Ruth Lerche Christense, director and teacher at The Commedia School, Denmark, spent a month in Nepal. For almost four weeks, Christense spent her days at the Shilpitee Theatre in Kathmandu working with Nepali theatre actors as they were prepared for a play called Why Do We Laugh which was staged on August 29.
For the last 21 years, Ruth Lerche Christense has been a member of The Commedia School, and she has served as a director for the past six years.
Ruth Lerche Christense arrived in Nepal on August 3rd and spent a month here. With 25 years of experience in the theatre sector, she imparted her knowledge to the students of Shilpee, covering various aspects such as storytelling, acrobatics, and object manipulation, among others.
During the month-long workshop, her primary focus was on teaching mime and pantomime, which are distinctive styles in the Nepali theatre realm. Through this training, the students said they gained the ability to perform in a theatre setting without relying on prompts.
Before departing for Denmark, Onlinekhabar caught up with Ruth Lerche Christense to talk about her experience working with Nepali actors, the things she taught them, and the valuable lessons the Nepali theatre sector can take from Denmark.
You worked with Nepali theatre actors at Shilpee Theatre for nearly a month. How did you find Nepali theatre practitioners and how was your experience teaching them?
The students are really hard-working. Most Asian parents want their children to be doctors, engineers and lawyers. But the students here desperately aspire to become actors. It is a very big and brave step for them. It has been a joy seeing them eager to learn, throw themselves into the process and take advantage of this opportunity.
What have you been teaching to the students at Shilpee Theatre?
There are various things that I have been teaching at Shilpee Theatre. The focus is on the creativity of the performer through improvisation, spontaneity and awareness through body movement. The students are being made to study the things around this. They are studying the leaves, they are learning how different seasons and animals have different movements. We take these learnings on the stage and make the body alive.
Additionally, I am also teaching them about some classical movements that include things like how to open a door, raise a glass and move a stick. The students are also learning about how to replace the words with gestures so they can actually mime and say something without saying.
Similarly, the students are also being made to listen to different tones of different languages. The students are pretending to speak in a Chinese, African and French accent. The students are also learning more about acrobatics, techniques of strengthening the body, timing and imagination.
The students need to do home assignments where they should individually solve the task. They should find and tell Nepali fairy tales and historical events from another point of view. They were also taught to create an atmosphere by sounds. There were also some games as a part of the students’ warm-up.
How will those lessons benefit them in their career?
I have taught them about various tools. These tools will help them to navigate the right way to observe their surroundings, which will inspire them to create something on their own. Hopefully, these lessons will enhance their creativity level and awareness about their partner with whom they will work.
Could you tell us about the concept of ‘Awareness Through the Body’?
Awareness through the body makes your body alive and aware. It makes you aware of what you can do with your body. It is not only about doing acrobatics and something extreme. But it is also more about doing subtle things and being more poetic using your body. It allows you to know more about your partner’s body. That is very important as well. You can have a strong connection with their body as well and know the proper way to serve them.
Denmark has a huge theatre industry, what can Nepal learn from Denmark’s theatre industry?
Denmark has various kinds of theatres, dance theatres, children’s theatre and many more. Denmark is much more known for the children’s theatre. Almost all the children are exposed to the theatres.
The thing that Nepal should learn from Denmark is to develop the theatre sector. First of all the government should work on building a platform for growing artists. They should nurture the country’s actors and performers. They should create a centre where the actors can gather and perform.
As there is no state-owned institution that is dedicated to theatre education, the state also needs to invest in it. Like in Denmark, the concerned authorities in Nepal should also need to work on plans and actions that would expose the children to the theatres.
Lastly, do you have any message for those who aspire to become an actor?
An aspiring actor must read as much as possible. Reading will not only develop your language. It will expand your imagination. Reading books will take them to places and personalities they have never met. They should also visit art exhibitions and read poems.
Go and find a place where you can explore. Work with yourself as an actor. Have fun.