December 2014 We love listening to stories of an underdog making it big through grit and determination. Walter Peter’s tale is the same, minus the glitter. Peter, a theatre artist, has dedicated his life to affecting change in society through his Theatre in Education initiative (TIE). Born in the slums of Delhi, he was your average Joe who hated attending school because of his teachers’ apathetic attitude. Walter Peter : Empowering children through theatre However, a summer stint at the National School of Drama (NSD) at age 16, converted him from a shy, introverted boy into a confident young lad with dreamy eyes. “Theatre gives you wings. Dance, drama, poetry – they bring out your latent skills, boost your confidence, give you an identity, and a sense of self-ownership,” he says, tracing his own life trajectory. Empowered with his newly found confidence, Peter decided to expose other children to the wonders of theatre. “Our education system has burdened children with theoretical knowledge. There is no room for self-discovery. I want them to break free of the imposed shackles and experience the joy of life. I want them to develop skills that make them well-rounded individuals,” shares Peter. He works with NGOs, as well as public and government schools across the country, after moving out of NSD in 2002.He involves children in every aspect of a play, from writing, to making the stage, gathering the props, arranging music and lights, to finally performing. Based in Ahmedabad, Peter has worked for ‘Theatre for Development’ in association with CRY in Kashmir, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, and Western Uttar Pradesh. Peter has also worked with scores of tribal and under-privileged children in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. His biggest achievement, he says, is his collection of hundreds of gratitude letters from children, whose lives he touched through his plays. Certainly, a legacy to be proud of!
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