June 15, 2012
With Cindy’s departure in the wee hours of the morning today, our time in India truly feels like it is slipping away. Still, we had no scheduled activities this morning and were able to enjoy a leisurely start to the day, which was great. We decided to venture into the heart of the city once more to look for a cell phone battery for Joe and do one last round of shopping for souvenirs. Our hunt for the cell phone store took us to multiple locations with little success. I’ve never really understood the Indian system of street addresses and few of the buildings are marked with any sort of street number. So, in looking for a particular business or storefront, one sometimes has to get into the general proximity and then search the street for the right store. Today, we were unsuccessful in finding the cell phone store, but it still felt like a Bangalore adventure. We did, of course, find the shopping mall for the souvenirs and then returned for one last lunch at Marrianick’s and returned home, happily filled with pizza and ready for naps.
We played to our largest house yet tonight; not quite full, but stretching from wall to wall of the auditorium. It was an enthusiastic crowd, which helps me to really get lost in the telling of the tale. We’ve had an interesting development after the shows this past week—every night there are groups of well-wishers waiting for us in the lobby after the show. They are uniformly eager and friendly and it’s kind of amazing to have the chance to greet one’s audience after the show (especially since, at The Rogue, we often greet our audience before the show!). I still feel a little incredulous at the enthusiastic response we are getting with this production and, of course, feel more and more blessed to be sharing our work with Jagriti and Bangalore. One of my big fears in making this trip was that we would get here and find a disappointed reaction, either from the folks at Jagriti or the Bangalore audience. Thankfully, neither happened. I’m waxing a little philosophic tonight, but I think that’s because a part of me wants to stay in this city and continue exploring the culture, the country and the amazing friends we’ve made here.
June 16, 2012
A very full and busy day today. We were able to enjoy a relatively leisurely morning, followed by Patty’s clowning workshop at 11:00. It was a full roster of twenty students, so I decided to be an observer and not a participant. It was so great to see some of the new friends we had made at the workshops the previous week. By this time, most had seen the show and expressed so much enthusiasm. They are such a hungry group of actors, so willing and eager to absorb new information and coaching. Again, I could have been watching a master class being taught in Arizona. As always, Patty was a marvel to watch and the looks of adoration on the participants’ eyes were wonderful to see. How I would love to come back here and teach an extended class; three or four weeks long.
After the workshop, we were headed to Ranga Shankara to see a performance on one of Girish Karnad’s plays, Hayavadana, produced by a company from Bombay. The show was at 3:30 and was about two hours long. We were concerned that we would be traveling a pretty fair distance (it’s about a 45 minute drive) and that if there was any traffic, it might put us back at the theatre with only minutes to spare. Yes, traffic is a problem in Bangalore, too; mostly because surface streets get clogged with masses of vehicles and if there’s an obstruction in the road, one can sit, not moving, for quite a long while. We had been told the story of an actor in Jagriti’s last production who travelled from Ranga Shankara to Jagriti on a show night, got stuck in traffic, jumped out of his cab and took off running, grabbed another cab on the other side of the traffic jam and didn’t get to the show until fifteen minutes after curtain. So, we were understandably nervous about making the same trip! Hayadavana was a revelation. It was based on a Thomas Mann novella which was based on a Sanskrit story in which two men fall in love with the same woman. Her husband is a poet with little physical attraction; the other is a warrior, all brawn and beauty. The men separately visit a temple of Kali and cut off their own heads in anguish over the love triangle. When the woman sees the two bodies, she threatens to do the same, when the goddess—exasperated by all the fuss—intervenes and allows the heads to be reattached. The woman, however, mixes up the heads and puts her husband’s head onto the warrior’s body and vice versa. It is an enchanting story and the company that produced it staged it with virtually no scenery, only two long cushions on either side of the stage and one long cushion across the back of the stage (Ranga Shankara is a thrust stage configuration). When the actors walked “offstage,” they simply sat on the cushions and were no longer “visible” to the action onstage. The actors addressed the audience directly during the course of telling the story and a musician sat upstage right, playing guitar, drums and tabla during the show (sort of an Indian Paul Amiel). It could have been a Rogue production! Any scenic elements were created in the moment by actors dropping on all fours to provide a stool for the goddess, clumping in a complex mass to illustrate the ruined, vine-covered entrance to the temple that the characters had to fight their way through, etc. Costumes were very simple and multiple characters were suggested with a bit of cloth, a touch of makeup, a simple mask. I could tell that Joe was very excited by the staging and at intermission, he immediately started waxing enthusiastic about the production. The magic of the myth, the eloquence of Mr. Karnad’s writing, the imaginative conception of the production—I have a feeling this title will start appearing on lists of possible future Rogue shows! The only sad note was that the production went far beyond two hours and we had to leave before the show was over. Leaving a theatre performance before the end is anathema to me, but I kept telling myself that it was necessary to commit this offense to ensure the we were able to do our show at Jagriti and that the theatre gods would forgive us.
We had a full house for Shipwrecked, which was very exciting, though the audience was very quiet and reserved. I partially blame myself—I was fairly fatigued by the events of the day and didn’t have the extra surge of energy needed to get a full house really roused for the story. Of course, it was Saturday night and those audiences tend to be more relaxed and less demonstrative (once again, certain things are true the world over). We did a respectable show, but it didn’t feel quite as fun as usual. Tellingly, there were not the after-show crowds in the lobby (though we were warmly congratulated by a couple of local actors on our way out the door).
We ended the night with drinks and conversation at the Raja’s apartment, enjoying the company of new and wonderful friends. It will be difficult to bid them farewell tonight and I’m pushing the moment out of my mind until the last minute. Still, a part of the evening continued our discussion of how we can create this experience again and return to Bangalore and re-join the theatre community here in the future—so it’s not goodbye, but “hasta la vista.”
June 17, 2012
A fait accompli – Shipwrecked has come into port, the boat has docked, life moves on. I write this at midnight after our final show, feeling the waves of melancholy lapping the shores of my brain—a little whiskey in my gut and packing still to be done (we leave for the airport at 3:00am). Joe, Patty and I are having philosophical discussions around the dining table and the reminiscing has already begun. What a wondrous journey this has been. Before I came here, India seemed like “the final frontier;” the culture that was the most foreign to my American way of life. Now that I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to live and learn in this country, I wonder at my reticence; my trepidations. Not only does this culture not seem so foreign now, I actually hunger to know more and fully intend to return as often as possible. I’ve discovered a little bit more about my own humanity and the communion of human beings that transcends cultural differences. That I’ve learned these lessons through the power of theatre is a testament to the importance of this art form. Perhaps computer programmers and scientists also experience this in the cultural exchanges between our countries—who knows? All I know is that telling stories to people half way around the world has opened my mind and my heart in ways I never would have imagined.
Whew. This must be the whiskey talking—that and the fatigue of two performances today. Both shows were wonderful experiences. Full houses both times and bright, focused, energetic journeys. Normally, the last performance is full of intensity and determination to “get it right,” but I feel like we’ve had that most of the run here in Bangalore. The last performance was more like, “You know what to do; now do it.” In some ways, I’m wishing that the run of the show had been longer, since we’ve learned so much about this script in this second go-around. On the other hand, I’m relieved that I no longer have to keep running these lines over and over, sometimes twice in one day. I would jump at the chance to do this show yet again, but in the meantime, I’m giving my memory a long, long rest!
After the performance and the pack-up of the show, we gathered once again at the Rajas apartment next door for drinks and conversation, this time with a few more folks from Jagriti. Man, I could get used to this life of performing and then hanging out with compadres, sipping a drink and laughing at the absurdities of the day. Our parting was surprisingly not too teary; mostly, I think, because we’re all pretty determined to work together again. I may spend the entire cab ride to the airport weeping about leaving this wonderful city, but for now, it’s nice to just let the whole experience settle in my soul.
Thank you, Arundhati and Jagdish, for a life-changing experience. I may be a dreamer, but I think that this is a true experience of India. The deep spirituality of this country is both subtle and ever-present, and the residents—whether actually religious or not—are genuine, sincere loving and a testament to what is really important in this life: connecting with each other and sharing.
– David Morden