June 12, 2012
Today was a special day, in that we were invited to lunch with Girish Karnad (author of Naga Mandala—as I’m sure we’ve all said about 17 times). Mr. Karnad is a very well-known and well-respected author and actor here in India (and in Bangalore, in particular), so I was feeling quite honored and a little nervous about spending the afternoon with him. He invited the four of us and Arundhati to his house in the south of Bangalore, a wonderful bungalow surrounded by hustle and bustle of the city. He told us about how he had built his house long before the tech boom here and how the city has changed drastically over the past ten years. He helped us to better understand the city today and how everyone is dealing with an explosion of growth that no one expected (the drive out to his house, in fact, took us past tower after tower of office buildings housing IT companies). We then dined together at a wonderful Thai restaurant and Mr. Karnad talked about his career, his writing, his influences and Indian theatre, in general. He is a beautiful and gracious man and it was a delight to spend the middle of the day with him, indulging in one of my favorite pastimes, talking theatre.
We got back to the apartment with just enough time to rest up for the evening show, which was another fun romp. The audience was responsive; we were all feeling great and just had a good time spinning out the yarn of Louis de Rougemont’s story once again.
June 13, 2012
As I write this, I bask in the glow of an afternoon and evening spent at Soukya International Holistic Health Centre. But more of that anon.
We started the day with a student matinee. The folks at Jagriti arranged it so that we did a morning show instead of the evening performance. We were kind of looking forward to doing the show for a theatre full of kids, since we’ve had such fun when there were kids in the “adult” audiences. As I stepped into the theatre for my first entrance, however, I realized that the kids were much, much younger than I anticipated. Actually, they ranged from very young (I’m guessing about eight or nine) up to pre-teens. In my mind, I instantly did a re-calculation of the story of Shipwrecked and how it would fall on very young ears. One of the tricks of a student matinee is commanding the attention of 180 kids for 100 minutes without them getting too squirmy, bored or rambunctious. They were an eager crowd, but it immediately became clear that we would need to focus them pretty intensely and really get them hooked into the story. For the most part, we were successful, but we hadn’t really realized how much of the play consists of fairly complex adult ideas and vocabulary. We were OK through the shipwreck and the scenes on the island, but as soon as Louis gets back to London, the play starts to take on some greater ideas (“What is truth?”). We admittedly rushed through some scenes that we knew would make no sense to the kids and drove hard to the end of the play. They were very enthusiastic at the final curtain and we congratulated each other on getting through a very unusual performance. As I left the stage door and entered the lobby, I was swarmed by about twenty kids with playbills asking for my autograph (Joe, Patty and Savitr had already been accosted). The kids were astonishingly cute and eager and it was fun to try and chat with them as they thrust the pieces of paper at me for my signature.
In the afternoon, we were invited to visit Soukya, a healing retreat outside of Bangalore. It specializes in holistic healing and is truly a wonderland; a serene, peaceful retreat from the pace of the city where people come from all over the world to restore their health and inner balance over an extended period of time (two or three weeks, usually). We were greeted by the Executive Director and Co-Founder, Suja Issac, who talked about the work they are doing there and their philosophy of healing. We were also offered whole coconuts with the top sliced off and a straw sticking out in order to drink the fresh coconut water (one of life’s great delicacies, in my opinion). After a chat and some learning, Suja offered us the chance to get an Ayurvedic massage, which I shyly, but ever so eagerly accepted.
An Ayurvedic hot stone massage is an extraordinary experience–70 minutes of massage using heated palm-sized stones and lots and lots of Ayurvedic oils (created on the premises). It had been quite a while since I had indulged in a full-body massage and this one was incredible. The massage was followed by a luxurious shower. I felt as if my feet were about an inch off the ground when the whole experience was finished. As I came out to the patio afterwards, a tropical breeze blew and the deep sounding wind chimes soothed my newly-massaged soul. I sipped water from another coconut and sat glassy-eyed looking out across the manicured lawn surrounded by tropical flowers and cashew trees. Soukya is an amazing place—the organic produce is grown on site; they generate their own fuel through organic waste, they create their own oils and run most of the operations with green technology. After our respective massages were all complete and we all had contented smiles pasted onto our faces, we had tea with Suja and her husband, Dr. Issac Mathai, Co-founder and Medical Director. It was a fascinating discussion about medicine, homeopathy, holistic healing and the discoveries they are making at Soukya. It was a real privilege to spend time with them. Our visit was capped with an organic meal in the dining area—fresh vegetables blasted with flavor, cumin water, fruit juice, delectable pasta and pear slices in cinnamon syrup. Unbelievable. I think this glow will last quite a while. And to our amazing hosts—if you’re reading this—thank you from the bottom of my heart.
June 14, 2012
India continues to blow my mind. I’ve come to love this country (well, this city, at the very least) deeply and discussions are coming fast and furious about how we can return as soon as possible. Today we spent the morning with Arundhati Sag, the director of the Ranga Shankara theatre (the venue where Patty and Joe performed Happy Days). It was wonderful to hear about their theatre and the work being done there. Whereas Jagriti is more of a repertory company – presenting five plays over an entire season (three week runs of each play … just like The Rogue), Ranga Shankara is a theatre that plays host to a number of companies, each performing for a night or two (or three). It is a place where artists—both young and old; amateur and professional—can present their work to the Bangalore audiences. It is also a place where international companies can land in this city and share their work with the Indian public. It is also a producing organization, mounting its own productions, both traditional and experimental. Mrs. Nag told us about a partnership with a company in Mannheim, Germany that is allowing both companies to perform together, in both countries—and beyond. It was all very inspiring and breathtaking hearing the scope of the work at that theatre, as well as its dedication to teaching young children this art from. We chatted for about an hour, toured the theatre, sat in the theatre café and enjoyed more wonderful Indian food and just as we were parting ways, she excitedly showed us a puppet theatre created out of the back end of a small, hatchback car! It was delightful to meet yet another visionary Bangalore theatre artist and share ideas about the art of theatre, as well as the nuts and bolts of the everyday work.
After lunch, we squeezed in a little more shopping and returned to the apartment for an afternoon of rest and catching up on e-mails. The show was once again a delight and a treat to perform—somehow new and different every night. Tonight was Cindy’s final show in Bangalore. I was glad that we did a good show for her sendoff, but am feeling melancholy that she won’t be with us this weekend. Sunday night is going to be a difficult show, knowing that we have to pack up this play again … at least until the next international tour.