Each year I post on The Drama Teacher the current topic I have given my Year 12 Drama class at school to research, write a script for, direct and perform for 20% of their assessment in this subject in their final year of high school.
Well, this year I struggled with actually delivering my topic to my students. It is such a heavy topic laden with responsibility, that I dumped the idea and went on the Plan B for a while, only to eventually give my students the option of two ensemble topics. They chose my first idea, so here it is below.
It is unquestionably the heaviest drama ensemble topic I have given students in many years of teaching. I have a small class this year, so they have formed one single ensemble group for this play. It will be in the vicinity of 45 minutes duration and the development and rehearsal time line (including research) is about 8 weeks of good working time, on a 10 week time line, with a two week holiday break in the middle.
I believe, with a topic such as this, all the planets need to align in order to pull it off successfully. The elements were there from the beginning. A small group of passionate, highly motivated, mature students, half of them school leaders in various areas such as College Captain, Drama Captains, Arts Captain, Public Speaking Captain etc. While not necessarily best friends, they are a close-knit group that is bonding further through the process of developing this ensemble performance. The stakes are high. It will either be a huge success that will no doubt bring audience members to tears, or it may miss the mark, altogether. My students know the risks and are prepared to take on the challenge.
We borrowed our performance title, Terror in Mumbai, from a BBC documentary of the same name on the Dispatches program. My goal, as teacher, is to see how a group of 17-year old girls can tackle such a serious topic with sensitivity and maturity. Below is the task details I gave my students:
Terror In Mumbai
Background For several days in November 2008, ten gunmen terrorised India’s most populated city. Recruited by leaders of the militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba, the men quickly created panic and hysteria among the people of Mumbai.
In constant communication with their controllers in Pakistan during the event, the gunmen shot people in the streets, set off fires in hotels and detonated grenades in taxis and crowded cafes. As the world watched from afar, Mumbai’s antiquated police force was virtually helpless in trying to stop the pandemonium and carnage back home. By the time it was all over, nearly 200 people were killed and over 300 lay wounded.
How did ten gunmen control the city of Mumbai for so long? What was the background behind such a well organised and planned attack on one of the world’s biggest cities? What repercussions do the Mumbai killings have for other major cities of the world today?
Prescribed Performance Styles Theatre of Cruelty (Antonin Artaud), Epic Theatre (Bertolt Brecht).
Prescribed Theatrical Conventions Transformation of character, transformation of place, transformation of object, disjointed time sequences, pathos.
Prescribed Dramatic Elements Contrast, symbol, language.
Prescribed Stagecraft Elements Costume, props, multimedia, sound.
Plot The following plot ideas should be included in the ensemble performance. Other ideas and/or scenes may be added as necessary. At least one example of scenes out of chronological order must occur in order to satisfy the prescribed theatrical convention of disjointed time sequences. The performance must end with a message(s) for the spectator (audience).
- Back story
- The relationship between India and Pakistan
- Previous terrorist attacks in Mumbai
- Religious ideology of the militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba
- The training of the Mumbai gunmen in Pakistan with Lashkar-e-Taiba
- The event
- Leopold café bombing
- Taxi bombings
- Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi Trident blasts and fires
- Nariman House (Jewish Outreach Centre) siege
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (train station) shootings
- Response to the disaster by the Mumbai police force
- Response to the disaster from the Indian government
- Response to the disaster by Indian soldiers, marines and commandos
- Media involvement and reporting of the events from within India and abroad
- The aftermath
- Victims stories
- Interrogation by Indian police of captured gunman Ajmal Kasab
- Public reaction to the events from the world’s media and political leaders
- Lessons to be learned from the Mumbai attacks and repercussions for the future