Theater Emory’s Sept. 12–13 festival,
“Contemporary Indian Theater,” celebrates millennia
of theater tradition in India while demonstrating how that rich
heritage speaks to contemporary issues in both Eastern and Western
cultures. The festival will feature works by Indian artists of diverse
backgrounds whose works span a variety of topics.
Theater long has been part of Indian culture, whether as street
plays, dance dramas or musicals. These forms continue to be used
for education, for telling and remembering stories, and to effect
Following its independence from Britain, India has witnessed a re-emergence
of its theatrical heritage in many dialects and languages throughout
the country. The playwrights creating these works are giving new
voice and perspective to issues both ancient and modern, such as
family obligation and identity in an ever-shrinking world.
Also, India—which has the world’s largest English-speaking
population—currently is witnessing a trend to create more
works in English. Writers such as Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie
have transcended borders by presenting a distinctly Indian perspective
to a wider, English-speaking audience in India and abroad.
The performances in “Contemporary Indian Theater” will
not be full productions, but staged readings of selected scripts
by Indian playwrights who have not reached the same levels of international
fame as Roy or Rushdie, but who nonetheless present an innovative
and challenging perspective to contemporary issues.
These artists have incredibly diverse backgrounds; some, such as
Mahasweta Devi, live with tribals and write only in their native
dialect, while others, such as Girish Karnad, write predominantly
in English. All of them, however, illustrate the fact that contemporary
Indian theater is developing its own distinct voice.
by Girish Karnad Friday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m.
Karnad has become one of India’s brightest rising stars, earning
international praise as a playwright, poet, actor, director, critic
and translator. He has written distinct and powerful plays that
use history and mythology to tackle contemporary themes. Hayavadhana,
which won the 1972 Kamaladevi Award for best Indian play, asks the
question: “If two bodies switch heads, who is who?”
Based on the 11th century Indian fable Kathasaritsagara
and Thomas Mann’s development of this story in “The
Transposed Heads,” Hayavadhana (“the one with
a horse’s head”) is a philosophical exploration layered
with comedy, love triangles, talking dolls and more.
by Manjula Padmanabhan, Saturday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m.
Winner of the 1997 Onassis Award for Theatre, Harvest is
a chilling tale that explores the concerns that arise when two different
cultures with great economic disparities collide. Set in 2010, this
story of an Indian family seduced by the wealth of the West and
the human costs involved—identity, body, mind, organs—evokes
a cross-cultural and individually motivated version of George Orwell’s
A collage of readings
from the work of playwrights Mahesh Dattani, Mahasweta Devi, Vijay
Tendulkar and Alka Roy, Saturday, Sept. 13, at
Scenes from well-known Indian plays will give the audience a peek
at works by some of the strongest voices of change in India today.
These plays cover different styles, regions, political motivations,
movement and poetry to explore contemporary issues in a very Indian
way. Scenes also will be presented from a play by Alka Roy, an emerging
playwright who lives in Atlanta.
All performances will be read in English and will be held in the
Schwartz Center theater lab. The readings are free and open to the
public, but seating is limited. Free tickets will be available one
hour before each event.
For more information, call 404-727-5050 or visit www.emory.edu/ARTS/.