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 the Sangeet Natak Akademi as one of its constituent units in 1959. 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. Training in the School is highly intensive and is based on a thorough, comprehensive, carefully planned syllabus which covers every aspect of theatre and 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 give the students a solid grounding and a wide perspective in the art of theatre.
Besides its 3-year training programme, the School has also 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 - Shri Ramamurthy, Ms. Meena Williams, Ms. Sudha Shivpuri and Shri Om Shivpuri - with the objective of providing a platform where graduates of the School could perform plays professionally. Over the years it has presented works of various playwrights and directors who have been associated with it and has evolved into one of NSD's major institutions, working on contemporary and modern plays as well as introducing experimental work on a regular basis. In addition to doing productions, it organizes its own Festival, where past and new productions are introduced and staged each summer. NSD’s Repertory Company also tours and performs extensively in India and abroad.
The second performing wing the ‘Theatre-In-Education Company’ (Sanskar Rang Toli) was established in October 16, 1989, and is one of the most important theatre education resource centres in the country. It consists of a group of actor-teachers working with and performing for children. The major focus of the 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 that encourages children to raise questions, take decisions and make choices with an awareness of themselves within the larger social context. The 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, and 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. Besides its regular publications, until 2010 the unit has brought out 82 publications on drama and related subjects.