AN INTERVIEW WITH ANUPAMA CHANDRASEKHAR
Posted 01.10.14 |
By Isabelle Ly |
Anupama’s play Free Outgoing kicks off the Nightwood 2013/14 Season with its North American premiere this January. In lead up, we asked Anupama a few questions to get to know more about what brought her to write this play, as well as her identity as a playwright.
Nightwood Theatre: Why do you write for the theatre?
Anupama Chandrasekhar: There’s a charge and immediacy to theatre that I don’t find in any other medium. It’s an artform in the present tense, a medium tailor-made to explore the world you live in NOW. In theatre, as you know, everything depends on chemistry; between characters in the script, between actors, between playwright and director, between words and action, and between actors and the audience. It’s a very delicate chemistry, but when the balance is right, it can create explosive moments; it can make beautiful magic. These are the moments I write for.
NW: Do you think being a female playwright is different than being a playwright?
AC: A woman playwright’s job and skill-set are the same as a male playwright’s. Yet I’m aware that fewer female playwrights are staged compared to men - in India, and perhaps across the world. There are fewer women directors in my country than men, and hardly any governmental support to theatre. Both contribute to this unhealthy gender imbalance. But, at least in the major metro cities of India, there are signs of some change. In the last five years, I’ve seen more new plays by women than ever before. I’d love to see this trend continue.
NW: What kind of theatre excites you?
AC: Plays that shock me out of my passivity, plays that help me understand my world better; social plays, experimental plays, physical theatre, children’s theatre.
NW: What plays have really affected you?
AC: A few years ago, I watched Dominic Cooke’s production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (adapted by Martin Crimp) at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It was one of the eeriest pieces of theatre I’d ever watched in my life, and this despite having studied the play in college. The best theatre does that, it surprises you, grabs you by the throat, drags you on this journey whether you are ready or not, shows you things you are unwilling to see, and leaves you somehow changed and naked. In India, the play that inspired and challenged me on many levels was Roysten Abel’s adaptation of Othello called Othello in Black and White. It’s about a group of Indian actors putting up the Shakespearean play, but it’s also about racism within the group of actors and regional bigotry. It was an exhilarating and layered play.
NW: What people have influenced you?
AC: Acclaimed Indian playwright and teacher Mahesh Dattani introduced me to theatre and to the cadences of Indian Englishes. Indhu Rubasingham, current AD of Tricycle Theatre who directed two of my plays including Free Outgoing for the Royal Court Theatre, London, who exhorted me to go deep into myself and tap into that voice that was truly, uniquely mine. Elyse Dodgson (Head, International Department of the Royal Court) and Dominic Cooke (former AD of the Royal Court Theatre), Carl Miller (playwright, dramaturg) – who have, over the years, taught me all that I currently know about playwriting. My playwriting heroes - Caryl Churchill, Mahesh Elkunchwar.
Free Outgoing runs January 28 to February 16, 2014 at Factory Theatre Mainstage. Tickets start at $25, click here for more information.