To India with art

Ricardo Abad, Professor of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Lecturer in Theater Arts, Fine Arts Program, will fly to India after Christmas to begin a five-week stint as International Guest Director at the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi. 

He will supervise the third year batch of students in conducting research on overseas Indian workers in low-end jobs and from this material, devise with them a production that will flesh out migrant experiences of vulnerability and hope. The play will be staged in Hindi. 

Dr. Abad came to the attention of the NSD in 2011 when he gave Indian students a workshop on physical theater as part of the Asia-Pacific Bureau (APB) Festival of Theater Schools held that year in Delhi.  A year later, an invitation came to work with NSD students.  A change in the NSD administration, however, delayed the appointment until early this year when, at the APB conference in Singapore, Dr. Abad met the new NSD Director who renewed the invitation.  

The National School of Drama is an internationally-renowned theater training institution and the only one of its kind in India.  An autonomous government entity fully funded by India’s Ministry of Culture, the school offers a three-year diploma program of intensive training that ranges from traditional theater forms, both Indian and Asian, to modern drama, Indian and western. 


The National School of Drama in New Delhi, India
The National School of Drama in New Delhi, India


Twenty-five students are chosen each year from all over India after rigorous auditions; all 25 are then given scholarships and living expenses to study theater full-time. As part of their training, students are also required to produce plays at the end of each year; third year students do so, however, with an international guest director to guide them. After graduation, many students return to their home villages to use theater as vehicles to strengthen local identities and build community solidarity.

“NSD students are wonderful to work with,” says Abad.  “They are very talented to begin with and their thorough training over the years has honed and disciplined that talent.  The director can skip the basics; you can go deep right away.”   He adds: “what I want to do is to boost their confidence in doing collaborative work and share with them the tasks of gathering data, fashioning a performance text from the data, and visualizing the scenes.” 

Abad is the first Asian invited to serve as international guest director at the NSD.  His stay is all the more personal as he comes to connect more strongly with his Indian roots.  His grandfather, an Indian merchant in Manila, hails from Calcutta and his mother is half-Indian.