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Brooklyn Drama Series Creates Modern Pen Pals with a School in Rural India

 Young students from Pardada-Pardadi Educational Society in rural Uttar Pradesh.
Young students from Pardada-Pardadi Educational Society in rural Uttar Pradesh.
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The Other Side

COBBLE HILL — Anupshahar is a small town in north India, more than 7,000 miles away from New York City.

The distance, however, isn’t keeping the kids apart.

Listen,” an after-school drama program for elementary school girls, is connecting New York students with an all-girls school in India, creating a space for them to communicate across cultures.

The 10-week program, which begins Sept. 18, will form modern-day pen pals as the students in both countries share weekly videos, talking about their hobbies, pastimes, hopes and dreams.

“It’s really a place for girls to be themselves,” said Melanie Closs, founder and director of “The Other Side,” the organization hosting the program.

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The Other Side

The girls in India will also be telling their stories in English or Hindi, India’s national language, through video, which will be uploaded onto a private website.

In 2010, Closs visited Pardada Pardadi Educational Society, the school in Uttar Pradesh — one of India’s poorest states — and later returned in March to start an official drama program, which she continues to support.

This is the first time that Closs, who lives in Brooklyn Heights and has taught drama and music for a decade, will conduct “Listen” as an after-school series for fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls.

The weekly program, which will be held at the Moxie Spot at 81 Atlantic Ave., will lead girls through drama and music activities, while focusing on Theater of the Oppressed, “a technique of doing theater that addresses social issues in participants' lives, and gives them a vehicle to rehearse possible action to make a change,” according to the program’s website.

The girls will create and perform skits based on their own stories while discussing issues like gender, identity, bullying, social media and “what it means to be a girl,” said Closs. 

“A lot of stories are centered around confidence,” she said.

Visiting artists will also teach classes during the fall program, including sessions on songwriting, dance movement and cartooning.

On its last day, Listen will host a final performance and a raffle for handmade items from the Indian school like handbags, pillowcases, tablecloths and blankets, said Closs, who hopes to raise funds for both The Other Side and Pardada-Pardadi Educational Society.

Through theater, Closs hopes to build confidence and leadership skills in the girls, whether in New York or India, while allowing them to share and communicate across cultures. 

“Drama fits perfectly with that,” she said.

For more information on “Listen,” email theothersidenyc@gmail.com or visit this website.