Ramanujan’s Muse

PartitionMusic2 This past Saturday, Neil and Gauri Potdar opened their home music studio to Sridharan Hariharan who has composed original veena music for Shunya’s latest production, Partition.

The veena is a Carnatic or South Indian instrument and is symbolically associated with Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of education, music, and the arts.

Partition will feature several different raags or melodic modes. In order to compose the music, Sridharan read the script and watched the scenes between Ramanujan and Namagiri. Through this process, the veena itself has become a kind of character, empathizing and moving with the action of the play.

PartitionMusic1

 

Partition – A Play About Math?

Ramanujan: Billington, let me explain. One plus two equals three.

Billington: I know that.

Ramanujan: And one plus one plus one equals three. And three plus zero equals three.

Billington: Don’t look at me with such concern. I’m not a donkey.

Ramanujan: That gives us three different ways to add up integers to equal three. These are partitions. The number of partitions of the number three is…three.

Billington: I’m ready for the climax.

math-chalkboardThe topic of math is impossible to avoid in the rehearsal room. However, for those with severe allergic reactions to numbers and algebraic symbols, please don’t run away. Shunya’s latest production Partition isn’t all math. It’s actually about you.

Maybe you don’t work with numbers on a daily basis, but you definitely work with partitions. How many ways can you partition a group of friends or co-workers or students or sports teams or foods or movies or songs or whatever? There may not be a formula for this, but it’s something we seem to do automatically and systematically. It’s a continual process of differentiation and separation.

This process is necessary to establish identity. I am Sara, and you are not. I am from Neptune, and you are from Earth. And so on.

Although we are constantly drawing lines, we are also simultaneously forming threads of connection between different people and ideas. These connections are also needed to establish identity. I belong to a family of nuts. This innermost circle establishes my identity in many ways.

At its core, Partition is a play about characters (dead and living, divine and mundane, brilliant and broken) who just like us are struggling to draw lines and circles on a stage.

Over the past few weeks, as a cast and crew, we have experienced the partitions that divide us: ethnicity, age, religion, occupation, etc. But we are bounded by something more than a script now. We are bending the lines and turning them into newly fashioned loops. We hope you will join us in August and bring your own numbers, words, and colors to our stage.

Reading, Q&A, and Book Signing for “The Fifth Lash and Other Stories”

The_Fifth_Last_Anis_ShivaniLong-time Houston resident Anis Shivani (twitter) will read from his collection The Fifth Lash and Other Stories at Brazos Bookstore (map) on June 13th at 7pm. The Fifth Lash was recently released by C&R Press and currently on the longlist for international Frank O’Connor short story award.

The Fifth Lash and Other Stories received advance praise from Ron Rash, Gina Ochsner, George Singleton, Murzban Shroff, and others. Publishers Weekly wrote: “These new stories from Shivani, many set in Pakistan, parse the disconnect between public and private behavior, and the desires that must be muted in order for people to survive. Shivani is a perceptive writer who puts his finger on the contradictions his characters navigate to survive daily life.”

Anis’s debut novel Karachi Raj will be released in October 2013. In criticism, Anis’s books include Against the Workshop (2011), the recently completed Literature at the Global Crossroads, and a book in progress called Plastic Realism: Neoliberal Discourse in the New American Novel. Anis’s other books include My Tranquil War and Other Poems (2012), Anatolia and Other Stories (2009), the recently completed Soraya: Sonnets, and a novel in progress, Abruzzi, 1936.

Anis’s work appears in the Southwest Review, Boston Review, Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, Agni, Epoch, Fence, Boulevard, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, George Review, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, Subtropics, Colorado Review, Times Literary Supplement, London Magazine, Cambridge Quarterly, and many other journals. He won a 2012 Pushcart Prize, and graduated from Harvard College.

From Carnival to Rehearsal

globe-theatre-pic

“If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

Life is a comedy, and man is a giddy thing.  Over the past few weeks, Shunya members have been drinking excess amounts of green-happy bhang-like mazaa madness.  Perhaps a little too much…ahem.  But such is the cyclical nature of the dramatic life.  In classical comedies, this period of carnival is a licensed time of misrule and topsy turvy anarchy that gives way to a more austere time of testing and character building before the final reunification and celebration at the end.

This abnormal season of carnival and mistaken identifies ultimately necessitates plot and a sense of restored order.  The tricks and excesses of theatrical Mardi Gras are just that.  We get away with them because they are staged illusions that ultimately leave us longing for something true and most often difficult.  In two weeks time, the cast and crew will begin rehearsals, a time of joyful testing and play building.

To lead us into the rehearsal season, we invite you to one last hurrah – Party on the Hill – at the Miller Outdoor Theatre.  Join us on the hill as we watch a beautiful Odissi classical dance performance.  We’ll be having a couple more events during rehearsals, including one where you can help us construct a Wonder Wall of Ideas and Quotes, which will be featured at the show in August!  So stay tuned for that as well!

“O, wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in’t!”

Casting Call for Trailer!

image Cressandra Thibodeaux, filmmaker and executive director of 14 Pews, is looking to cast two South Asian parts for an upcoming trailer. If interested, please email her at cressandra@me.com:

Can you help me cast for the H-Town Multicultural Film Festival Trailer. The trailer will be 15 seconds long. I’m looking for a 70-100 year old Indian man who can play an instrument (guitar type) and a young 6 year old Indian boy or girl. I wanna do something like this International Film Festival Trailer

Finding Ananda – Play Reading

swami_vivekanandaWe meet again for another fun-filled evening of play reading! The play of the month is Finding Ananda by Vijay Padaki.

Synopsis: Vivek is a young Indian-American in Chicago, sent to India by his parents to discover his roots. They know the director of a Vivekananda theater project and request an internship for their son. Vivek arrives in India a skeptic, but will it be long before he changes his mind?

When: Saturday, May 18, at 4:00 pm
Where: Sara’s place

Want to come, or learn more about our readings? Email Anjana at anjana@shunyatheatre.org.

Facebook and Theatre

Facebook Wants a New Face
rishibando / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s incredible how much social networking has changed the way we communicate and interact with one another. As a theatre company, we really have just begun to take advantage of the benefits of these methods of outreach and community engagement. I hope it continues, because I think it’s awesome. I also think it’s dangerous.

Facebook, in essence, is a kind of stage. You can post thoughts, jokes, opinions, pictures, and receive feedback from a collective of friends, an audience. This is exhilarating. Those who have never set foot on stage get to experience theatrical high jumps from their living room couches.

Even better – there’s no rehearsal. And here lies the danger. When we prepare for a show, we spend four to six weeks in rehearsal. We challenge each other mentally, physically, and emotionally. Only when we have gone through this collaborative preparation, do we dare put ourselves before an audience. Standing in front of an audience is scary. It can destroy you if you are not firmly grounded. This is why community is so essential. If there are blows to be had, then we take them as a team.

Facebook is a community. However, it’s a fragmented community. Individuals present themselves to the world. At Shunya, we present ourselves as a collective.

We encourage all of you to share your voice on stage – virtual and otherwise. But remember – rehearsal is the play.