Tuesday, July 31, 2007

French Comedy+Desi Playwright =Everybody Wins!

My university has never staged a play by an Asian playwright. Not in over 75 years. We've hit all of the other continents (except Antarctica, of course... I don't believe there are any Antarctican playwrights, but I could be wrong). But somehow we've left out Asia.

So when I started planning the Hyderabad trip, nearly a year ago, I told my faculty committee that I wanted to stage a play by an Indian (or Indian-American/desi) playwright when I came back.

It would, after all, be a first for the university, and if we marketed it correctly, we had the potential to tap into a large desi audience.

We tossed around the idea for months, analyzing the pros and cons.

One of the cons -- the one that made the season selection committee the most nervous -- was that our department had no desi acting students
, and things might get a little racially tidgy if we had white students playing brown characters.

I countered with "well, you don't have to do Muggy Night in Mumbai -- if we did one of the kajillion plays based on a section of the Mahabharata, we could pull a Peter Brook and cast anyone we like."

And, theoretically, color-blind casting should work the other way around (although, truth be told, it rarely works the way it was intended to -- and one of these days I'll do a post on why).

But in the end, and probably for the best, we elected not to pursue this option.

When the season was chosen, I was given Moliere's Tartuffe. Which will be fun; it will be my first "comedy of manners" play, and there is plenty of opportunity for glittery silliness.

As the director, of course, I get to choose the translation.

Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered there was a verse translation of Tartuffe by Ranjit Bolt.

Looks like my university gets its first desi playwright after all.


Beth said...

Woot! Shabash! Tres bon! Or something!

Daniel said...

I really don't think an audience would have a problem seeing white kids acting in an Indian play. Hell, in my high school, we had black kids playing both Russians and Jews in Fiddler. Somehow we were able to...what's the phrase...suspend the disbelief (?) to look past the actors' skin colors to understand the story.

And, I know you like India, but what about the Chinese or Japanese playwrights? Surely they must have something to offer.

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