Thursday, December 27, 2012

Living Root Bridge

My stomach churned with excitement as the car turned down a small road and the dry brushes became lush jungle. Welcome to Mawlynnong, "the cleanest village in Asia", in the Khasi Hills of India's Northeastern State of Meghalaya. One of the wettest places in the world, the Khasi people have a tradition of weaving treeroots into living bridges that grow over generations.

This is the dry season, so as you can see, the water level in the river is low. But, as they describe in the BBC Human Planet excerpt below, when the monsoons come that all changes!

Human Planet Photographer, Timothy Allen, has a great blog post about the Living Root Bridges. It's easy to get excited about the idea of organic architecture, traditional sustainable design and everything that the bridges symbolize. The Khasi culture has other great examples, like the bamboo tree house pictured below.

There are no nails or screws, metal or concrete in this structure. The joints are tied together with reed and the supports are wedged in between tree branches. Not mention from the high platform you can see the sunrise across the plains of Bangladesh. I was moved by the magic of the forest, and the generous spirit of the people who live there.

Illuminated by the moon and stars, this is a long exposure shot was taken by Mitwa AV.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ramayana Remix in Kolkata

After a 29 hour train ride from Bangalore to Kolkata, the Shadow Liberation crew hit the streets to act out high energy scenes as a promotion for our preview performance of Ramayana Remix.

Once again we had the honor of collaborating with LOK, Kolkata's own youth lead arts movement (see Come Together about our last collaboration). LOK actors and dancers joined our rehearsals to infuse local talent into our epic production.

We put on the show outside Shrimati Art Gallery, in a beautiful open air courtyard theatre. The courtyard quickly filled beyond capacity with a young enthusiastic audience. The crowd was cheering so much at some points the performers were pausing after each line of dialogue!

Thanks to Rajat Mitra for the photos. (see his FB album). Thanks to Shrimati Art Gallery for putting up with our long noisy rehearsals. And of course thanks to LOK for everything!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Muktadhara-V: Forum Theatre Festival

Every other year Theatre of the Oppressed practitioners from around the globe flock to Kolkata for Jana Sanskriti'Muktadhara: Forum Theatre Festival. This is my second time attending Muktadhara. 2 years ago I came with my show at the time, Gender Shadow (see my posts from Kolkata 2010)

What I love about the festival is that the Forum Theatre pieces from around India and the world, are followed by traditional performing arts. The above picture is of a dance group from Orissa.

I think one of the most amazing things about Jana Sanskriti is the mass movement that they have built over the years. They quote Boal in saying they are the largest Theatre of the Oppressed movement in the world! And I don't doubt it.

This year I brought Shadow Liberation performers with me and we went with Jana Sanskriti out into a village in rural West Bengal for an evening of Forum Theatre with the locals.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sahabhaga: Festival of Participatory Performance

Young artists gather close with LOK, Indians largest youth led arts initiative.

At the crossroads of tradition and technology a new generation of artists are forging innovative practices and productions that engage with contemporary social and environmental problems. I created the Sahabhaga: Festival of Participatory Performance as a space to exchange, learn and, most all, participate in this creative movement. This performative dialogue centered around 3 questions:
  1. What are the most compelling and creative ways of inviting participation?
  2. How do modes of participatory performance reflect their cultural context?
  3. How can performance awaken the impulse to act for a more just world?

Yours Truly Theatre gave a dynamic Playback Theatre performance (above). In addition to Playback there were workshops and performances including, Forum Theatre, Legislative Theatre, Drama Therapy, and Devised Dance Theatre.

Shadow Liberation presented a preview performance of Ramayana Remix for Sahabhaga. In the pictures above you can see the beautiful shadows and costumes of this epic production.

Srishti students warmed up the stage and hosted the evening performances with energy and style!

Through authentic movement, text and image Disbelieve (above) embodied our deeply conflicted outer and inner worlds, the violence and chaos as well as yearning and desire. Produced by Studio for Movement Arts and Therapies- SMART

Headlining the festival was Kilusan Bautista with his solo performance, UNIVERSAL SELF, which he describes as "a creative and cutting edge presentation of the contemporary struggles for working class, Filipino Americans in the diaspora and the interconnectedness of Hip Hop culture with indigenous, tribal Filipino cultural expressions."

See more pictures on the Sahabhaga Facebook Page, and read more about the amazing workshops at

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Playback the Ramayana

Shadow Liberation hosted Yours Truly Theatre in our studio at Srishti for a workshop using Playback Theatre and shadows to retell the Ramayana and develop a few actor created scenes for our upcoming show. Sita told her side of the story and the actors improvised it on the spot!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mythological Retreat in Timbaktu

After my last trip to Timbaktu Collective, I had to come back with the Shadow Liberation crew for a creative retreat.

We hiked, danced, and got aquatinted with the script for our new show, Ramayana Remix.

On the last night of our tour we performed for the children of Timbaktu.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Retelling: Story Session

Today, for the first time, we publicly shared excerpts from the script of Shadow Liberation's new play, Ramayana Remix. I couldn't have picked a better venue for it than Maraa's anti-clocks: october jam session on retelling mythological stories. Chandni Venkataraman even sang How Many Lifetimes from Sita's perspective.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Timbaktu Collective

What happens when you take a barren drought stricken plot of land, and work on restoring the habitat and uplifting the inhabitants? Timbaktu Collective in Andra Pradesh, India.

I had the honor of conducting a 2-day theatre workshop for some of the youth in the school there.

This place is completely off the grid. The electricity comes from solar panels and the water is hand pumped from wells.

And the food is so good! Don't miss out on Timbaktu Organic, available in health food stores in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Singapore with Shadow Liberation

We had the chance to bring Shadow Liberation's Invitation to Interrupt Injustice to the National University for Singapore for Flux! Mediating Asian Change through Language, Literature and Performance. We had a dynamic interaction with the intimate conference audience.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Drama in the Shade of a Tree

Shadow Liberation teamed up with Chindu, to lead an interactive workshop and a performance in a small agricultural village a couple of hours outside of Hyderabad. We fused Playback Theatre, Forum Theatre, Dapu (drumming) and the Ramayana to deliver an engaging theatrical experience that explored a range of social issues from caste to sibling rivalry.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Flames and LED Shadows

K. K. Ramachandra Pulavar generously home to Shadow Liberation and taught us puppet making in the Tholpava Koothu tradition. Ramachandra comes from a long ancestral lineage of Tholpava Koothu artists, and he's the head of the Krishnankutty Pulavar Memorial Tolpava Koothu & Puppet Centre. In the picture above you see us mixing multi-color LEDs with the traditional coconut lamp lights. The Pulavar family was excited to explore the use of the Overhead Projector and LED lights. 

We look forward to working more with the Pulavars in the coming months. (see previous blogpost from my first visit here)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ballon Dance w/ TEDx Taipei

I hooked up with TEDX Taipei to instigate an impromptu Flash Dance with Red Balloons at the Zhongxiao Fuxing Metro Station in Taipei, Taiwan. (see more pics in this facebook album

The Future is Now!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Shadows of Hope

Taipei, Taiwan: How can the texture of the shadows set the tone for personal stories? Story Encounter and The Garden of Hope Foundation brought together a group of volunteer actors for a 3 week workshop and performance series exploring Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Similar to Gender Shadow and Shadow Liberation, we worked with the personal stories of participants to create an original shadow infused Forum Theatre production.

Through dance and games we kept a playful spirit in the group as we dug into taboo materiel. My co-director Chia-Wen Lin did an awesome job juggling translating and creative leadership, and we were continually having the same thoughts at the same time. So in tune.

See the Awakening News Network article that goes with the above video, shot at our press conference preview.

We did 5 performances in the third week of the project, including one performance for women who stay in a shelter. As tears ran down the cheeks of audience members and performers alike, we were all reminded of the power of theatre crafted from personal stories. Some audience members who strongly identified with the stories were able to comment and/or come on stage and intervene in what became a transformative night in the theatre.

The Garden of Hope Foundation plans on continuing the performance throughout the year. So keep up with the latest on their Facebook page.

Thanks to The Garden of Hope and Story Encounter for making this possible.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sharing Travel Stories

Here I am in Travelers Thursday at Jaaga, sharing the genesis of Shadow Liberation and talking about my current project, Ramayana Remix.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Flashmobbin' for Gender Justice

Starting with Indian pride on Independence Day, this Flashmob continues on to show the irony of freedom with rampant gender violence. Concluding with Rise Up, Rise Up, Rise Up, I was honored to support the 80+ Srishti students in creating this dynamic piece. Choreography by Boris Andre Gomes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shadow Liberation DVD Release

The Shadow Liberation DVD is out and we celebrated with a large Shadow Dance Party at Jaaga. Even though the cops shut it down early, we still had a blast with the debut fashion show by Tsohil Bhatia (pictured below).