Plays: This Year’s Performances

Tribute to Sombhu Mitra

In this production, Sharmila Pinki Ghoshal and Parthasarathy Mukherjee come together to present thespian Sombhu Mitra’s perception of theater music through a collage of snippets from a few of his memorable productions where music had dominated. In some ways, this presentation is personal to Pinki, who was only four years old when she joined Bohurupee, the professional theater group, founded by Mr. Sombhu mitra on 1st may 1950. No body knew at that time that director Mitra, with his actress wife Mrs. Tripti Mitra will create a revolution in Bengali theater world. Drawing his inspiration both from Occidental and Oriental literature, Mitra championed a very different theater movement in India since the forties. He directed plays like Raja Oedipous, Life of Galileo, Putul Khela ( adaptation of Doll’s House by Ibsen) Dasa-Chakra ( The enemy of the people, adaptation) and many Tagorian plays like Raktakarabi (Red-Oleander), Char-Adhyay ( Four-Acts), Raja (Raja), Bisarjan (Immersion), Chand Boniker Pala to name a few. Under his guidance and working with him side by side on stage, other actors found their niche and started respecting this “different theater” along with the hard work and discipline it entailed. One of them was Pinki, a child who came with her aunt Tripti and grew up loving Theater and Music. It was a kind of worship for her and many like her. She had the privilege of acting and singing in most of his productions. This year, as the theater world in India celebrates the centenary of Sombhu Mitra, Pinki takes the stage at SATF to pay her Tributes to Sombhu Mitra.

Nari: Women Of The World

This production is based on selected stories and characters from the Mahabharata, presented in Contemporary Indian dance-theater style.

These epic stories from the past have been kept alive over generations thru storytelling and live performances. Directed and choreographed by Brinda and Malabika Guha and performed by the Kalamandir Dance Company, New York, this performance explores how those ancient narratives are indicative of the ubiquitous nature of (wo)mankind by taking a contemporary twist on what was and what could have been the final conclusions of those stories.

Sitarah – The Stars

Written by Monirah Hashemi, translated to English by Anna Zastrow and directed by Leif Persson, Sitarah premiered at Riksteatern’s Teaterdagar in Sweden. It depicts the stories of three Afghan women from three different areas of Afghanistan. Afghan women are a kind of hostage in the game for power in their country.

Halima is to be stoned for being raped by her stepson in the 2000s, Gul Begum has lost her family in the war in 1992 and Sara lives in the 1980s civil war. Using some simple props: a sheet, a colorful scarf, a golden bowl and piles of books and papers, Monirah Hashemi fills the stage and lets these three stories of three different women intertwine—sexual assault on the sheet, but a loving wink behind a beautiful shawl, and then war, sorrow and loss when the shawl becomes a dead bundle. One could call this a kind of Witness Theater. The title’s “stars” are these women’s stories that nonetheless can light up the dark sky—the dark history of Afghanistan. And Hashemi combines in an incredibly beautiful and expressive way the play’s various levels: songs of traditional life, dances and gestures, with the need, indeed, the duty to write down and fill all these papers and books taking up the stage—to document the history of women. Hashemi also unites something joyful and vibrant. Her Pishpo-dance is absolutely magnificent; everything is not just pain and oppression, and the show’s beauty and strength says something about the Afghan woman’s identity.

Here We Are

Here We Are, set in the 1930s, provides a glimpse into the lives of a couple as they begin their journey as newlyweds aboard a train heading for New York City. The couple is eager to begin their literal and figurative journey on a positive note; however nervous anticipation and personal expectations lead to misunderstandings. Will the husband dismiss his wife’s reflections as that of an anxious bride? Will she allow herself to be consumed by her insecurities? Through quips and squabbles, Dorothy Parker’s Here We Are attends to the difficulties of marriage and explores the often unspoken experience of newlyweds. This production has been directed by Anshita Kumar and performed by The SAPAN Institute and Natyabharati, Washinghington DC

Tartuffe: The Impostor

An English play, adapted to Indian settings from Moliere’s ‘Tartuffe – The Impostor’, directed by Dr. Farley Richardson and produced & performed by ICS productions, New Jersey.

T’artuffe, ou l’Imposteur’ is one of the most famous theatrical comedies by Molière and its characters of Tartuffe, Elmire, and Orgon are considered among the greatest classical theatre roles.

Tartuffe was scandalous in its day – and there is a reason why – it deals with the subject of religious hypocrisy – a tough topic then, a touchy topic even today! Its universal message then extends beyond religion and can be applied to most life situations. Indeed, as a result of Molière’s play, contemporary French and English both use the word “tartuffe” to designate a hypocrite who ostensibly and exaggeratedly feigns virtue, especially religious virtue.

It is quite surprising to find a bit of wisdom in such a light, frothy comedy!

…. and really, can you think of a better antidote for self-righteousness than humor and self-deprecation?
We can’t!

Post Office

Post Office is the story of a young boy, Amal, who is confined indoors due to an illness. Looking out of his window, he greets fellow villagers and inspires them to appreciate their “meager” existence thus instilling them with self-esteem. With the world at his doorstep, Amal is happy in the fertile land of his imagination. When the time comes, he is willing to journey from this world to the next. On the evening before Paris fell to the Nazis, the French translation by Andre Gide was read over the radio.

Indian Idol

A Bengali play, adapted from the original by Deb Shankar Haldar and performed by the students of Mrittika, Inc. of NJ and other young community members, under the guidance of Parthapratim Deb.

Television programs promoting competition to identify “idols” in various fields have corrupted the meaning of the term, changing it from denoting a person of great respect and admiration to one of modest talent focused only on beating out similar contestants for the prize money. Our young hero rebels against the venality of these sham contests, exposing them for what they are, with the unlikely encouragement of the spirit of his deceased grandfather.

Ekti Rajnoitik Hotya

“Ekti Rajnoitik Hatya,” is a Bengali adaptation of “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of The Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade” by German playwright Peter Weiss. Written in 1963, the play has stirred the souls of audiences across nations over the years. It came to the forefront of theater discussions gaining tremendous claim through Peter Brook’s production in 1964. This Tony-winning drama poses the question of whether revolution can really bring about lasting change.

The play is set in the backdrop of the French Revolution and cleverly uses the technique of a play within a play. It questions the validity of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity, the three guiding principles of the revolution. It posits the eternal questions of class conflict, individualism versus social revolution as a means to achieving human freedom, and examines the pros and cons of a bloody revolution even when it is for a justifiable cause. The socio-political commentaries that the play espouses are highly relevant in today’s context when juxtaposed with contemporary sociopolitical trends and the violence that is rampant in the world that we live in. In a social climate where people are taking to the streets against repression and censorship all over the world, it behooves us to ask ourselves once again – does true revolution come from changing the society or changing ourselves? While the play is set in a mental institution where the actors are facing numerous mental challenges, it satirically traverses the boundaries of sanity and insanity to ultimately question as to who are truly sane versus insane.

This production was first staged by Abhik Chatterjee, the director of this play, with great critical acclaim in the theater stages of Kolkata, India. Mr. Chatterjee will revisit his production at the South Asian Theater Festival with a novel, contemporary flair. As a musical with vibrant use of choreography, the production will attempt to simultaneously entertain and provoke thoughts within its audience members. The songs are punched with satirical humor and will enliven the production in an engaging manner.

Senapoti

In ‘Senapoti,’ distinguished Bangla playwright Abdullah Al Mamun created a play both funny and sad, farcical and tragic, which holds up a mirror to Third World society.

Abbas Ali Talukdar is a schemer and manipulator like many of his ilk now found all over the Third World, nor just in Bangladesh. Talukdar rises from the gutter to the top of the social and economic ladder by slithering up to a patron and fastening limpet-like to the latter’s side, till on achieving his ambition, Talukdar causes his principal’s downfall, which is followed by his own tragic end.

Theater in Breaks

“Theater in Breaks” is a concept that is aimed to open a space for theater to evolve from a single moment to a story. It will explore the dynamic nature and changing language of theater.

“Theater in Breaks” will explore different frames of performance to involve the audience though different experiences. This creative space will allow everyone to bring his own skills (like acting, singing, dancing, music, painting) and then connect with each other through the theme in their own way rather than just though text. We envision a space where creativity meets responsibility.

We will explore different forms of theatrical performances like installation, musical, storytelling. Across Day 1 Breaks we will try to break the theater into small pieces across different time spans. Treat those times as different time bubbles which can exist on their own to create an individual image but also connect with each other. Like a collage where you can identify individual pictures while viewing the whole collage together at the same time, the individual pieces will come together to tell a bigger story. On Day 2 we will explore a musical journey with Rabindranath Tagore and explore theatrical moments in dance movement. At the end we will take our audience to a journey with Badal Sircar and his “Third Theater”.

Day 1 – Break 1 (Expand over 4 breaks)

Metamorphosis: We are going through strange times. All known faces around us are changing slowly. We start our journey with a dream but over time it changes under the influence of consumerism. We slowly morph into a market commodity with a price tag.

Ignorance: We are busy in our individual life and do not have much time to react. We receive lots of news around us but neither do we pay attention nor do these news stay in our minds for long.

Diversity: It’s everywhere. We are all part of a big market where human beings have been pulled from their roots and are engaged in commercial activities which are transforming us from humans to commodity.

Reaction: Someday people will start reacting. They will start asking questions. That very day, humans will recognize themselves as human again. We will have free people with free thoughts.

Day 2 – Break 2 – “Ami Chitrangada” Adaptation from Rabindranath’s “Chitrangoda” and “Chandalika”

This is the story of a girl who is different. Not one to be ignored, subjugated, and treated with indifference. She challenges the society for the typecast they created for ‘a girl’. At the same time she loves this society. She wants to stay here but on her own terms with her own identity. But the Man who thinks he is the best among all is not ready to accept this idea of equality. So he pushes her out, accuses her for her differences – marks her as odd.

At one such moment she finds “Chitrangada” – the extraordinary woman.

She understands how to fight back for her own Identity, how to light up the layers in her personality – how to establish a bold appearance in the society which the strongest men cannot ignore.

Day 2 – Break 3 – “Roop Kothar Kelenkari”, a play by Badal Sircar

“Rupkatha” is a fairytale – where everything goes in a defined path. We grow up listening to them over and over again to the extent that we start believing them. We then pass them to the next generation. But what is there behind these stories? All these stories, we see around us and we believe, who is creating those? Who brings them to our house, to our family, to our living rooms? Are these real stories or are these cooked up by people who sold themselves to the media? If one day, one character of a story refuses to participate in the conspiracy and starts listening to his heart and does the right thing, we can see what all go on behind these news.