Besides attending regular classes, about 30 students of Wangbama Central School in Thimphu have been busy practicing a play every evening for the last five months.

The students are practicing ‘Once Upon a Greek Stage,’ a play that would be performed at the first National Drama Festival, 2017 in Thimphu.

The festival, which is organised by the education ministry, begins on August 16 at the Motithang Higher Secondary School and ends on October 4.

Education minister, Norbu Wangchuk, announced the festival at a press conference, yesterday. The festival is also part of the education reform process and aimed to promote holistic education through theatre.

Like Wangbama School, most schools across the country are also busy preparing for the festival, which will feature 50 plays in 50 days.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, said, this is to give renewed focused on wholesome education by organising or promoting theatre productions in schools. The last education conference had decided to promote meaningful and productive dramas in the schools.

“In the last one year, 200 dramas have been produced and enacted in the schools,” Lyonpo said. “What we’re doing now is bringing the 50 best drama productions to exhibit at a national festival.”

Of the 50 dramas, 17 are Shakespeare plays, seven Dzongkha dramas, three self-written and directed drama and 23 other plays.

Two dramas from each districts have been selected, which includes Shakespearean plays like Othello, Merchant of Venice, Wizard of Oz, Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet among others.

Lyonpo said that such movement would bring benefits to students and raise the English and Dzongkha language proficiency including self-confidence while discovering talents and creativity.

“These dramas would compliment the curricular studies of Shakespeare and Namthars apart from providing the platform,” he said. “It is gratifying to announce that 8,000 students from 200 schools have had the opportunity to participate in a year in theatre and drama production.”

The minister said that drama production existed in schools in the 1990s but it gradually disappeared.

The decision to revive this culture in the school started last year with the launch of Shakespeare in syllabus. Most schools today have drama clubs.

All schools were given a chance to participate in this initiative at the dzongkhag level competition. The top two plays were selected to perform at the festival, which will begin at 6pm.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk urged all residents in Thimphu to witness the first kind of festival and encourage the students. No fees will be charged to watch the plays.

The participating schools comprise of about 35 participants from classes IX to XII including teacher escorts. The ministry will provide them food and accommodation, basic light, sound and sets.

Lyonpo said this would not only be the platform to showcase their talents to a new audience, but for some participants, it would be a first time opportunity to visit Thimphu.

The festival, which will host about 1,500 students on a rotation basis would be an annual feature of the education system.

Yangchen C Rinzin