June 8, 2012
A day of fun and a great performance tonight. The day started out with the ‘Bangalore’ routine: tea, yogurt, treadmill; followed by a trip to the theatre to go through e-mails. In the afternoon, Patty and I hired a car to take us shopping. Yes, shameful American that I am, I devoted a day in India to shopping. We were headed to a shop where we were told we could find authentic India handicrafts that was in an, as yet, unexplored part of the city. The driver took us there through a somewhat circuitous route that led us through several neighborhoods that we would never otherwise have seen. As our car snaked through streets barely wide enough for two little cars to pass each other, we watched the scene change from very middle class houses to a rather upscale section of town. We found the store we were looking for, but it turned out to be less about Indian handicraft and more about trendy boutique items. So we headed for our next stop … the mall. I can’t believe I’m admitting to going to a mall—but, hey, it’s a mall in India! In some ways, it was exactly like any mall in America, but in other ways, it was uniquely Indian. We indulged in espresso and the coffee shop, but we also discovered a great store that sold uniquely Indian items (“Fabindia”). I bought two kurtas—the long shirt with the high, banded collar—which was on my list of things to bring home. Expect to see me in one of them at the next Rogue opening night!
The show tonight was very special, in that Girish Karnad, the author of Naga Mandala was in the audience. I really wanted to do a good show for him and have it reflect well on Jagriti. I very much admire his writing and was very eager to share some of my (our) art with him, as well. The audience was delightful and was right with us throughout the whole show. In fact, I think it may have been our best performance in the entire run of this show (including Tucson). Focus was clear, concentration was good, memory was intact. It was one of those shows where I was able to stay in the moment for nearly the whole time. Of course, as an actor, one has fleeting thoughts of “What’s the next scene?” or “That didn’t work the same as the last show” kind of stuff, but I was able to let go of the self-analysis (for the most part) and just play the play. It was really, really gratifying to be able to ride the ride and not watch it from the third person point of view (does any of this make sense?). Mr. Karnad was extremely gracious and congratulated us warmly after the show. He’s promised to get together with us for lunch before we leave, which I really hope is possible. It’s such a joy to connect with other theatre people in the city (and country).
June 9, 2012
Today was the big day of our workshops (well, the first two, anyway). My workshop about creating a character through physicalization was first. I was actually quite nervous, not knowing who would be taking the class, what level of experience, and whether I had sufficiently prepared enough material to fill two hours. It was a very full session—twenty people—and I needn’t have worried. It was a delightful mix of actors, mostly twenty-somethings. We had a good time (as least I did) and I was really struck by how similar this group was to classes I have taught in the U.S. It’s kind of mind-boggling to discover first-hand that people are people the world over. They were a very willing group and jumped into the exercises and improvs with gusto. I feel like I was able to give them some tools for their work. I just wish I had the chance to stick around and see some of them in shows here in Bangalore in the future. The only dark spot of the workshop was that it was really a challenge to get their names in my head. The Indian accent is so unbelievably musical and elegant, but hearing names that I’ve never heard before and trying to remember them (I can’t remember American names, much less Indian ones) was well-nigh impossible. By the time we finished, I had one or two in my head but wish some more had stuck with me, simply as a matter of courtesy!
The show tonight was another delightful romp. I think this was our largest audience so far and they were as enthusiastic in their response as last night’s crowd. The show is really taking on a new life (at least for me) and feels so much more like a trip to the playground each night. I’m able to let go of some of the more forced sections in my delivery and just talk to the crowd and tell them Louis’ story. Having Patty on my right and Joe on my left makes it even more fun—like hanging out with your best pals and just jumping around and being goofy and having a really good time. Knowing that Cindy’s smiling face is in the audience gives me an added feeling of security, as well. It will be strange to not have her here for the last four shows.
After the shows, we come back to the apartment and just sit around the dining table and shoot the breeze, which has been an added joy of this trip—getting to know these delightful folks even better. I’m quite privileged to be sharing this experience with them all.
June 10, 2012
This was a birthday to be remembered the rest of my life–what a day! It was a two-performance day, so I was gearing up for that and the amount of energy that was to be expended in pulling that off. But first, I attended Patty’s workshop on economy of gesture in acting. Having gotten to know some of the participants from Joe and my workshops the previous day, I was eager to watch them at work with Patty, as well. Patty does a great workshop and I was thoroughly engrossed–not only watching the participants, but watching Patty, as well, and making mental notes for my classes back in Arizona. At about fifteen minutes into the class, she apologized and said that she really should have given them a vocal warm-up and started leading them through some exercises. At one point, without any prior instruction to the students, she started counting “5-6-7-8”–I thought, “What is she doing? I don’t understand.” All at once, twenty eager faces snapped toward me and broke into one of the most enthusiastic renditions of “Happy Birthday” I have ever heard. It was an incredible moment and I concentrated so hard on searing it into my brain so that I would remember it always. At one point, I wished that I had a video camera–the participants in the workshop were such open, good-natured, adventurous actors and to get that kind of warmth and–dare I say it?–love from them was one of my best birthday memories ever. By the way, the rest of the workshop was brilliant.
The first show was a nice, big crowd with some friends in the audience. There were lots and lots of young kids, which at first excited me until I realized that it dramatically changed the usual audience response. The crowd was much quieter than we were used to, especially for such a large crowd. Still, the show went off without any hitch. As the Japanese theatre artists say, we fought the good fight. Response to this performance was as enthusiastic as ever. The turnaround for the second show is quite quick and on both Sundays that we have done it, I have been a little bit scattered at the start of the second show. There were a couple of the actors from our workshop in the evening audience, which made it fun to perform–I love doing a show for someone I know; it gives me the extra oomph to get it right. The second show actually turned out to be even more fun than the first and I felt very proud, once again, to have accomplished the feat of two shipwrecks in one day.
After the show, we invited some of the wonderful folks from Jagriti to our apartment for drinks. It was the four Arizonans, Savitr (the percussionist/surgeon), Arundhati and Jagdish (directors of Jagriti), Vivek (manager of Jagriti) and Rebecca (education director). As we sat around our table, imbibing our various social lubricants, I kept thinking, “It just doesn’t get any better than this. Enjoying great conversations with new friends who just happen to live halfway around the world … and yet we all speak a common language.” Again, I was taking mental photos and burning them into my memory. I felt so privileged to be a part of such a human, momentous exchange; the conversation was very matter-of-fact and not-out-of-the-ordinary and yet, the communication was sublime. Vivek and Rebecca stayed longer than the others and we quizzed them about all things India; they quizzed us about American popular culture. Rebecca gave me some pointers about Bollywood gossip and the two of them wrote out some Indian film recommendations. I have become quite a fan of Indian cinema (yes, I said “cinema” and not “movies.” So there.) I went to bed overflowing with gratitude for this Bangalore experience and thanking the universe for allowing me the chance to experience it. I will continue to thank Joe and Cindy, as well, for as long as we are friends.
June 11, 2012
Another day off — yahoo! And a very special day off, as Arundhati and Jagdish took us to The Bangalore Club for lunch (but not before we stopped for some shopping). The Bangalore Club was built by the British–a colonial style enclave where they could gather, socialize and, I assume, discuss how to dominate an entire foreign culture. It is now an Indian club, and a beautiful and charming one at that. We were joined by Chandran, Patty’s friend from the Bay Area and the original impetus for this partnership between The Rogue and Jagriti (he was the producer of the run of “Happy Days” that Patty and Joe performed two years ago). Lunch was sublime (have I mentioned that I love Indian food?) and the conversation stimulating, as always. It is still kind of mind-boggling that we have found such kindred spirits here, halfway around the world. We were having coffee after lunch and the conversation swerved to a discussion of how we can keep this partnership alive and thriving. So exciting to think of having a place in India to come back to and feed our artistic souls. I told Cindy later that I truly feel like this is no longer a “once in a lifetime” experience; that I very much want to keep exploring this fascinating country and culture many times over. In fact, when we were shopping, Patty held up a box of tea and said, “We’d better stock up on this, because, you know, it could be a whole year before we’re able to buy any more!”
— David Morden