Eight major towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, hosted a well researched, world class play during the winter of 2010.
Shifa ((Healing), the play took stigma and discrimination head on, unraveling the ramifications of exclusion through the eyes of a woman, a man and a child.
Here are six Shifa reasons why theatre should increasingly be used as a public health tool.
Theatre as Public Health Tool allows us to project the voice and experiences of affected people:
In the case of Shifa, the script emerged from intensive sharing of over a 100 affected men, women and children.
“Every sentiment expressed in this play, every pieces of dialogue was born out some one’s real experience corroborated by many others affected by stigma” says Tripurari Sharma, Associate Professor of the National School of Drama, who scripted and directed Shifa.
She met with men and women from many states of India, held one on one discussion with many of them. She held intensive workshops with several of them.
Theatre Breaks the Silence:
In all of the eight cities and towns of UP where this play ran to packed houses, positive people came up on the stage to say that this was indeed their story.
The play was also staged in Delhi on World AIDS Day hosted the National AIDS Control Society.
Here too, the Delhi Positive People’s Network took the stage to say how the play resembled their lives.
Theatre as public health tool becomes the Talk of the Town:
Shifa brought the issue of the stigma into public discourse in UP and engaged the society and media on an issue that has so far remained unaddressed.
Wherever the play was staged media was full of it and a wide section of people, judges, doctors, administrators, writers and artists were in the audience
Moved by the play, the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, invited Ms Tripurari Sharma to make a presentation to policy influencers in Lucknow. She shared many public health insights from her research.
Theatre as public health tool Pools Talents Together:
Shifa was a world class play, because some of the finest talents of the National School of Drama were associated with it both on stage and off stage.
The Bharatendu Natya Academy of the Department of Culture of Government of Uttar Pradesh hosted the play on behalf of the UP State AIDS Control Society.
Ravi Nagar Lucknow’s own, much sought after musical genius rendered the music. The Research and production was supported by UNICEF.
Affected children displayed comics drawn by them on their own lives at every venue.
Theatre puts exclusion, especially gender-based discrimination, on center stage
While both men and women are stigmatized for breaking sexual norms, gender-based power results in women being blamed more easily.
At the same time the consequences of HIV infection, disclosure, stigma and the burden of care are higher for women than for men.
Shifa vividly highlighted what women go through both as positive people and as care givers.
Shifa highlights the plight of three generations of women.
Theatre Lives On through Social Networks.
Thanks to youtube, facebook and twitter Shifa lives on and is still accessible.
Shirin Abbas a senior journalist who documented every performance was quick to upload Shifa on several networks. Here are some links for you.
Excerpt from the play 1 Link to video: http://youtu.be/d9NjBKT6e8c
Excerpt from the play 2 Link to Video: http://youtu.be/eX8Tx05ePzA
Excerpt from the play 3 Link to video: http://youtu.be/anqLye0WDZ4
Comics by affected children on display Link to video: http://youtu.be/Yk2i50Q8k3o