The humanities drive communities: SAPP tells us how

St Andrew’s Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts (SAPP) ambles through the alleys of arts, literature and philosophy, breaks the bread of notions and conventions, and sips the wine of reflections and introspection; nudging the mind and serving as catharsis for the soul.

A still from the play Voices in the Dark at SAPP
A still from the play Voices in the Dark

Cultures are similar yet different. Birthing, worship, puberty, procreation and death occur in all cultures; but their fabric of emotion and execution differ — a case in point of differentiated similitude. Over the centuries, these differences called for vulnerability and one-up humaneness without realising that it was co-operation across these very differences that drove communities and life itself. The humanities incorporate these cultural differences into the structure of teaching, learning and thinking. Today, as we get blinded by competition, we need discovery, imagination, understanding and emotional intelligence more than ever to move beyond polarised opinions and empathise with the global ‘we’. Here is where SAPP comes in — to connect people to their senses and human roots, cherish creativity, and spur thinking and engagement to approach contemporary issues.

A talk on Symbols, Religion and Everyday Life by Robert Schmidt
A talk on Symbols, Religion and Everyday Life by Robert Schmidt

Nestled amidst the exuberant environs of St Andrew’s College campus at Bandra, Mumbai, SAPP is a space — the first of its kind in the city — where academicians, research scholars, students, culture enthusiasts, artistes and community members work in a collaborative environment to create rich, engaged learning and teaching experiences in the fields of Art, Literature and Performing Arts.

The birth of SAPP is an interesting story that goes back to the concept of a Summer School at St Andrew’s College. Every year, Fr Magi Murzello runs specialized courses in French language, cookery, baking, etc. This year, he approached me to incorporate a few courses that were ‘different’. It barely took a few minutes of conversation for the two of us to decide that Philosophy and Theatre Writing was the way to go.

A workshop on  Self-Expression by Abhishek Banerji
A workshop on self-expression by Abhishek Banerji

In retrospect, these were fairly ambitious courses for a Summer School programme but registrations started coming in instantly. Veteran theatre-wallas and philosophy enthusiasts loved the idea of a Summer School for Theatre Writing and Western Philosophy. Participants poured in from diverse backgrounds and age groups. Both courses were phenomenal experiences and soon the participants were looking forward to the next course. But what would be the next course? Summer School was supposed to be held only over the months of May and June.

In the light of the highly positive feedback received, the visionary in Fr Magi decided that restricting these courses to Summer School was not enough. Suburban Mumbai deserved more. Thus, SAPP — St Andrew’s Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts — was born in July 2018. Today, it is possibly the only centre in the city which deals with niche courses such as Mysticism, Women and Poetry, Existentialism and Beyond, Theatre and Writing, and Ancient Greek Tragedies. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, SAPP host play performances, tickets for which can be bought from their website (sappmumbai.com) and Bookmyshow.

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Dr Omkar Bhatkar

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Dr Omkar Bhatkar

Dr Omkar Bhatkar is a playwright, poet and painter. He is the founder of Metamorphosis Theatre Inc., and a visiting faculty at Department of Mass Media Studies, St Andrew’s College.