Past Programs

Mad Hatter’s Tea Parties

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cheshire Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderful

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Parties began as a space for people to shed their inhibitions and let their hair down. There is much within ourselves that is harmless, and yet, must be discarded for propriety’s sake. At these parties, however, people were allowed to be as ‘crazy’ as they wanted to be. With costumes, props, party caps and copious amounts of tea, our party goers were able to experience an alternate universe, a safe space where they could be their own authentic selves. The parties were characterised by conversations galore, cathartic moments, shedding of some tears too – and everyone leaving with a renewed sense of their inner child and a fresh perspective on ‘madness’.

Merchants of Madness, Pune 2017

In 2017, The Red Door joined forces with Orchestrated Q’Works, a community theatre and live art collective based in Pune, with the objective of using drama and performance arts-based techniques to address mental health and wellbeing. Bolstered by a seed grant from AWID- Association for Women’s Rights in Development, The Merchants of Madness Community Theatre Workshop was born. 

The residential workshop unfolded over the course of 7 days at The Gud Mud, Pune. The crux of the workshop was a theatrical interpretation of TRD Founder Reshma Valliappan’s thesis which was written in the form of a three-act play. The acts comprise of a series of conversations between the character of the schizophrenic and an archetypal being embodied, in turns, by Shakespeare, Goddess Kali and an imaginary friend. The conversations address the topics of mental health, schizophrenia, hearing voices, psychosis, imaginary friends, nudity and identity, among others. 

The idea was to allow participants to delve into the themes and characters through the methodology of process-based community drama. The process involved collecting stories of real-life mental health struggles and absorbing their essence to then devise performances using props, dance movement, visual arts, expressive arts, and facilitation skills. The residential aspect of the workshop was designed to foster a sense of community and belonging, bound by a collective immersion into difficult emotional states and the many facets of ‘madness’. 

Merchants of Madness, Delhi 2018

The Merchants Of Madness Festival (MM), Delhi was organised by The Red Door in collaboration with the Bhor Foundation in Delhi. 

The Festival of Madness was conceptualised with the intent of sparking a counter discourse to challenge how we understand and relate to mental illness. By inviting diverse individuals (including those who have received mental health services and those who have not) to speak openly about their experiences with madness, depression, anxiety and mental health, the Festival sought to normalize and reclaim the term ‘madness’. 

The objective was to advocate for a more positive connotation of the term ‘madness’ to draw away the stigma from those who receive mental health services. A two-day event at AntiSocial, Hauz Khas, the Festival comprised of film-screenings, panel discussions, open mic, an art workshop by Bengaluru based artist, Sonaksha Iyengar, and the performance of ‘Irada Kuch Aur Tha’, a play by Juhi Jha. Other events included a book launch of ‘The Reclamation Song’, a collection of poems by Jhilmil Breckenridge, the founder of Bhor, a skit by Skii the Mime (Reshma Valliappan’s alter ego) and a message by disability activist Nidhi Goyal. Experiential exercises were conducted to facilitate a stepping into each other’s realities, thereby evoking empathy.

The Festival was supported by Mariwala Health Initiative, Sangath, It’s Ok To Talk, CREA & Cello.