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Posted May 27, 2012, 8:05 am
Tucson’s Rogue Theatre has been known for its adventurous approach in staging smart, award-winning productions. Now they’ll see how it plays in Bangalore.
Four members of the Tucson troupe are in Bangalore, India for a three-week residency to perform the play “Shipwrecked,” from this past season. They will perform at Jagriti, an artistic organization dedicated to English language theatre, in downtown Bangalore, a city of more than 8 million in south-central India.
The four, Joe McGrath, Cynthia Meier, David Morden and Patty Gallagher, form the principal acting/directing core for Rogue. McGrath is the company’s artistic director, while Meier is managing director and assistant artistic director. Morden and Gallagher are staff artistic associates, along with musician Dawn C. Sellers. In addition to acting, McGrath, Meier and Morden trade off directorial duties. The group has won numerous local Mac Awards, both individually and collectively, over the course of the company’s seven seasons.
Meier noted, “Our first show next season is 'Journey to the West,' which is a Chinese epic about a monk who travels to India. So my eyes and ears will be open looking for imagery and thoughts about the conclusion of arriving in India.”
This will be the second trip to India for McGrath and Gallagher. They took Rogue’s production of “Happy Days,” an absurdist drama by Samuel Beckett, to Bangalore in December 2009. Gallagher, based in San Francisco where she is an associate professor of theatre arts at the University of California Santa Cruz, provided the initial contact for that trip. A business associate of her husband saw the play when Rogue staged it in California and helped bring it to Bangalore.
In addition to successful performances, that trip introduced McGrath to the works of Indian playwright Girish Karnad. Subsequently, Rogue opened their 2010-11 season with Karnad’s magical “Naga Mandala (Play with a Cobra).”
This is one of the benefits of this kind of exchange, according to McGrath. “There are a lot of possibilities, surprises that come along,” he said.
“Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself)” by playwright Donald Margulies was described in my TucsonSentinel.com review as “a playful amalgam of slapstick comedy performed in the style of an old-time radio drama.”
“Personally,” said McGrath, “I think the charm of “Shipwrecked” is the imagination and creativity of its storytelling, how the story is conjured out of thin air. I think that will work well, once they understand what we’re up to.”
Meier added, “I’m intrigued about what in the script will be universal and what is cultural.”
They are also interested in how Indian audiences will respond to the quirky humor (or humour) of “Shipwrecked,” such as McGrath’s portrayal of a faithful, but goofy dog (his costume consists of a floppy-eared hat) or his cameo in drag as Queen Victoria.
“There’s a lot of British stuff that we think they’ll love,” McGrath said.
Jagriti, which means “awakening” in Sanskrit, is presenting six plays this season, including two from companies outside of India: one by a British troupe and the Rogue presentation. The Jagriti performances will be in their 200-seat auditorium in downtown Bangalore.
Rogue will present 18 performances over 17 days. Because Sellers is not going, the cast, directed by Meier, will work with an Indian musician to develop the extensive musical accompaniment and sound effects which are integral to the Rogue production.
“We could have worked out a contract where we brought a musician or sound effects person, but part of the initial idea was that we wanted to do something collaboratively with them,” Meier said. “We want to see what kind of sounds they want to create, too.”
McGrath, who also runs a scenic design company, will work with local craftsmen there for props and set design. He’s already run into cultural differences with plans sent ahead to begin construction.
“They didn’t know what a ‘2 by 4’ is,” McGrath said. “It’s so fundamental here – half the construction in America is with 2 x 4’s. But they don’t have that kind of building material there. So I’ve been really careful to make sure that we understand each other.”
The cast will also offer master classes in voice, movement and acting for their Indian counterparts.
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“We’ll teach what we know and see how that resonates with them,” said Meier. “We’ve got a lot to learn about Indian culture while we’re there, too. We’re going to learn all kinds of things.”
Meier is also excited about the opportunity to grow personally.
“Part of the whole thing of being an artist,” she said, “is constantly trying to look at the world with fresh eyes, wider, deeper. So there’s that desire to expand. In cultural exchanges, you end up understanding your own culture better, as well as learning about the other culture.”