1-888-DIAL-INDIA Featured Actor: Sara Kumar

Sara Kumar

Saraswati (Sara) Agnes Kumar is a member of Shunya’s Board of Directors and the former Artistic Director. She has acted, directed written and composed for several Shunya productions, and also founded Paragon Arts in Los Angeles.

role:  Sara, Jennifer, Amy

How did you first get involved with Shunya?

I met Soham after watching Reincarnation, Shunya’s first production.  He encouraged me to write a one-act play, which I directed that summer.  I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you develop your passion for theatre?

When I was a kid, I used to write scripts and have neighborhood children perform them for holidays and special occasions.  In college, I started writing skits for talent shows.  Shunya was my first opportunity to really get to do theatre in a serious way.

What is it like working with the rest of the cast?

I think this is a great cast, and I love working with them.  That’s the best part really, the relationships that are built both on and off stage.

How to you go about creating your character?

I find something similar in my own personality or life experiences, and then I exaggerate it or diminish it to suit the character.  That way it comes off more natural.  I’m not manufacturing.  I’m just simply playing with the dynamics of something already present in me.  Fortunately (or unfortunately!), I’ve had some pretty intense personal experiences, which have given me quite an arsenal of emotions to experiment with.

What do you enjoy about the play?

I actually think this play is a form of social commentary.  What happens when American culture enters Indian society?  What is lost?  What is there to gain?  What happens to families?  Is all this happening haphazardly?  I think Anuvab Pal uses humor throughout the play, but he is posing very serious questions.  If we can hit those moments in the play where you don’t know whether to laugh or to ease the sick feeling in your stomach with just the right poignancy, then those will be the most powerful parts of the play.

What do you find funniest about the play?

You know, the play is very funny.  No doubt about that, and I think everyone will pee in their pants laughing.  But it’s also dark and really quite serious.  So I hope the audience picks up on both aspects.

What do you think the audience will enjoy about the play?

The pole dancing.

What has been the most difficult aspect of acting in this production?

For me the most difficult part is that Anuvab Pal is portraying certain trends or perceptions of both American and Indian society.  And while they may be exaggerated, these perceptions are not altogether off.  In fact, there’s a lot of truth being portrayed.  And this is scary.  Well, I think it’s scary.  So on stage, we’re playing all this out and laughing out loud at these hilarious lines, but inside I want to say – Stop!  Let’s re-think what’s going on here culturally and socially.  This is funny, but what are we really saying about our society and how we operate?   That’s what art should do.  This play does not offer any solutions.  That’s for us to ponder.  I worry that people will walk away laughing without really thinking about the greater ramifications.  And that’s….difficult.

1-888-DIAL-INDIA Featured Actor: Dianne K. Webb

Dianne K Webb
Dianne K Webb

Name: Dianne K. Webb

Roles: Voice, Anne, Lisa, Susan

How did you first get involved with Shunya?

I met Yaksha Bhatt through a filmmaker who was putting together a short film for Daya and I ended up doing a small part. After that Yaksha and I were in another short film together that showed at Voices Breaking Boundaries. Then I met several other Shunya people in a Writers Group started by Sara Kumar. I was glad and curious to be asked to audition for 1-888-Dial India and am having a great time working with Shunya Theater.

Tell me about your theatre background.

I grew up back stage at a variety of community theaters doing everything from prompting, crew, costuming, props, so by the time I was the mother of a budding actor (now a professional actor in Boston) I began directing a theater troupe and working on developing original pieces with teens for issues based theater. I am fascinated with the ability of theater to create a mirror for the human condition, a pause where we can see ourselves, laugh at ourselves, cry at our losses, find new meaning in old stories.

What is it like working with the rest of the cast?

Great. I am enjoying all my new theater friends as I forge connections to theater arts here in Houston. Shunya is a great group to work with.

How to you go about creating your character?

I research characters after reading the play through several times and studying the lines. In the case of the character, Lisa, I re-read Mother Courage by Bertolt Brecht to get a little into the character’s head. I watched segments of Mother Courage on YouTube, looked for costume ideas and thought about what make-up might get across her state of distress. I also thought about what her motivations for calling a suicide hot-line might be and if she was actually going to “do it.”  So, I guess the short answer is research and really getting into the play, and into a character’s “head.”

What do you find funniest about the play?

I love the political commentary about outsourcing and suicide…both things capable of changing Indian and American society in unexpected ways. I love the “ridiculous” of the idea which is just extreme enough to be plausible. And I love the caricature of American society.

This play has some very graphic language. Do you think pushing these types of boundaries is part of the reason this play is so funny?

As I used to say to my writing students, you can use graphic language if it fits the character of the plot of your work…I am not sure the play would communicate its ideas without the crassness.