The National School of Drama is one of the foremost theatre training institutions in the world and the only one of its kind in India. It was set up by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1959 as one of its constituent units. In 1975, it became an independent entity and was registered as an autonomous organization under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, fully financed by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The training in the School is highly intensive and is based on a thorough, comprehensive, carefully planned syllabus which covers every aspect of theatre in which theory is related to practice. As a part of their training, students are required to produce plays which are then performed before the public. The syllabus takes into account the methods of great theatre personalities who have shaped contemporary theatre in all its variety. The systematic study and practical performing experience of Sanskrit drama, modern Indian drama, traditional Indian theatre forms, Asian drama and western dramatic protocols gives the students a solid grounding and a wide perspective in the art of theatre.
Besides the training programme which is of 3 years duration, the School has explored new vistas in the areas of children’s theatre and decentralization of theatre training through workshops under the Extension Programme. The School has two performing wings – the Repertory Company and Theatre-in-Education Company. The Repertory Company was started in 1964 with four artistes, namely Shri Ramamurthy, Ms. Meena Williams, Ms. Sudha Shivpuri and Shri Om Shivpuri. The company presented works of various playwrights and directors who have been associated with it from time to time. The objective of the Repertory Company was to provide a platform to the graduates of the School in their academic interest and to perform plays professionally. However, with the passage of time, it became one of NSD’s major institutions, working on contemporary and modern plays and introducing experimental works on a regular basis. Apart from doing productions, it also organises its own Festival in summer, where past and new productions are introduced and staged. It also performs extensively on tours in India and abroad.
The second performing wing ‘Theatre In Education Company’ (Sanskar Rang Toli) was established on October 16, 1989, and is one of the important educational resource centers in the country. TIE Company consists of a group of actor-teachers working with and performing for children. The major focus of TIE Company is to perform creative, curriculum-based and participatory plays in schools, specially designed and prepared for children of different age groups. The major thrust of the plays is to create an atmosphere to encourage children to raise questions, take decisions and make choices with an awareness of themselves within larger society. TIE Company has done more than 800 performances of 26 plays in Delhi and other parts of the country. More than 5.5 lakh children, apart from college students, teachers, parents and theatre lovers, have witnessed these plays.
In addition to these two wings, the School also has an active Extension Programme, a Publication Section and a literary forum named Shruti. The Extension Programme, under which NSD faculty and alumni conduct workshops in various parts of the country, was launched in 1978 and since then has conducted workshops and programmes for adults and children across the country, including some in Nepal, Sikkim, Laddakh and Bhutan as well. The ‘Traditional Theatre Project’ initiated in 1980 has facilitated creative interaction between traditional and contemporary theatre artists on a regular basis. Along with an introduction to theatre, these workshops also seek to develop personality and expand the emotional horizons of the participants.
The Publication Unit of the National School of Drama is responsible for publishing text books on theatre, arranging for the translation of important books on theatre from English into Hindi and bringing out other important books on theatre. The unit’s first major publication titled Rang Yatra which chronicled 25 years history of the NSD Repertory Company from 1964 onwards, came out in 1990. From 1997-2000, the publication unit has brought out 27 publications on drama and related subjects, besides its regular publications.
Initiated as a part of golden jubilee celebrations of India’s independence, the NSD organized the first ever National Theatre Festival of India in 1999 which was named ‘Bharat Rang Mahotsav’. The objective of the festival was to bring creative works from all over India onto a common platform. Bharat Rang Mahotsav is generally held during the second week of January each year.
With a view to popularize theatre in the North-eastern region of the country, a festival of plays titled ‘Poorvottar Natya Samaroh’ was organized for the first time in 2008 at Guwahati. Through this festival NSD showcased several plays from across India in several languages and in several forms. Since then, it has also become a regular feature of the School’s activities and has been organized at Gangtok and Agartala as well.