Rachael MacBean, who is an artist, author, film maker, researcher and instructional designer, launched Rachael’s Little Theatre in 1984 which specialises in CEET- Communication, Entertainment, Education and Therapy through the arts.
Rachael MacBean’s objective is to revive, promote and sustain the traditional folk artists of West Bengal who hold the key to a powerful yet dying art of puppetry. Rachael aims to do this through innovative reconstructions of ancient traditions into contemporary forms. Each of Rachael’s 900 designer puppets is her own creation. Her work inspires her team to embrace a variety of skills and art forms, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of India and raise awareness on a variety of issues. Rachael MacBean’s dedication to the art and the artiste was evident in the unanimous applause she received from her audience comprising of both the young and the not so young.
“Anandashru”, a series of Joy Therapy programs with Puppets, sponsored and funded by The Ministry of Culture, Government of India was recently presented by Rachael MacBean. These series of Joy Therapy Programs were targeted at children with special needs and young adults associated with such children in a unique and delightful manner. They were performed in Kolkata and a few districts of West Bengal. Joy Therapy helps re-discover strengths, balance stress levels, instill courage and help to cope with individual psychological or physical difficulties. Each program catered to its specific target audience, which included communities from BPL sector, bustee children, mentally and physically challenged children, children in hospitals (HIV Aids and Cancer victims) and sex workers’ children.
The planned show of 90 minutes was often extended by 30 more minutes by popular demand through ecstatic participation by the children, holding the audiences spellbound with their delightful puppets and lively musical accompaniment. The program combined traditional and contemporary performing arts through reinvented stories, puppet skits, sing-along sessions with rewards for the most active participants.
Two inaugural programs were held for two target groups at the Cancer Welfare Home & Research Centre, Thakurpukur (one in the auditorium and the other in the children’s ward for the disabled). The other set of programs were held at the premises of schools and NGOs catering to such special children, which included Loreto Day School, Sealdah, where Sr. Cyril (Padmashree awardee) organised two groups of over 200 children from her Rainbow Scheme, 4 shows at Apeejay Anand Children’s Library in Salt Lake and Park Street (for bustee children, street children and physically challenged children), underprivileged children and their caregivers at the Kolkata Hope Foundation, and finally six mobile programs (on cycle carts) in the rural Districts of South 24 Parganas.
The performance, spearheaded by MacBean, included a team of committed professionals and traditional puppeteers who have remained in the core group since its inception. Among them is Kalyan Banerjee with his enchanting music, Md. Khalid with his free-style fusion of magic and puppets, Ganesh Ghoroi, the artiste from Tamluk, Sunil Adak, harbola, and Guest Performer Jagabandhu Singh with his tarer putul (marionettes) from Nadia District of West Bengal, along with several traditional puppeteers from Tamluk District of WB.
Anandashru gave way to “Billoo Raja”, a musical performed by puppets. This was a display of the exclusive RLT Designer Puppets which were skillfully hand-crafted and aesthetically represented in a musical extravaganza for everyone. “Billoo Raja” juxtaposed the two distinct cultures of Bengal and China in a delightful comedy, which had symbolic undertones of life itself. “Billoo Raja” threw light on a variety of issues like ecological conservation, inter-state understanding, mistaken precepts of beauty and multi-cultural integration. The play finally turned to an unexpected alliance between two of Asia’s most ancient cultures, Indian and Chinese, through matrimony.
The event was sponsored by Sangeet Natak Akademi, National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama, (an autonomous body of the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India). The duration of this humorous dramatic puppet fantasy was 60 minutes, which was well appreciated by all.