Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Setting the Stage for a Dream Theatre

S.ANANDAN

Chandradasan plans to set up a flexible performance space with state-of-the-art acoustics and seating for less than 200 spectators
No amount of heckling can dissuade the truly motivated from chasing their dream.
Chandradasan, artistic director of theatre collective Lokadharmi has demonstrated it beyond doubt. As government institutions that ought to create dedicated performance spaces in the city looked the other way, he refused to cringe into whining mode.
Taking a bold step, he raised Rs.1 crore by selling about 6.5 cents of land with a house at Vyttila and spent nearly half of it to buy 26 cents of land at Manattuparambu, near Naryarambalam, some 11 km from Marine Drive, to construct a ‘Centre for Theatre Research, Training and Performance’.
Dreams, after all, are solitary walks.
A ballpark figure of Rs.3 crore is what he estimates the centre to cost, hoping to raise the outstanding sum through crowd-funding, corporate donations, individual patronage and as grant from government agencies and other institutions. Ved Segan, renowned architect of Mumbai’s Prithvi theatre, visited the property and held discussions with the architects of the project.
 “Theatre productions are perfected over a few performances, but thanks to paucity of quality spaces, we don’t have regular staging of plays,” he rues.
The centre he plans to set up will have a flexible performance space with state-of-the-art acoustics and seating for less than 200 spectators. It will be ideal for theatre workshops and collaborative productions. Given the potential of such a project, the Tourism Department could bring interested tourists to spend an evening for a performance here. A la cinemas, the same production could be staged here for days or months together.
It could also be used for other art performances and even screening of parallel cinema.
Mr. Chandradasan also wants to set up a theatre library, physical and digital, on the premises. Young playwrights could take up writing residency. Theatre badly needs fresh plays, he says.
The plan is to complete the first phase in a year’s time, with the remaining being gradually built. “For now, there’s an urgent need for storage space to keep Lokadharmi’s costumes and theatre properties,” he says.

 “Wannabe actors call me everyday to see if I will organise acting workshops. Such a centre, in a quiet place but within a radius of about 11 km from all major points around the city, would make it possible,” says the professor, all eager to live his dream.

Courtesy - The Hindu Kochi, 21 September 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Shakespeare is out in the park again.

Shakespeare in Laurelhurst park Portland– Original Shakespeare Practice preformed The taming and the shrew and Romeo and Juliet. Also saw the last scene of the Taming of the Shrew by the Portland Actors ensemble in another corner of the park.
Performing Shakespeare ‘free’ out in the park mostly in the summer daylight seems a common practice in US. I have seen it in San Diego, New York, Seattle and again here in Portland. At Laurelhurst Park there were two performances of 'The Taming of the Shrew' by Shakespeare, performed by two companies almost at the same time. ‘The Original Practice Shakespeare’ performed the play as it was supposed to be in the times of Shakespeare, with the actors improvising impromptu the movements, diction and the performance itself, referring and reading their lines and the cue from the scrolls of in their hands; while the prompter with the whole text and a whistle was sitting on the stage, helping the actors and interfering, taking the show forward. At the same time the Portland Actors Ensemble performed the same play as we do it now; with proper rehearsals. Later in the evening The Original Practise Shakespeare performed Romeo and Juliet in the same typical ‘Original Shakespearean Practice’.

Shakespeare's plays were first performed with lots of preparation, energy and audience interaction but with limited rehearsals. Not every Elizabethan actor had a full printed script and sometimes actors put on a dozen shows in a fortnight, so performers used onstage cues, lightning-fast improvisation and other tricks to tackle the plays live. First Folio editions of Shakespeare's plays include all the cues an actor needs to perform his role without rehearsal. This allows the truest reaction to the story as it progresses.

“OPS Fest performs using the same techniques as they did in Shakespeare's own time, which means limited rehearsal; an onstage prompter; fast paced, energetic acting; and lots of audience interaction. This lends a much more immediate, organic and improvisational feel to the performances. We perform the way Shakespeare's own actors did, in the open air, in natural light, with minimal sets, and with great, fast-paced, energetic acting and lots of audience interaction!
…. Shakespeare's actors performed ten to twelve different plays in any fortnight, and never performed the same play on two consecutive days. If a play was a hit it might return three times within a month; but meanwhile, to fill the theater, there had to be a different play performed every day…. When in the world could they have rehearsed all these plays?”

The answer, we think, is that they did not. They prepared their "roles" (rolled cue scripts) on their own time, met together on the morning of a show, choreographed fights and music and dance, and performed that afternoon. By all accounts, the performances were magnificent— otherwise, the plays would not have survived.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, we trust Shakespeare's texts to provide all the information we need to play well. We know that his actors were far more like our professional athletes than like our actors: they knew the rules and were virtuosos at PLAYING, whatever the situation of the moment. Audiences had to be lured from the bear-baiting and brothels down the street; Shakespeare wrote fun, bawdy, outrageous popular entertainments for the masses (that also happen to have astounding poetry), and the masses came to participate in every play--. When we play Shakespeare, we play. (From the website of Original Practice Shakespeare)
It is clear that the OPS actors have been well trained in the rules of the game, to make quick impro, convert even a folly into an entertaining moment by sheer austerity and presence of mind. The improvised interactions between the prompter (he is the master performer with his questions to the actors in between, breaking the show, interfering, commenting etc.) and the other actors give a special air and meaning to the whole show. For example he stopped the actors and asked them to suggest a proper name for a Broadway musical to be produced based on Taming of the Shrew… The actors came with different suggestions and finally they agreed on a title ‘Changing of the Girls, Kissing the Cake’! Such interactions elicits the ingenuity of the actor and the audience alike and also link the show to the present day reality, and the audience start to understand the meaning of the play from a contemporary experience. A truly Brechtian approach itself. (The prompter and his interactions reminded me of the Chodyakkaran of Porattunadakam...). The actors used the whole available area, moving among the audience and around – no illusion of a fourth wall, and it elicits a non-linear viewing from the audience. The most important aspects of the show were the narration of the story, the impro-verish performance of the actor and his/her wit, the quick takes on and off the story, the participation of the audience (e.g. by a collective roaring when the actor speak the line, ‘the lions roar’). Along with the grandeur writing of Shakespeare fusing poetry and philosophy into a social critic, the actor’s impromptu performance takes the show ahead, with the collaboration of the audience who are compelled to be open and transparent. The double meaning and the pun hinted by Shakespeare become more evident in this performance, and the actors were naughty and mischievous to play with the lines of the bard and enthuse wit and entertainment by improvising and extending the lines with their gesture, movement and body. (At one juncture of the show, the poetry written by Shakespeare was made to sing as a rap as demanded by the prompter.) The audience makes sound, replies, eats and drinks and is at the same time immersed in the entertainment.

The text of in the Taming of the Shrew extracts laughter from the tactics to tame an unyielding lady to an obedient wife, which is quite a chauvinistic and regressive laughter; in performance it got subverted and the laughter seem to be springing from the prangs of the man in his attempt to tame the lady for grabbing the big dowry offered.

Romeo and Juliet was later performed in the same style by OPS. But as the performance started rain poured down; audience sat through the rain, hiding themselves in umbrellas, polythene covers (distributed by the OPS) and partly wet. The actors performed out in the rain; trying to overpower the sound and wrath of the rain with their energy, passion and determination. Many of the lines went wet and did not reach, but the show went on. When the rain subsided there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky; one of the actors who was off-stage came to me, pointed the rainbow and suggested that I can shoot a picture of the play under it. Under the rainbow, Romeo and Juliet were expressing their love and passion. Great to see the couple romancing under an evening rainbow out in an open park! Earlier in Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio and Katherina were arguing whether it is the sun or moon they see in the sky, pointing to the bright sun. When I looked up I could see a dwindling moon also there. 
And when the last tragic death scenes of Juliet and Romeo came, it was stark dark!! 
The charms of Shakespeare being out in nature!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Betty Bernhard Departed

Bernhard_Betty-300

After playing an illustrious career as a theatre director, teacher and mentor, Dr. Betty Bernhard passed away on 21st of March 2015. I am still not out of the shock this news gave me. Her sister told me that she was hearing Indian Music and had the scarf that I brought from India besides her in the last moments …

She was known to me from 1996, when she came first to Kochi and directed Roosters with Living Theatre. I have been closely observing her process of play making and rehearsals, and helped her wherever she wanted. And we met again and again as she frequented India looking for Indian traditional and classical theatre as well as to meet and interact with theatre activists in India. She was instrumental in getting me to Pomona College Claremont, as my host institution for the Fulbright Fellowship as my faculty associate here, in the research I am currently engaged.

leonardo, me, betty and Brian Borphy

She was working as a Professor of Theatre at Pomona College, Claremont California USA, since 1984. She was an expert in Acting, Directing; Contemporary Women Playwrights; American Theatre; Devised Theatre; theatre for social change etc. Bhavai the Folk Theatre of Gujarat, and the works of Women Theatre Activists of India were also in her academic and artistic concerns. She kept linked with activist theatre and Theatre for social change, theatre of the oppressed and community theatre all around America and India. Bernhard has researched political theatre, taught as a Fulbright Fellow and made documentaries in India since 1990.

She writes, “Focusing on India, I am interested in how theatre shapes and is shaped by society, particularly the marginalized groups and people in transitional situations such as immigration. Most recently, I completed a feature documentary on ways that Women Theatre Activists of India use theatre as a means to bring about social and cultural change. Many of the older women worked in the Gandhi “Quit India” movement against the British, using theatre as their means. I directed three plays in India and two classical Indian plays at Pomona College. I have also studied with Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed: Theatre for Social Change. I have produced four documentaries and a CD-ROM on Indian folk, classic and political theatre.”

he-she-it-300

“In all her work, Betty was an outspoken champion for theatre by, about, and for women, minorities and other underrepresented groups,” writes Theatre Department chair James Taylor. “We will always remember Betty for her strength and sense of purpose, her goodwill and generosity of spirit, and her passionate love for the art form that we all share.”

She has produced more than 60 productions at Pomona College and in India, including two fully produced Sanskrit plays in English. They Include Sakuntalam, Mruchakadikam (The little Clay Cart) as well as other politically minded plays like Kindertransport, The Three penny Opera, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and A Piece of My Heart among many others. She choose plays written by women playwrights and plays that were speaking of subjects which were barely spoken off. Her last play was “In the next room or the vibrator play” written by Sarah Ruhl which was premiered on the 06th of this March at Pomona College.

in-the-next-room-large

IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY

In The next Room or the Vibrator Play turns out to be the last play Betty directed. The play takes place in the 1880’s when electricity is discovered and electric bulbs were coming into existence. The other first use of electricity other than bulbs that illuminated was to develop vibrators that enabled doctors to use ‘vibrator therapies’ on their female patients to bring to orgasm as a medical treatment to treat their so-called 'hysteria' a real diagnosis, and a quite common to women in the Victorian age.

The text has other layers and themes including Victorian ignorance of female sexual desire, motherhood, breastfeeding, and jealousy. Betty used this play to speak about frustration of women whose husbands are not at all aware of their sexual needs, and to establish sex as the natural right of women.

in the next room or the vibrator play

The vibrator play is a provocative, evocative and funny about a young doctor and his wife. Dr. Givings is obsessed with the marvels of technology and what they can do for his patients. His wife, Catherine, is only a bystander in her husband's world - listening at the door from the next room as he treats his female patients. The only woman whose problem is not helped by the doctor is his own wife who longs to connect with him - but not electrically.

Both Sabrina Daldry, the patient of Dr.Givings and Catherine Givings are sexually frustrated with their husbands, who creep quietly into their beds at night and only use the missionary position, which they endure but do not enjoy. Both are excited to have their first orgasms with the vibrator machine. Mrs. Daldry is content to continue having clinical treatments with the machine and suffer lifeless, boring sex with her own husband. When Mrs. Givings’s wet nurse, Elizabeth suggests that the feelings they undergo with the machine are the same ones some women experience in bed with their husbands, they responded with stupefied silence…

the vibrator pay

Catherine Givings wants more. Catherine convinces Dr. Givings to make naked snow angels with her and discovers the woman on top sex position, allowing her at last sexual satisfaction while the play ends.

Betty did handle this play quite openly and boldly. She could convincingly portray the situations in the play with pungency and also at times with riotous humour. One of the most hilarious moments in the play was when the electric power is gone amidst of the treatment. Quite innocently the nurse asks the doctor whether she shall try the ‘manual’ way and the doctor agrees … The nurse go ahead manually and brings out the orgasm!!

The writing as well as the performance looked authentic (of course a lot of research work and original thinking has gone into this work) and more than that honest. Application of that electrified wand in the doctor’s hand resulted in shuddering moans, guttural cries and exhortations but it stroked at the real spot.

vibrator play

The ideas underpinning the play, about the fundamental lack of sympathy between men and women of the period, and the dubious scientific theories that sometimes reinforced women’s subjugation, are grim. “In the Next Room” illuminates how much control men had over women’s lives, bodies and thoughts, even their most intimate sensations.

The set consisted of a parlour and consulting room of Dr. Givings, divided by a wall and door; which was dismantled at the end of the play to be converted into an open landscape where snow falls down for the couple to undress and go for a coitus of real orgasm.

The costumes with the corset, the form-disfiguring gown and the petticoats was also speaking about the suppression/manipulation/characterisation/viewing of the female body by the Victorian orthodoxy. (The costumes, by David Zinn, are both lushly pretty and witty in their elaborate construction.)

HE SHE IT (the play) and OUT! LOUD ! (the documentary film)

Betty had been travelling to India many times and had deep-rooted relationship with the practice and practitioners of Indian theatre. She had a profound interest in the aesthetics and practice modes of traditional Indian theatre, both the folk and classical heritage as well as in contemporary Indian theatre. She was specially connected to the female theatre practitioners and their work, and of course to the political theatre as well.

Betty with the  cast of vibrator play

She was also interested in the gender and trans-gender issues and performances associated with. She made an outstanding documentary film named ‘Out Loud’ about the lives of contemporary Indian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and trans-sexual young people and the representations of LGBT in sacred Indian texts. Betty says "this is a documentary that draws parallels between the present with ancient and sacred Indian stories, such as the Puranas and the Mahabharata, wherein representations of homosexuality, bi-sexuality, lesbianism, transgender and trans-sexual activity are clearly described. It shows the lives of contemporary LGBT persons in Pune, India, as they devise a play He She It. The film is comprised of interviews of the actors, clips from rehearsals and final production." The play He She It, an original play devised by the theatre company Pune is based on the true stories of the actors in the play and ancient Indian spiritual literature, such as the Puranas and the Mahabharata. The participants discuss their stories of sexual discovery, community responses to their sexuality and their struggle for self-acceptance. One individual elects castration, one becomes a sex worker, some are kidnapped and raped, and others are punished by their parents and subjected to shock treatments to “cure” homosexuality. Their stories are interspersed with clips from play rehearsals and the final production in the film. Bernhard says her aim is to show that LGBT is not an imported Western idea, but has always been present in India.

16852861937_8ea09f7975_b

The mark Betty Left in Indian theatre in India and in California will remain in the memories of the people who were lucky to work with her, interact and share the performances. She was instrumental in connecting the West to the East, the classical to the contemporary, and aesthetics with the political. She dared to cut across the safe paths and dreamed new and dangerous projects.

For me, she was one of the motivations and reasons to pursue the Fulbright Fellowship, and her absence is leaving a vacuum. One of the dreams she shared in our last meeting was that she wanted to produce and co-direct Bhagavadajjukam with me in Los Angeles.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Metawards and Kerala Theatre

 

 

 

 KARNNABHARAM- LOKADHARMI - CHANDRADASAN (10)

 Spinal_Cord_-_2009_Scenography&_Direction_Deepan_Sivaraman._Produced_by_Oxygen_Theatre_Company_Kerala

mathi_1644670f

In the history of Ten years of Meta (Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards) which is undoubtedly the best recognition in Indian theatre, three Malayalam plays had bagged the best play award. Karnnabharam (2008 -Lokadharmi Theatre Kochi, INDIA, -Chandradasan); Spinal Cord (2010 - OxygenTheatre Kerala - Deepan Sivaraman ) and now Matthi (2015 - Malayala kalanilayam - Jino Joseph). Also productions of Kizhavanum Kadalum Sasidharan Naduvil), Macbeth Jyothish Mg), Moments Just Before Death (Liju Krishna), After The silence (Martin John Chalissery) has won accolades for direction, acting, scenic designing, lighting design etc.
It is great to see that KeralaTheatre is really going high.... I am proud and happy to be part of this.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

World Theatre Day Message 2015 –from the Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski.

 

0019

The true masters of the theater are most easily found far from the stage. And they generally have no interest in theater as a machine for replicating conventions and reproducing clichés. They search out the pulsing source, the living currents that tend to bypass performance halls and the throngs of people bent on copying some world or another. We copy instead of create worlds that are focused or even reliant on debate with an audience, on emotions that swell below the surface. And actually there is nothing that can reveal hidden passions better than the theater.

Most often I turn to prose for guidance. Day in and day out I find myself thinking about writers who nearly one hundred years ago described prophetically but also restrainedly the decline of the European gods, the twilight that plunged our civilization into a darkness that has yet to be illumined. I am thinking of Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust. Today I would also count John Maxwell Coetzee among that group of prophets.

Apolonia dir .Warlikowski Their common sense of the inevitable end of the world—not of the planet but of the model of human relations—and of social order and upheaval, is poignantly current for us here and now. For us who live after the end of the world. Who live in the face of crimes and conflicts that daily flare in new places faster even than the ubiquitous media can keep up. These fires quickly grow boring and vanish from the press reports, never to return. And we feel helpless, horrified and hemmed in. We are no longer able to build towers, and the walls we stubbornly construct do not protect us from anything—on the contrary, they themselves demand protection and care that consumes a great part of our life energy. We no longer have the strength to try and glimpse what lies beyond the gate, behind the wall. And that’s exactly why theater should exist and where it should seek its strength. To peek inside where looking is forbidden.

“The legend seeks to explain what cannot be explained. Because it is grounded in truth, it must end in the inexplicable”—this is how Kafka described the transformation of the Prometheus legend. aI feel strongly that the same words should describe the theater. And it is that kind of theater, one which grounded in truth and which finds its end in the inexplicable that I wish for all its workers, those on the stage and those in the audience, and I wish that with all my heart.

KRZYSZTOF WARLIKOWSKI, is a Polish theatre director, creator and artistic director of Nowy Teatr (New Theatre) in Warsaw.

Cleansed ..dir Warlikowski Krzysztof Warlikowski born in Szczecin in 1962, has established himself on the cutting edge of contemporary theater. A distinguished director with over 30 productions to his credit, including no fewer than 11 stagings of Shakespeare's plays for both Polish and foreign theatres, Warlikowski has worked with Peter Brook, Ingmar Bergman, Giorgio Strehler, and Krystian Lupa, and has directed throughout Poland, France, Italy, and Germany.

Warlikowski studied history, Romance languages and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. In 1983 he left Poland and spent most of the ensuing years in Paris, where he attended a seminar on Classical theatre at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and studied philosophy and French language and literature at the Sorbonne. In 1989 he returned to Poland to study at the Theatre Academy in Krakow.

He has a versatile body of work - from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, The Winter's Tale, and Hamlet; to Sophocles' Electra and Euripides' The Phoenicians and The Bacchae; to Verdi's Don Carlos. He is best known for his staging of modern plays, including Franz Kafka's The Trial and Bernard-Marie Koltès' Roberto Zucco and Quai Ouest. His 2002 production of Sarah Kane's Cleansed at the Festival d'Avignon and the Festival de Théâtre des Amériques in Montreal received wide acclaim. Among his most famous productions are also The Dybbuk after S. An-ski and Hanna Krall which was presented at BAM's 2004 Next Wave Festival, and Hanoch Levin's Krum which was presented at BAM in 2007. Both of these productions premiered at TR Warszawa, the theater he collaborated with from 1999 until 2007.In 2007 he returned to the Festival d'Avignon directing Tony Kushner's Angels in America with TR Warszawa.

Un Tramway based on A streetcarnamed Desire A separate field of Warlikowski's work involves opera including collaborations with Warsaw's Teatr Wielki (Poland's National Opera) and the Paris National Opera. He will soon direct at the New York City Opera.

He has for years been working with the same group of artists, including set designer Malgorzata Szczesniak and composer Pawel Mykietyn.

Krzysztof Warlikowski is a winner of numerous awards, including "Polityka" Weekly's Passport for 2002 "for not only his achievements of the last season, but above all for restoring belief in the artistic and ethical mission of theatre", Golden Yorick award of the Theatrum Gedanense Foundation for the best Shakespeare production (2003), Konrad Laurels and the Award of the French Theatre Critics' Union, both in 2003 for TR Warszawa's production of Sarah Kane's Cleansed, judged to be the best foreign language production to be presented in France during the 2002/03 season. He was honored by the Theatre Critics' Section of the Polish branch of the International Theatre Institute for popularizing Polish theatrical culture abroad. In 2004 he received the French title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et de Lettres and the Diploma of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland for his distinguished service to Poland abroad. In 2006 he received the prestigious Meyerhold Award in Moscow, and in April 2008, the X Europe Prize "New Theatrical Realities" in Thessaloniki, Greece. In May 2008 New York's Village Voice gave Warlikowski its Obie Award for the direction of Krum by Hanoch Levin, presented by TR Warszawa at BAM's 25th Next Wave Festival.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Egle & Cleopatra @ Ekaharya Fest

ekaharya 1 Agleyum Cleopatrayum (Egle and Cleopatra) by Lokadharmi Performed by Pooja Mohanraj, written designed and directed by Chandradasan was performed in Ekaharya Festival at Tripunithura on 27th December 2014.

Agleyum Cleopatrayum (Egle & Cleopatra), is inspired from the folk myth of Egle from Lithuania and William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The experience of the two characters Cleopatra and Egle are entwined together to probe into the different manifestations of love. Both Cleopatra and Egle were victims of Love; love with different facades and connotations. The experiences of these two characters from two different cultures times and spaces are reconnoitered so as to extrapolate and explore the contemporary female experience.

The love of Cleopatra the Queen of Egypt, seems to contain a venomous strain. Cleopatra, ‘the charming serpent of Nile’ remain a mystery; she cleverly uses the unparalleled sensuality of her body to make men kneel at her whims and fancies. Here love is highly sensual with ecstasies of physicality, wild streams of fantasy and extreme romanticism.

ekaharya 2 Why Cleopatra fell in love with all those men - from Caesar to  Antony - who came across her? Was Cleopatra a sexual maniac with infinite shades of lust? She identifies love as the ‘most delicious poison’, as ‘an excellent falsehood’ or a ‘riotous madness’. It seems that the love act of Cleopatra is not merely to satisfy her carnal instincts, but also is a defense mechanism to protect her country from enemies and invaders and colonizers. Cleopatra uses her unmatched talents and perspicacity in the art of love to conquer the conqueror. She calls herself as ‘Egypt’ and her desire is to be buried in the mud and waters of Egypt than taken to the royal courts of Rome; this reinforces that her act of love may be a political armor to defeat the invader. There is no escape for the invader from this enchanting queen, and her infinite scheme of seductions. But the tragedy is that in the end Cleopatra herself falls as the victim of her own prangs of passion, and emotional ecstasies. The hunt and prey merges to be one; and as always the ultimate loser is Cleopatra, the female.

ekaharya 3 (2) On the contrary Egle the mythical character from Lithuania, who is forced to marry a snake is a simple farmer girl with all the innocence of a forest breeze. She had no choice to make, but marry Zilvinas, the serpent prince and go to his amber castle beneath the sea. She adapted herself to this alien environment and started living there happily. After few years she endeavors to visit her home to meet her folks. The condition to Zilvinas was that she shall not reveal the name of her husband; she should come to the sea and call his name to return to their abode. If he is alive ‘may the sea foam milk, if dead may the sea foam blood.’ But as she returns, he comes as a stream of blood, a sign that her promise had been broken. Brothers have got his name from the youngest child and they killed him to ‘save her from the clutches of a snake and save the family honor. Engulfed in inexplicable outpour of emotion which empowers her, she transforms herself into a deep rooted evergreen fir tree, instead of returning with her folk.

This performance do not narrate the whole story but is trying to portray the emotional experiences and ecstasies of both Cleopatra and Egle at three crucial situations each. Scenes chosen from Cleopatra’s story are the parting of Antony from her, her response to Antony’s marriage with Octavia and the final moments when she discerns about Antony’s death and her suicide. Egle scenes are the forceful acceptance of Zilvinas as her husband and travelling to the castle beneath the sea, her loneliness and desire to visit her parents and the journey back, and finally where she realizes the sad death of Zilvinas and her transforming into the fir tree.

ekaharya 3 The tormenting experience of these two characters are performed by a single actor to create a physical theatre charged with emotion. The performance and scenic design invokes a kind of ritualistic theatre; the tempo gradually increases, before reaching the peak. The actor shifts and transforms smoothly from the narrator, Cleopatra, Egle, and Zilvinas; the changes and shifts in time, space and character takes place spontaneously in a continuous harmonium as in the indigenous performance tradition of India. The intimate viewing in a sandwiched space adds to this immediacy of experience that provokes the spectator to complete the enacted poetry.

ekaharya 4 Egle grows from a simple country girl to a powerful person who can transform herself into an evergreen fir tree, while Cleopatra the all-powerful enchantress queen, falls down from the heights of a charming dreamy life and kills herself in the end using serpent’s venom. Though they live different terraces of experiences, they are knit together with the serpent motif; the living ritual practice of the serpent cult in Kerala in turn, merges the distance in time and space of fiction/ myth to the contemporary performance ethos. The performance takes place around a Sarpakalam, - the traditional/ritualistic practice of floral painting of Kerala, done with natural color powders. This Kalam drawn with motifs of stylized figures of snake gods, drawn in white, black, yellow, green and ochre give a rare vitality with shades of old-world magic, reminiscent with a primitive mystique drama of human passions and divine connotations. The knotted, twining serpents cast a spell to create an ambience of pulsating and evocative prelude to the ecstatic drama and links it to the depths of racial memory, both of the performer and the spectator. Towards the end of the performance the actress gets into a kind of trance with a swaying dance like movement, with white bunches of Arica nut buds in her hands and wipes off the Kalam. This culmination in a trance like situation lifts the whole scene/atmosphere to a voyage beyond space and time; the viewers are transported into a world of magic with the fragrance of myth, fact, and fantasy. The ambience of the design completes and compliments this ritual experience. Still, it is an actor’s theatre; love, anger, frustration, misery - all the feelings were expressed in the same purest form. Ritual itself is looked as a tool to connect the actors system and transform into a voyage to a stream of emotional flow.

ekaharya dec 27  (163) The play is complemented by Salim Nair’s “Elegy for two Queens”, a composition in six movements that blends the classical Indian and western approaches to music.

Few visual artists will be painting their emotional response to the enactment while the performance is on, thus by adding to the wholesome experience. Well-known artists Asanthan and Devadas joined the premiere performance with live painting.

Painting, ritual, myth, enactment, dramatic text, music, lighting and design all supplements each other to create a multi-layered ambience/experience of viewing/performance.

Besides Pooja Mohanraj (actor), Bhanuvajanan (Set), Salim Nair (Music), Shobha Menon (art and costumes), Ajeesh Pulluvan (Sarpakalam), Madan Babu (Production in Charge), Sreekanth Cameo (Lighting), Selvaraj, Pradeep Sreenivasan, ShaijuT Hamsa (production Team) Sankar and Chandradasan (director) contributed to the show.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It is All Solo… Ekaharya Fetival at Tripunithura, Kerala, Dec 25-28, 2014.

logo

Solo performances are becoming more and more common these days… Solo gives the actor to give him freedom to work alone so that the planning and scheduling of rehearsals can be done comfortably. Of course this trend is against the community and ensemble nature of theatre, but it gives the chance to do more experimentation. Many a times the format of solo is a challenge and test to the art and craft of the actor, to express without the other actors on stage. It gives challenges to the designer/director to find a suitable narrative mode so that suits one specific actor. It may be easier to travel and perform with one actor and less number of crew. It may make the budget, the cost of production and performance to come down, even if it is not the case always. It is also seen the current trend is to substitute the lack of other actors with technology and other devices…

Solo performances and its increased importance in the theatre scenario poses many questions to debate and discuss.

It is in this context the Ekaharya Performance Festival, a festival for solo performances conduced by Rajiv Varma Memorial Trust, Tripunithura, is being held during December 25 - 28, 2014 at Kalikotta Palace, Tripunithura.

A total of 14 plays will be performed during the four-day-long festival. Dr. Abhilash Pillai is the festival director.  The schedule is..

December 25

6.00  p.m.  Samjhoutha (Performer: Manwendra Kumar Tripati / Dir: Pravin Kumar Gunjan / written by Suman kumar based on the story of Gajanan MAdhav Muktibodh/The Fact Art and cultural society, Bihar / Hindi / 70 min)

Samjhaouta1 Samjhouta presents the world as circus and showcases the story of a young man who is helpless in the circumstances and situations around him. The search for a job, the usual pain of running from one office to another is the plot of the play. He confronts the harsh reality of today –the changing face of today’s man, where the pain and sorrows of the clown are portrayed as a source of amusement and entertainment. Sometimes he is ready to compromise even with his own ideals and thoughts for his success or to be alive. In this blind race of globalisation, Samjhouta is an attempt to reveal the hard realities of life.

With the help of classical-traditional story telling style and theatrical devices, the story is performed as a modern and contemporary theatrical performance piece, where the actor is a bridge between the audience and the content of the story.

7.30 p.m.  A Bird’s Eye View (Performer & Dir: Choiti Ghosh / Tram Theatre, Mumbai / Non-Verbal / 60 min)

birds eye view The story of a war pigeon during World War II is told with the help of objects, drawings/paintings and an actor who handles them. This form of theatre is a sub-genre of puppetry; it lifts everyday objects and lends them a persona. Objects work as metaphors; the entire show is created with metaphors like paintings, children's toys, games (“to show that war is finally a game”) and a pair of boots (“a symbol of power”).

Object theatre is a relatively a new art form and is an offshoot of puppetry. It involves the use of everyday objects that we take for granted. These objects though, are capable of speaking to us quite powerfully and taking us right into the heart of deep emotional experiences; a form of theatre which does away with actors, speech and costumes. The object theatre form has the potential for crunching several narrative conventions, making imaginative leaps and staying in the realm of the abstract.

9.00 p.m. Pandvani (Traditional Performing Art Form from Chhathisgarh / Performer: Teejan Bhai / 60 min / Hindi)

Tijan_Bai_1 Pandwani is musical form of storytelling of Indian mythological stories. This form is very famous in Chhattisgarh, was mainly used for Mahabharata Stories. Teejan Bai started performing this male dominated form from the age 13. Now she is the embodiment of this unique traditional form and is performing all around the globe with her charismatic stage presence, singing, impromptu dance, and matchless performance. She has been awarded with Padma Bhushan, Sahitya Akademi award etc.

Pandavani, literally means stories of Pandavas, and involves enacting and singing with instrumental accompaniment of an ektara or a tambura in one hand and sometimes a kartal in another. Interestingly, as the performance progresses, the tambura becomes her only prop during her performances, sometimes she uses it to personify a gada, mace of Arjun, or at times his bow or chariot, while others it becomes the hair of queen Draupadi, allowing her to play various character with effective ease and candour. She at times is improvising and offering critique on current happenings and brings forth new insights to the story by giving commentary and interjections and enhances the dramatic effect of the performance…Gradually, as the story progresses, the performance becomes more intense and experiential

December 26
6.00 p.m.  C Sharp C Blunt  (Performer: M.D. Pallavi / Dir. Sophia Stepf / Text Collaborators Swar Thounaojam, Irawati Karnik /Flinn theatre / English / 70 min)

Csharp_Cblunt_Flinn_Theater_Curtain_Raisers_Jagriti Winner of three META Awards (Mahindra Excellency in Theatre Awards) 2014 in Delhi for Best Original Script, Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Innovative Sound/Music Design.

Meet Shilpa, an attractive, interactive and user-friendly mobile phone app that has been projected to be the most popular app of 2013. Created using the latest technology, Shilpa will sing for you - in the flesh. She will sing the songs you want to hear with her sugary and husky voice, and shake her hips when you want her to dance to your favourite tune. Best of all, she behaves exactly the way women are supposed to behave in the eyes of men; until the next update is released. Singer-actress MD Pallavi in her first ever solo performance is excelling in this witty, humorous and satirical interrogation of what it is like being a woman in the entertainment industry today.

The Indo-German collaboration explores the realms of digital dramaturgy, repetition and user choices to create a new hybrid form of theatre-meets-performance art, a funny, sarcastic and political rendition of the latest App in the market.

7.30 p.m. Josephinte Radio (Performer: Jayachandran Thakazhikkaran / Dir: K.K.Ramesh / Thespian Theatres, Kochi / Mal / 50 min) 
joesphinte radio ‘Josephinte Radio' was written for stage presentation by K.R. Ramesh with 10 characters. Jayachandran adapted it into the mode of a street play with only one character.

The play revolves around a simpleton named Joseph for whom the radio is very important. It is his best friend who sang songs for him, gave him good news and above all, connected him to the world outside. All of a sudden, he finds that it has stopped working, upsetting the balance of life. He goes from mechanic to mechanic and even to scientists to get it repaired, but in vain. They all fail him, citing one reason or the other. At the end of the play, Joseph cries out to the audience, “Those who are marching towards polling stations, listen, Joseph's radio is damaged.”

9.00 p.m.  – To Kill or Not to Kill (Performer: Jilmil Hazarika / Dir: Ovlyakuli Khodjakuli / Arnav Art, Delhi / Multilingual / 65 min)

ovlyakuli In the fall of 1830, Alexander Pushkin - the 19th century Russian author stayed on his farm in Boldino while recovering from Cholera where he wrote the "Little Tragedies", 4 thematically related one-act plays in verse, aimed at creating tragedy within the framework of an ideological artistic unity. Each of the main characters faces intense Inner conflict which determines the plot and structure of the play. Pushkin focuses on human passions and the interplay between free will and fate: though each protagonist could avoid self-ruin, he freely chooses it. 
Ovlyakuli Khodjakuli, from Turkmenistan, known from his dynamic sets and artistic theatre dramatizes the first 3 stories in his production of Little Big Tragedies; In Mozart and Salieri, Salieri is a hardworking, but not very creative student whose jealousy of Mozart's genius drives him to murder Mozart. Don Juan in The Stone Guestlusts for Dona Anna, so he kills her husband and then tries to woo her. In The Feast during the Plague, a plague survivor struggles with the conflict between the loss of lives (which include his wife and mother) and to live his own life to the fullest.


10.15 p.m. If it be Now - Fragments and Impressions of Hamlet (Devised and performed by Arka Mukhopadhyay / The Arshinagar Project, Kolkata / English &Bengali / 40 min)

hamlet The piece is based on works by Boris Pasternak, Heiner Muller, Jan Kott and others, as well as original writing and Shakespeare's play. Combining elements of structured action and improvisation, it looks not for meaning or a message, but at experience - at an utterly human Hamlet, trapped inside a prison of words; responding as much to the physical space and the presence of the watchers, as to the universe of Hamlet. In effect, this is a passion play that tries to find illumination out of darkness. 
The performance has violent images and explicit content, hence viewer discretion is advised. It is open only to those above 18 years of age…

December 27
6.00 p.m.  Unseen (Performer: Kalyanee Mulay / Dir: Vishnupad Barve / Process Theatrez, Porvorim, Goa/ English / 60 min)

UnSeen1-copy_20140524084653 This play seems to interrogate a letter of Rabindranath Tagore and the poet’s misconstrued notion of womanhood as represented in the letter written with reference to a lecture of Pandita Ramabai, which Mulay recites and then goes on to depict inevitable like menstruation, child birth, motherhood, pain and surrender, a woman’s life in a patriarchal society. The play looks into the invisible and key practises like beautification of the female body and its subsequent commodification that lead to an awareness as a sexual object, mostly through instances of sexual harassment. This non-verbal performance was accompanied only by the sound installation in a setting of a house depicting all the rituals a woman has to go through in her life, thoroughly examines aspects like woman’s body, the male gaze on a female body, biological cycle of a woman, et cetera. Choreographed, rather than scripted, the play employs archetypical postures and gestures usually kept hidden and private—a woman giving birth, having an abortion, being harassed by unwanted physical attention, or even a submissive being pulled about by her hair—and movements that resonate with daily middle-class urban rituals like shaving bare legs, drying hair with a hair dryer, relishing a Cadbury chocolate by herself. Her body steps into the realm of material metaphor as she assumes the role of Woman everywhere and of all time, weighed down by her social roles and cultural burdens.
The entire play used a pressure cooker on a burning gas stove, gas cylinder, dustbin and other utensils as props. The whistling of the cooker along with other sounds created through different utensils (that seemed like sound installation) created coherence with the performer’s actions and objects used as props.

7.30 p.m. Moment Just Before Death (Performer: Manoj Omen / Dir: Liju Krishna / Saga Entertainment, Kochi / Mal / 75 min)

Moment-Just-Before-Death-61 The play “Moment Just before Death” pivots around an old man, whose body sweeps through evanescent memories, pleasant smell of tender toddy, wild flowers drenched in longing and the endless waiting for his own coffin. Bereft of joy and hope he prepares himself for death, the only gate of deliverance for him. Years of waiting on the threshold of death is depicted as a prolonged curse. He prepares his body with the sanctity of rituals associated with the ceremony of death. The coffin is the seminal image which gives life to events and characters and the old man is shaping up his coffin day by day. The girl with flowers, Old man as a florist in the cemetery and the cult of Muthappan, intensifies the tragic posture of humanity in the bleak and macabre backdrop of the play.

The play attempts to represent graphically the old man’s views to the spectators straight away theatrically when he attempts to reorganize his layers of reveries lauded with love, gruesome realities of life and thoughts. The play is in a nonlinear narrative with eruptions of events and fluidity of situations and characters, the inter relationship between local cultures and languages and the trauma of alienation. The play brings home the Old man’s passage through various facets of his life by incorporating props, images and dimensions of visual plane to envisage a theatre of experience and interrogation.

Liju Krishna won the META award for best stage design and best actor award for Manoj Omen.

9.00 p.m. Agleyum Cleopatrayum (Performer: Pooja Mohanraj / Dir: Chandradasan / Lokadharmi, Kochi / Mal / 60 min)
egle and cleopatra premiere  (236) Agleyum Cleopatrayum (Egle & Cleopatra), is inspired from the folk myth of Egle from Lithuania and William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The experience of the two characters Cleopatra and Egle are entwined together to probe into the different manifestations of love. Both Cleopatra and Egle were victims of Love; love with different facades and connotations. The experiences of these two characters from two different cultures times and spaces are reconnoitered so as to extrapolate and explore the contemporary female experience.
The love of Cleopatra the Queen of Egypt, seems to contain a venomous strain. Cleopatra, ‘the charming serpent of Nile’ remain a mystery; she cleverly uses the unparalleled sensuality of her body to make men kneel at her whims and fancies. Here love is highly sensual with ecstasies of physicality, wild streams of fantasy and extreme romanticism. 
Why Cleopatra fell in love with all those men - from Caesar to Antony - who came across her? Was Cleopatra a sexual maniac with infinite shades of lust? She identifies love as the ‘most delicious poison’, as ‘an excellent falsehood’ or a ‘riotous madness’. It seems that the love act of Cleopatra is not merely to satisfy her carnal instincts, but also is a defense mechanism to protect her country from enemies and invaders and colonizers. Cleopatra uses her unmatched talents and perspicacity in the art of love to conquer the conqueror. She calls herself as ‘Egypt’ and her desire is to be buried in the mud and waters of Egypt than taken to the royal courts of Rome; this reinforces that her act of love may be a political armor to defeat the invader. There is no escape for the invader from this enchanting queen, and her infinite scheme of seductions. But the tragedy is that in the end Cleopatra herself falls as the victim of her own prangs of passion, and emotional ecstasies. The hunt and prey merges to be one; and as always the ultimate loser is Cleopatra, the female. 
egle & Cleopatra (6) On the contrary Egle the mythical character from Lithuania, who is forced to marry a snake is a simple farmer girl with all the innocence of a forest breeze. She had no choice to make, but marry Zilvinas, the serpent prince and go to his amber castle beneath the sea. She adapted herself to this alien environment and started living there happily. After few years she endeavors to visit her home to meet her folks. The condition to Zilvinas was that she shall not reveal the name of her husband; she should come to the sea and call his name to return to their abode. If he is alive ‘may the sea foam milk, if dead may the sea foam blood.’ But as she returns, he comes as a stream of blood, a sign that her promise had been broken. Brothers have got his name from the youngest child and they killed him to ‘save her from the clutches of a snake and save the family honor’.  Engulfed in inexplicable outpour of emotion which empowers her, she transforms herself into a deep rooted evergreen fir tree, instead of returning with her folk.

10.15 p.m. If it be Now - Fragments and Impressions of Hamlet (Devised and performed by Arka Mukhopadhyay / The Arshinagar Project, Kolkata / English &Bengali / 40 min)- Repeat Show.

December 28

5.00 p.m. Dr!Vikadan (Directed and performed by Vinu Joseph/ Theatre Lab Palakkadu/ 30 min)

This impromptu performance is a theatre clown show…

6.00 p.m. Majuli (Performer: Silpa Bordoloi / Brahmaputhra Cultural Foundation, Assam)

majuli_feb-mar2014 (3) Majuli, a river island in Brahmaputra in Assam, inspired movement artist Shilpika Bordoloi to create a performance, combining dance and physical theatre. “The performance includes motifs representative of what Majuli means to me, and is based on the Vaishnav, Deori and Mising communities. Every other element also plays a role, including the costume, music and light design,” says Shilpika.

Majuli is part of Katha Yatra, a multi-media project that researches cultural practices along the Brahmaputra River, where the many moods of water are central to the performance and the sinuous movements of her lithe body resemble a river slowly meandering along its course. Shilpika alternates between the slow and fast pace to take us to a climax where the annual floods leave the island ravaged and torn and then is reborn again in a renewal of the cycle, which has been continuing for ages.

7.30 p.m. Notes on Chai (Performer: Jyoti Dogra / Mumbai / English, Hindi, Punjabi / 100 min)

jyoti_dogra_notes_on_chai Tea is synonymous with Indian lifestyle and “Notes on Chai” features a collection of thoughtful and entertaining excerpts of everyday conversation one has over tea, interwoven with abstract sound explorations that attempt to relocate our relationship with the mundane. Interspersed with these portrayals are abstract, guttural sounds inspired by Tibetan chanting, western harmonics and extended vocal techniques that seeks to stretch the limits of spoken language. With basic light and costume, Dogra holds her own on stage through extended vocal techniques providing unconventional sonic textures, to her world of conversations over tea.

Dogra says. “As I began working with sounds, the idea of working with language followed – exploring language as a way of keeping the mask, keeping the distance, and how these distances and masks often reveal more than we would care to show in conversations.”

9.00 p.m.  Jeevit ya Mrit (Performer: Seema Biswas/ Written by Geetanjali Shree/ Dir: Anuradha Kapoor / Vivaldi Cultural Society, New Delhi / Hindi / 60 min)

jeev Rabindranath Tagore’s Jeevit-Ya-Mrit is said to be his most outstanding short story about Kadambari, a widow who came back from the dead only to die again because everyone thought she was a ghost. Kadambari wakes up in the crematorium, unsure of whether she is dead or alive. In this weird ambience in the dark night in a hallucinatory mood she recollects her past and as if in dream leaves the cremation ground and moves to the house of her childhood friend for shelter.

Seema Biswas rants and raves, questions and critiques the society that left her for dead and when she returned alive, refusing to accept her statement that she was alive. Biswas shifts from one character to another, intercutting it with Kadambari’s questioning, scathing and incisive voice soaked with an electric chemistry and an energy challenging for a character — submissive, surrendering and affectionate when alive. The props, setting, lighting and the ‘look’ Kadambari is given invests the ambience with the pall of death which creates from within itself, the anguished cry of a woman begging the world to let her live. Through her monologue and a variety of tones ranging from a whisper to loud delivery and intensity of emotions, she imparts insights into the traumatic, insulted and humiliated world of a Hindu widow.