Some artistes come to life only after death. Niko Pirosmani of Gerogia, for instance, used to paint a lot but, it is said, people only bought advertising banners from him. After his passed away in a basement in Tbilsi in 1918, Pirosmani began to rise in fame. Now, a one-act puppet show, titled Pirosmani, will unravel the master’s story. “In myth-loving Tbilisi, no one can say, ‘I know about Niko Pirosmani’. Information about him was collected only after his death. When Georgians talk about Pirosmani, we begin with, ‘According to legend…’,” says director Elene Matshkhonashvili in an official statement.
Pirosmani will be performed as part of the IAPAR International Theatre Festival 2019, a festival in Pune that celebrates the stage and all that happens around it through masterclasses, workshops and platform performances. This is the fourth edition of the event. “At the heart of the festival is the idea of facilitating intercultural exchange, building of relationships with diverse groups of artistes, and bringing original theatre from all around the world to Indian audiences,” says Vidyanidhee Varanase aka Prasad, an alumni of Delhi’s National School of Drama and director of the festival. The plays have come from across georgraphies and genres but are united by the thread of individual fighting against oblivion.
From the US, for instance, Teatro Travieso or Troublemaker Theatre has brought the production, Women of Ciudad Juarez, whose protagonists are the hundreds of women who are disapearing or being killed, raped or tortured in a border town of Mexico called Ciudad Juarez, since the 1990s. The play uses the stage as an arena to examine, reflect on and talk about the femicide. Directed by Jimmy A Noriega and written by Cristina Michaus, Women of Ciudad Juarez has won an award for making theatre an important catalyst for sociopolitical change at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC. The powerful work presents multiple perspectives — from mothers to daughters to factory workers to sex workers — as four performers take on the roles of the victims, their families and the investigating officers.
“One of the reasons we organise this festival is to enable young theatre practitioners from the city to interact with their peers from across the world,” says Prasad, adding that the festival is an official event of the Indian Centre of International Theatre Institute as well as recognised by the Unesco-Unitwin Network for Higher Education in Performing Arts.
Another foreign production is about a woman who is dealing with the awareness of the responsibility that each individual has towards the future of this planet. Miss Mertens Refuses to Grow Bigger, the play casts her as a “human being of many possibilities” whose fight for the environment drives her through different roles and attitudes, questioning and investigating positions in society.
The festival began on November 7 with Pune-based company RangPandhari’s Nirupan, a play that makes a point about social evils. Set in a Maharashtra village, it revolves around situations that occur in the sanctum sanctorum of the deity Vitthala. On Friday, Delhi-based group, Unicorn Actors Studio, presented Roop Aroop, about the tussle between an accomplished male actor and an aspiring woman performer. Coming up, on Sunday, is Bali, a play that is significant because it marks the first production from Puducherry-based Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts and Research after its founder, Veenapani Chawla, died in 2014. Directed by Nimmy Raphel, the performance revolves around the killing of the monkey king Bali and is a mediation of justice, ethics and morality. Crucially, the play show how Sugreeva was constantly subjected to violence at home. “When there is no place for dialogue, what do you do as an individual? You will retaliate,” said Raphel after the play was staged as part of the Bharat rang Mahotsav, the theatre festival of NSD in Delhi earlier this year.
The festival will be held at Kala Chhaya Cultural Centre and Jyotsana Bhole Sabhgruha till November 12.