel realities around the idea of 'growth'.

With a performance created by children from research, workshops and observations, it attempts to look at our everlasting desire to change ourselves and in the process, grow and move things around us.

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Saturday, 21st March and Sunday, 22 March 2015
Venue: Head Start Educational Academy, Sarjapur, Bangalore
Time: 5pm

Thoughts….Why Theatre for children

Thoughts….Why Theatre for children
by the Theatre Team

Theatre for young people or children need not be about entertaining. There is no dearth of entertainment in the lives of young people or adults and theatre therefore need not be seen as complimenting the world of television, cinema or educational awareness and growth. Theatre enables all this and much more and hence we need to think of theatre for children as a medium worth its name which works at multiple levels for a child as it does for adults. Theatre for children needs to be seen as something which communicates ideas provoking questions and enabling children to formulate an opinion and understanding of their own position in the world and of those around them. All of us who profess and  practice the making of theatre, whether specifically for children or adults must realise that at the end of the day, theatre can only work if we make our audiences question and think through all we produce for them. If we think of children as beings who need things to be ‘explained’ to them instead of being equal partners in a conversation, then theatre for young people does not work. We might as well be honest; we can make good theatre for children only if we believe in it ourselves. So the importance of theatre for young people and especially in a place like India, is to break the shackles of doing fairy tales and stories of kings and queens just as fantasy because doing something like that in the name of simplifying is actually patronising a child and patronage has no place in pedagogy.

An opportunity for self exploration

An opportunity for self exploration
By Samta Shikhar
Director of Theatre at Head Start

Theatre at Head Start is a form of art introduced to children as an opportunity for self exploration and discovery.

To be able to think, question and thus be aware. The medium of theatre at Head Start is not to learn the skill of performance but to be able to use it as creative expression of one’s own thoughts and ideas. Create from what we know, search the unknown, see what we can’t see, reflect on what exists and then create with it.

Some children would like to explore this journey through acting, some through words, some through making something tangible (like a piece of art or an installation); all this makes theatre.

The facilitator at Head Start doing theatre simply triggers the session with a question or a concept or text and then channelizes the immense energies that the children bring up in response; either making it a play or writing an original script or doing an exhibition or simply leaving the session open ended to become aware, reflect upon and internalise.

The theatre programme is divided into two parts; one is actually doing theatre and the other is receiving it. Receiving it means our children are taken to watch plays, visit art galleries, speak to artists about the process of their creation, walk down a street, take a bus drive, go to a junkyard and let theatre happen in the mundane and the ordinary as well.

The relationship of a facilitator and the children in the session is one of collaboration between the two. In turn the experience becomes very satisfying and inspiring for both; the facilitator as an artist evolves and the children do more and more, and we can never have enough!