Yak Pack Theatre Project July & August 2018 Telling tales, trekking theatre

"Theatre is the best way to improve self-confidence, self-esteem and team-building among youngsters". Times of India, 2014, on the introduction of Theatre to the school curriculum

The Spiti Valley, remote and inaccessible in the Indian Himalayas, is one of the highest inhabited places on earth. It's not surprising that the 3000 children that live there have had no experience of theatre in their education.

We are going to do something to change that. The Yak Pack Theatre Project will bring Theatre-in-Education - and its well documented benefits - to the schoolchildren, families and communities of the Spiti Valley, during the summer of 2018.

"The arts must be considered an essential element of education... They are tools for living life reflectively, joyfully and with the ability to shape the future." Shirley Trusty Corey

who we are

We are two English families who, with our five children, have come together to form The Yak Pack Theatre Project. With a trunk of props and a backpack of costumes, we will all perform in the specially written play ‘Jambhala’. With over 25 years experience making theatre for and with young people, we will bring a direct and inspiring learning experience that will stay with the children of Spiti for many years to come.

Ben and Louisa run Treehouse Theatre, providing Theatre-in-Education to UK schools. Peter and Juliette run Direct Theatre, a Youth Theatre Company staging performances with up to 50 young actors.

Our relationship with Spiti began in 1995 when Ben was part of a research project, under the auspices of the Royal Geographic Society. Incredibly remote and starkly beautiful, Spiti is home to a warm-hearted and fun-loving people who love dance and music, and Ben formed lasting bonds of friendship during his time there. Whilst rich in culture and spirit, Spiti is poor by many other standards, and its simple rural economy and basic education system struggle to keep pace with a fast changing world.

"the benefits of education in theatre arts are clear...emphasis on creativitity, critical thinking and collaborative skills especially apply to all fields in the 21st century workforce" The american alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE)

In 2015 we took a small theatre project to Munsel-Ling School in Spiti, working with 30 children over 2 days. Although very successful, we knew this project was limited by both the language barrier and a lack of funds. The 2018 Yak Pack Theatre Project is much more ambitious, and builds on our previous experience, enthusiasm and relationship with Spiti. The project will have a much wider-reaching impact on the community and we will perform to over 1000 people - that's 1 in 10 of the people who live in Spiti.

Our 2015 Theatre project in Spiti, at Munsel-Ling School

Jambhala

'Jambhala', is an original fairy tale which asks the question 'What does home mean to you?'. The play explores issues relevant to isolated communities all over the world. 'Jambhala' means 'wealth' in Hindi, and invites our young audience to reflect on the many meanings of wealth: money, knowledge, spirituality, community and home.

Langza, where we will stage a performance, is home to around 150 people

Week One

During the first week of the project, we will be rehearsing in Kaza, the main town of the Spiti Valley. We will employ a local performer to join the cast as a narrator-translator, enabling us to overcome the language barrier and bring 'Jambhala' to remote schools and villages which are rarely visited by the international teaching community and volunteers.

One of the benefits of having some very young cast members, is the ease with which children can bridge the cultural divide.

During this week, we will also build cultural exchanges. Meeting and sharing experiences with the Buchan, traditional story telling monks, and forging links between local schools and schools in the UK.

The Buchan

Week two

The second week of the project takes us into local schools. 'Jambhala' is a lively and interactive play, which invites audience members to be involved and engaged, rather than just sitting and watching. Small parts will be offered to willing audience members, we will share music and song, sound effects and scenery will be created by the audience. Each performance is unique to the moment, and shaped by the audience on the day.

Our performances will enrich the curriculum, and support the future of drama in schools through distribution of activity packs, providing teacher training, and demonstrating how local storytellers can be an important part of a modern education system.

"Contrary to rote education, Theatre in education presents a different approach for discussions, contributions and creativity through performance"

In the UK, we regularly train and advise teachers on ways to use our performances as a springboard for future work in which children become deeply engaged, across many curriculum subjects. This training will be available to teachers in Spiti after the performances, and also provided digitally in Hindi for future reference, kindly translated by the Tibetan Studies team at Oxford University.

Week Three

Yaks and ponies will take our trekking theatre company from village to village in some of the highest inhabited places on earth, for the 3rd week of the project.

Here, the tiny village schools will be closed for the summer, and everyone will be working hard in their family fields to bring in the harvest. We will perform 'Jambhala' in a different village at the end of each working day, bringing the local families an international artistic experience designed to reflect a deep appreciation of their unique place in the world.

Pea harvest near Demul village, one of our more remote destinations

The Ladarcha Fair in August draws many of the rural communities to the main town of Kaza. During the Fair we will stage a performance for a wider audience and offer a teacher training session on using drama in schools. We will also perform an exclusive show to families who have children with special needs.

We are seeking sponsorship from organisations interested in enriching the lives of those who live in Spiti.

contact us

For details of sponsorship opportunities, please call us on 01202 421806, or email juliette@directtheatre.com

Our partners

We are committed to ensuring that Spitian people and their businesses are the beneficiaries of the Yak Pack Theatre Project. As well as the performances, we will support local enterprise by staying in village homestays (one in Langza village, for example, is run by the lady pictured here), employing local guides, horsemen and drivers from Spiti, and by using businesses and services run by the Spitian community.

Spiti Holiday Adventure, run by local businessman Lotey, will be helping us to find homestays in the more remote areas we travel to, and organising our transport around the Spiti Valley. Lotey's experiences of moving to Delhi and then back to Spiti was the inspiration for 'Jambhala'.

The Old Monk Hotel will be our base in the main town of Kaza, where owners Rana and Shalu will help us to organise rehearsal space and advertise for local actors

Wolfson College, Oxford University, have kindly offered the services of their Tibetian Studies department to help translate the resource packs into Hindi for teachers in Spiti. This department recently hosted the First International Conference on Spiti, which we attended.

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