David’s Diary Part 4

June 6, 2012

A very uneventful—yet luxurious day.  Today’s main event was reading:  plays of Girish Karnad and Dickens’ “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”  When I thought about this trip in Tucson, I kept dreaming of the day that I could spend just reading for leisure, living the life of a professional actor.  Today was that day. It felt wonderful, though getting my energy up for the show was a little more of a chore.  We had a good show, though, so no worries!

June 7, 2012

The gardens at Tipu Sultan’s summer palace (click for larger image)

A day of Bangalore adventure today:  we ventured out to see Tipu Sultan’s summer palace and the Bull Temple.  We hired a car to drive us to the other side of the city—always an enjoyable adventure in and of itself.  Watching the city roll by outside the car windows is fascinating.  Besides the cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, scooters and autorickshaws, there is the occasional cart drawn by oxen.  Dusty shops selling sundries for daily living sit beside Nike outlet stores and McDonalds (oh, why is that the symbol of America the world over?).

Joe, Cindy, Patty at Tipu Sultan’s palace (click for larger image)

Our driver dropped us off at the palace and we proceeded to what we thought was the entrance.  We were immediately accosted and told to remove our shoes (dumb Americans).  I was actually kind of delighted that I got to wander inside barefoot, unencumbered by footwear!  Inside, there was some wonderful sculpture and paintings of Indian gods and goddesses, but not much else.  We could see some fancier buildings over one of the walls, and we had seen some gardens on the way in, but could find no way to get to them.

Joe, Cindy, Patty at the temple next to Tipu Sultan’s palace

Disappointed, we left and were putting our shoes on again, when one of the attendants told us that the entrance to Tipu Sultan’s palace was around the corner; we had actually wandered into a local temple!  So we headed around the corner and enjoyed a visit to the summer palace.  The palace was built about 1790 and there wasn’t much left of it, but it was still cool to see the structure and the Indian architecture that was intact.  We had fun taking photos of each other standing in ornate doorways.  We even had young Indian boys asking to take their photos with us (“Let’s get a photo with the big white guy!”), which was an experience I would never have at home!

 

The temple next to Tipu Sultan’s palace (click for larger image)

Next, we went to a nearby temple that featured a massive sculpture of a bull (Nandi).  Again, we had to be reminded to take our shoes off (dumb Americans).  The sculpture was a monolith about eight feet high and twice as long, decorated with garlands of flowers.  As we entered, there was an attendant holding a small tray with an oil lamp and a bowl of red pigment.  I had seen this in Indian movies and watched others do this ritual as they entered before us: one cups one’s hand over the flame and then gestures as if pouring the essence of the flame over one’s head.  Then, one dips a finger in the red pigment and puts a dot on one’s forehead (in my case, the attendant did so for me).  Then we walked all around the sculpture and, before leaving, touched its side and asked a blessing.  It was an unexpectedly moving moment.  I’m always deeply affected when one culture shares its spirituality with another.  I was quite privileged to have that moment at the temple.

David, acting all sultan-like (click for larger image)

Next, we headed back to Whitefield and to lunch at a restaurant run by a young couple: Mariannick’s.  If anyone is ever in Bangalore, do not miss this restaurant!  The wife is French, the husband is British (of Indian descent, I believe) and they make the most mind-blowing pizza you’ll ever taste.  The meal started with a huge salad which was delicious (all the books about India warn you away from fresh produce, but Patty had eaten here earlier in the week and had no problems).  I then reveled in a goat cheese and red onion jam pizza that was out of this world.  We splurged for dessert and split a crème caramel and crème brulee and took home two slices of cheesecake (chocolate toffee and banana toffee; dessert came with the prix fixe meal).  It was a world class meal and a jewel in the middle of Bangalore.  I’m definitely goin’ back!

The Bull Temple (click for larger image)

It was a good show tonight, though I felt I was a little sloppy.  I think it was just a bit of fatigue from the activities of the day.  Cindy assured us that the small audience was extremely impressed, so even a sloppy show seems to be accomplishing something.  We’ve been talking about how nice it is to have an extended run of this play.  I’ve always said one never really knows a play until about the 25th performance.  I think today was our 20th, so there’s still more learning yet to come – hooray!

— David Morden

Patty and David after visiting the Bull Temple (click for larger image)

Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace

At Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace (click for larger image)

Right before we came to Bangalore, Jagriti Theatre produced a play by Girish Karnad (who also wrote Naga Mandala) called The Dreams of Tipu Sultan. The play is about a sultan of India in the late 18th century and how he was defeated by the English. It’s a beautiful, rich play that reflects on the nature of conquest and how our dreams intersect with our lives. While we’ve been here, we borrowed the play from Arundhati and read it. I’ve been reflecting on it for days. Yesterday, we went to the summer palace of Tipu Sultan here in Bangalore, and I was struck by the iconography surrounding the palace and was thrilled to walk on some of the same paths that this hero of India walked. I also thought of our upcoming play, Journey to the West, in seeing the images of stone monkeys all around the palace.

Tonight, Girish Karnad is coming to see Shipwrecked! We’ll let you know about our meeting …

— Cindy Meier

Stone monkeys at Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace (click for larger image)

Three women in saris (click for larger image)

 

 

Popcorn, Mangos, Scent of Success

Sat., June 2 –

Opened last night to a small but enthusiastic house.  The enthusiasm, though, was cloaked in Indian discretion.  They stayed aboard, despite their silence for much of the early going.  Bruno didn’t seem to connect the way he did in Tucson.  Tonight might tell us more (was it anomalous, or cultural?).

Improvised transportation. (Click for larger image)

Nevertheless, it has the scent of a successful enterprise.  Hopefully, it will be a lovely end to Jagriti’s first season.

The theater scene in Bangalore is a bit of a surprise.  From what I can tell, it is not as active – and certainly not as well-funded – as the scene in Tucson, despite Bangalore being at least six or seven times bigger than Tucson.  There doesn’t seem to be the tradition of arts philanthropy in India that we enjoy in the States, so Jagriti’s got its work cut out for it.  Government support is not available for English-language theatre either, which further makes life difficult for our friends at Jagriti.

Tue., June 5 –

Jesus flanked by Hindu goddesses (click for larger image)

We just finished a conversation with a representative of the American consulate in Bangalore responsible for cultural exchange, and the Rajas, our hosts.  We spoke at some length about more possibilities for cooperation and collaboration.  It was good to get to talk with them about the places where our cultures meet, and where they are strange to one another.

Spoke more with Anu here in the office at Jagriti.  I learned that India has no government level to speak of below the state level.  No counties or municipalities!  I believe this is a safeguard of sorts from fragmentation, as India is comprised of nearly 30 discreet languages.  It is a wonder that India has managed to remain a contiguous nation at all.  But the lack of local authority must make things terribly difficult.

Patty and David improvise dinner using popcorn and mangos as props. (click for larger image)

Monday was a trip to Commercial Street, a Bangalore tourist destination.  At a massive shop for Karnataka crafts I took a picture of three side-by-side monumental carvings:  Jesus flanked by Hindu goddesses.  A curious image that I couldn’t resist sharing with you.  Along the way we saw a not uncommon means of transport.  Two on a motorcycle, the rear one hanging on to some kind of cargo.  In this case, a stool/ladder.  That evening we improvised our dinner:  popcorn & mangos.  There are moments of reclaimed youth here.  Moments.  My stomach still rebels. . .

— Joe McGrath

Through Cindy’s Eyes

We are now halfway through our adventure to India. Parts of the trip are mundane – washing out clothes by hand, getting daily water from the waterseller across the street, trying to find the right mix of food and exercise to keep us strong and our bellies calm – but parts of the trip continue to be exotic and unusual. Yesterday we met with a representative from the U.S. Consulate in India, along with Jagdish and Arundhati. In the afternoon, Joe and I had an interesting talk with Anu Frederick, the Business Manager here, about Indian government – the complexity of unifying a country with so many different languages. We also got an email from an audience member who was frustrated by what she perceived as the Imperialist content of the play, which led us to a good conversation about the nature of the play with all of our hosts. Last night at the show we had a small but appreciative house. I continue to be fascinated by watching the audience here – again, there was a row of 20-somethings out for the evening and enjoying the play. Bruno’s rescue of Louis doesn’t get the laugher and applause it did in Tucson (perhaps this audience didn’t grow up watching Lassie?), but Queen Victoria is a hit every night. Yamba’s pronunciation of “bird” wins laughter in both places. I am, of course, intrigued by all of the Indian dress – the lovely, bright fabrics, always with a scarf or shawl thrown over the shoulders. We’ve all been reading more Indian plays, as well as a German play that the British company brought here in February. We’re all a little homesick. This morning I watched the sunrise over our balcony – the piles of big rolling clouds with pink undersides above the thousands of palm trees. I thought about this daylight heading toward you all.

— Cindy Meier

David’s Diary Part 3

June 1, 2012

A temple on a residential street (click for larger image)

Opening Night!  A very nervous day in anticipation of our first performance.  Still, managed to get a long walk into a nearby neighborhood and soaked up some more local color.  I’m still fascinated by the variety of things to see and experience – cows in the road, roadside temples, tropical plants, open drainage ditches, monkeys running wild, and people, people, people (such beautiful people).

Our show tonight went well, though I think we were all fairly nervous, as if we were doing it for the first time again, not the fourteenth time.  I was apprehensive about how the Bangalore audience would respond … or not respond.  It was a small house (about 75) and they were a good crowd—reserved but vocal in their feedback.  An interesting twist with this play is that, having run through this story countless times (including rehearsals), it suddenly seems quite new again.  I think it is the fact that there is an audience watching now that doesn’t have the same cultural references as our hometown crowd.  It’s been really exciting to start finding new things in this delightful story and new ways to delight each other.  Also, having a new cast member has injected some very fresh energy into the show.  The response from audience members after the show was quite enthusiastic.  We have our fingers crossed for larger audiences as we progress through the run.

June 2, 2012

A flowering tree seen all around town. Who can tell David what this is? (Click for larger image)

Another day of moving through molasses.  I think some of this may be remnants of jet lag; much of it is adjusting to the heat and the lack of air conditioning.  We have only ceiling fans in our apartment, so we live in a perpetual state of mild discomfort in the 90 degree heat.  It’s not Tucson hot here, thank heavens, but it’s warm enough to always be conscious of the heat (and humidity).  It makes me realize how very, very spoiled we are back home to constantly have cool air blowing on us, whether at home, work, play or while driving in between all points.

A residential street (click for larger image)

Today Patty and I had a wonderful lunch at one of the upscale hotels.  It was a delicious, spicy meal and afterwards she headed up to the spa for a manicure and I wandered back to the apartment.  Along the way, I came upon one of my most wished-for sights on this trip – a cricket match.  I find this game fascinating and understand just enough of it to more or less follow the action.  I still don’t quite get the scoring, but since this was a neighborhood game played on an empty lot, it didn’t really matter.  It was fun to watch for a while (including the occasional stares from the other men who were watching). I had hoped to see a professional match while we were in town, but apparently the season just ended so this will have to do!

Monkeys on the wall (click for larger image)

Performance number two tonight – and a wonderful one it was, too.  The audience was very responsive, led by a delightful little girl in the front row (she especially loved Bruno).  After my lethargic day, I was determined to get my energy up and really sell the show, Louis-style.  And what do you know – it worked!  This show seems to fly by now.  Having a whole new audience with whom to share it and taking the extra care to make sure that they are getting the cultural references and understanding our diction seems to add some extra oomph to what we are doing.  We have had some really astounding comments afterwards, as well, such as, “I’ve never seen anything like this” and “This was amazing.”  That’s really gratifying to know that it is having a good impact and that we’re serving Jagriti by keeping their audience entertained.

June 3, 2012

The Fab Four: Joe, Patty, Cindy, and David (click for larger image)

The two-show day (marathon) is done!  We’re all wiped out by the amount of energy expended today, but heck, who cares? We’re in India!  Actually, it’s continually exciting to hear the response from audiences and receive their gracious comments from them afterwards.  Our first show was really good – a vocal audience that gave great feedback during the show.  We were all pretty nervous about the second show – there was really only about an hour to rest between shows (curtain times were 3:00 and 6:30).  We cranked up the energy for show #2 and were ready to knock ‘em dead and it turned out to be a very quiet audience.  Not that they didn’t enjoy the show; they were just very sedate and weren’t giving back much energy to us.  It was a bit of a chore to keep them on the hook throughout, but we did it.  I have to say that I feel a wee bit of pride, knowing that I was able to give back-to-back performances of this very demanding show.  I am, however, very glad that I only have to do that two more times during the run of this show.

A day of tomorrow and we’re all looking forward to seeing more of this city.  I’m eager to learn about some different aspects of Bangalore outside of the suburb of Whitefield.  I imagine we’ll get some shopping done, as well….

June 4, 2012

The street in front of Jagriti Theatre (click for larger image)

A new view of Bangalore today.  It was exciting to see what lies beyond our immediate neighborhood.  In some ways, it is more of the same; in some ways the city changes character pretty considerably (sometimes more chaotic; sometimes quite elegant).  Our first destination was what is known as Commercial Street—a place where we were told that there was good shopping.  I imagined it to be either an upscale row of shops or a string of street vendors and stalls.  Our goal was to find a fabric store that had been recommended to Cindy so that she could get an Indian style sari or kurti; from there we would see what else might be had, souvenir-wise.  Our driver dropped us at the corner of Commercial Street and it turned out to be somewhat the same as other streets in the city—shops, food stands, the occasional small temple, traffic, animals, etc.  Patty and I walked the length of the street to see if we could figure out where the sari shop was, encountering cows in the street, the usual flow of humans and such.  We headed back to Joe and Cindy and the four of us backtracked to our starting point.  We eventually located the shop that had been recommended—it was upstairs and down a short hallway.  When we entered, it was like a tropical rainforest of color: dark wood floors with several tables lining either side of the shop where shoppers are shown a variety of fabrics and saris in a rainbow of every color imaginable (including silver and gold).  I was feeling a little like a fish out of water, but wanted to explore and see what there was to see.  As we became accustomed to the bustle of the place, I really became dazzled by what was being sold: intensely beautiful fabrics—some for saris, some for scarves, some for kurtis.  Sometimes customers sat at the aforementioned tables, sometimes they sat on big square cushions, about eight feet square (like huge futons), as salespeople tossed out bolt after bolt of dazzling cloth for them to see.  Cindy found some incredible fabrics, some of which will no doubt show up in future Rogue productions.

After our fabric adventure, we had lunch at a restaurant recommended to us by one of the co-directors of the theatre.  It was another wonderful Indian meal.  As my sister once said, “One of the best things about India is that they eat Indian food all the time!”  After a leisurely lunch, I wanted to make one more stop at the state-run handicrafts shop.  We had a slight miscommunication with our driver, however, and had to wait in front of the restaurant for about twenty minutes as a sea of traffic flowed by.

A quick word about Bangalore traffic.  To say that it is “every man for himself” is an understatement and a mis-characterization.  There are lines in the road to indicate traffic lanes, but they are only suggestions, at best.  Drivers in this city maneuver in and around each other in a constant flow, through trucks, cars, motorcycles, scooters, mini-taxis (sort of a scooter with a back seat) and bicycles … not to mention pedestrians.  An empty space in traffic is an invitation for all vehicles to rush to fill it in and what should be a terrifying series of near misses is actually an astonishing dance of drivers working their way in and out of each other’s way.  Of course, the horn is the symphony that accompanies this dance—a constant cacophony of warnings to other drivers, pedestrians and anyone who might possibly be crossing the path of each vehicle’s forward progress.  You sometimes even see a vehicle driving against the flow of traffic as it shortcuts from ‘point A’ to ‘point B.’  In the heart of the city, vehicles stack up bumper to bumper, four or five wide with only inches between them. It was quite a show to watch as we waited for our ride.

The handicraft shop proved to be a disappointment.  I was hoping for a place to buy local work done by Indian artisans, but it was almost completely mass-produced items, reminiscent of a Pier One Imports.  We quickly left and returned to our apartment.  We had a wonderful evening of conversation and fresh mango around the dining table, as an orange full moon rose through the clouds and heat-lightning flashed above.  We had our fingers crossed for some rain, but instead, the clouds cleared and the moon became a spectacular saucer of light climbing through the sky.  Ironically, Joe said that it looked like the “moon box” we use in Shipwrecked—and, indeed, it did.

June 5, 2012

A relatively uneventful day.  I discovered the treadmill in the exercise room of the apartment building (woo hoo!) and began my Bangalore fitness regime in earnest.  I’ve been walking every day, but the humidity of the day and the hot weather make me feel so lethargic, that the extra burst of energy expended helps to make me feel a little more alert.

We met with the cultural affairs specialist from the American consulate in Chennai.  She and a colleague had come to tour Jagriti theatre and meet with the directors, Arundhati and Jagdish.  We Rogues joined them for a discussion of theatre and international exchange and we sang the praises of Jagriti (very sincerely) and their great work as ambassadors for English-language theatre.  We all bemoaned budget cuts and a reduced ability to bring American theatre to India, but I am hoping that we helped reinforce the value of it—for both Indian audiences and American arts organizations.

In the afternoon, I forced myself out for a walk, somewhat unenthusiastically, but ended up discovering some wonderful souvenirs to bring back to friends in the states.  It’s always good to be out and about with the locals, even if there’s no special reason for it, no?

In the evening, we arrived at the theatre to find that we had only a very small audience for the show.  We got ready with a little trepidation of playing to only a handful of people, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that, while it was a small audience, it was not ridiculously so.  It was a good first show of the week and we look forward to successively larger houses as the week progresses.

— David Morden

A Day in India

Fabric in a design called “Indian Dolls.”

As I’m sure David and others will describe, we had a wonderful day yesterday, riding in an air-conditioned car across town to a shopping area. Amazing to see so many people caught in a traffic jam and simply, calmly waiting. But the best part for me, was the fabric store. Beautiful silks and embroidered fabrics – bolt after bolt of the kinds of fabrics you don’t find in Tucson. Here’s a photo of one the owner called “Indian dolls.”

Thinking of you all with love!

— Cindy Meier

Opening Night!

Shipwrecked! — Opening night at Jagriti

Shipwrecked! opened in India! We had about 75 people in the audience with several children (who were extraordinarily well-behaved and equally delighted). Joe remarked that this might be the youngest audience we’ve ever played to. David and Joe and Patty and Savitr were at the top of their game and the audience was glowing. The biggest laugh of the evening came with the presentation of Queen Victoria – I imagine it was great fun for people of India to laugh at Victoria – but Joe is pretty funny at that point in the play anyway. I would say that all in all it was a great success. Here’s a view from the back of the theatre right before Louis de Rougement enters the stage!

We’re spending some time reading more Indian plays – looking for possibilities to bring home to produce in Tucson. We have plans to meet with Girish Karnad (the author of Naga Mandala) on Wednesday when he comes to see the play. That will be a thrill!

Best wishes to all our friends in Tucson. We look forward to being home with you soon!

— Cindy Meier