This post was first published on the Indian Ensemble blog on 28 April 2018.
This is a good time to check in on rehearsals. Nagamandala opens on 23rd May at Ranga Shankara. We have worked on one scene so far. Nagamandala was not written with any scene numbers, just two acts and a prologue. After having done some dividing, we have arrived at 17 scenes. Even at a speed of one scene a day, this is really cutting it fine. The show is on the 23rd. For the last year of the director’s program, I have been finding myself approaching show day with less than a month to go and no scene work started. I thought this time would be different, but it is not.
Nagaamandala is play that has been countless times. It’s very popular, common, and in fact is being performed the same week as we are in Hindi at Chowdiah Memorial Hall for a Girish Karnad festival. Having been told a lot and several times about the writer’s stickler for accuracy when it comes to people following scripts, I was surprised with his one-line response to my lengthy pitch for an adaptation that read ‘feel free to interpret it as you please.’ Given the green light from Mr. Karnad, we proceeded to adapt the context and re-imagine some elements of the play
So far the process has included:
WORK WITH DRAMATURG
This has involved working with the story and context of the play. The events of the play are dependent on the young female protagonist being completely unaware, until the very end, that her husband and the man she is sleeping with at night are two different men. She reconciles herself with not asking questions and is granted agency because of her deification by means of proving her purity. Whether or not she knows all throughout is ambiguous, and her knowledge is only confirmed at the end of the play. Rani accepts both her oppression as well as the way out of it that is offered rather than claimed by her. The initial work with the dramaturg was towards interpreting the play such that Rani is someone who makes choices and navigates her unhappy marriage to claim agency within it. To do this, we interpret Rani as someone who doesn’t accept her fate and makes the conscious choice of having a lover outside of her marriage.
The other key thing to focus on with the dramaturgy of the play was its context. Being staged in Malayalam, we needed to find a context in which this story could occur.
After two days of auditions (to which six people turned up of which I wanted to cast two) I spent several days reaching out to people and looking for actors to begin a casting workshop. I wanted to work with trained or experienced actors that could give a good amount of time every day from now till the 23rd of May, and also be interested in traveling with the production.
The purpose of the casting workshop was to figure out which actor would be suitable for which role, for me to set the language of the rehearsal room, and for the actors to get a gist of what the rehearsal process would be like. The casting workshop is also a process that is great for finding the right team because it becomes clear over the period which performers will last and which will be consistently late or drop out entirely.
Working with the movement director on Naga’s transformation, how Kurudiamma will be carried, specific body languages for each character, and a relationship between Naga and Rani.
- First scene between Naga and Rani
- Character and voice with Kurudiamma
- Interactions between Rani and Kurudiamma
- Trying out sound while the actors perform scenes and the transformation from Naga to Appannan
CHALLENGES SO FAR (all the standard ones)
- Raising money
- Getting all the actors to come at the same time for long periods of time on any day except weekends
- Finding actors
- Finishing everything that I want to by May 23rd
The production needs to meet the following deadlines in order to be able to get on stage satisfactorily.
- 23rd May – Show day
- 15th May- Runs
- 12th & 13th May – Chorus scenes
- 10th May – Set, Costumes, Props