Friday, November 27, 2009

Mysogyny and Memory

So...I've been thinking a bit about the relationships between the men and women in Shakuntala, and I have noticed a bit of mysogyny in the story. For instance, the main text we've been using only briefly alludes to Queen Vetravati's frustrations after being 'abandoned' by her husband- I wonder why this is so? Was polygamy the norm in the 6th century? It seems like an awkward blip in what would otherwise be a classic love story....
Also, Shakuntala herself has very little agency, and always seems to be at the mercy of men. Her father abandoned her because she reminded him of his 'unholy' actions. Dushyanta's rejection renders her powerless... The feminist in me cringes when- in the end of the rejection scene- Shakuntala cries out "He has deceived me shamelessly. And will you leave me too?" and Sharngarava says, "...Do you dare show independence? If you deserve such scorn and blame what will your father with your shame?" If it weren't for the Chaplain and the protection of the Gods Shakuntala would be left out on the streets to fend for herself.
This leads me to the theme of memory which we've been exploring in the piece- George mentioned that in the Mahabharata, there is no curse from Durvasas which makes Dushyanta forget Shakuntala- he just does. Kalidasa could not bear this, so he adds Durvasas and his curse to the play to provide a kind of dramatic reconciliation of what is unclear or vague in the original story. But what if King Dushyanta really just forgets? He forgot his first wife easily enough, it's likely he could forget Shakuntala just as easily. Is Kalidasa simply making excuses for Dushyanta in the same way we make excuses for modern politicians who claim to 'forget' why they make choices which prove harmful to their constituents or engage in corrupt practices?
As artists, are we using the story to address one social concern, while 'forgetting' to address another?
What are your thoughts Magisties?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday Training

Wow! I just wanted to say Thank You to the ensemble. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed training yesterday. The energy in the room was dynamic and vivacious and very palpable. We started small but focused, and as we accumulated, the readiness was all. As George's impulse challenges in Text Circle were met with open arms, and we gained momentum for Tommy's wonderful guidance through the viewpoints work, I really felt the sense of a fully fleshed Ensemble. I am sorry that I could not continue into rehearsals, for I have no doubt they were productive with that force of energy behind them...

Yesterday's awakening (a name for my experience yesterday) is one of discovery. Both physically and actor-brain-ly, I realize that not only am I truly building a vocabulary for which to use in process, I am beginning to use it. Well, of course, right? I mean that's why we're doing this, right?! But so often we can get lost in the idea or ideal of what or why we're doing something. And this for me was, "Oh wow, this is real. This is happening. It's not just an idea anymore. " Isn't that wonderful and terrifying and inspiring all in one...?

So thank you to all. May there be many more awakenings...


Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's in a name?

Hi All -

Not sure this has already been covered by George or Saju at rehearsals. If it has been, skip to the next entry!

As I've been exploring the play - as well as dusting off the cobwebs of high-school Hindi (Hindi is similar to Sanskrit; I sooo wish I spent more time paying attention in class and less time writing love notes which of course were never written in Hindi!) thanks to our Mudra exercises - I've become more aware of the meanings of the names of the various characters:

Anasuya - One without envy
Priyamvada - One who talks sweetly; this I was reminded of in rehearsals today when Erika as Shakuntala verbally sparred with Priyamvada 'I know why they call you the flatterer'
Dushyanta - The destroyer of evil. Thank you, Google :-)

I was intrigued by the possibility that the name meanings could inform the character choices that we make as we work on our roles. Thankfully, many of the meanings can be found on Google with some digging.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two Great Sources for further reflection

Hi Everyone,
Thought I would share these links with you all:

Some good stuff to consider as we go forward with the text.

Shakuntala's Influence

As we explore this text, I just wanted to bring up again what a sensation it caused in the West when it was first introduced. Goethe was particularly enthralled with Kalidasa's Epic and wrote the following:
Willst du die Blüthe des frühen, die Früchte des späteren Jahres,
Willst du, was reizt and entzückt, willst du was sättigt and nährt,
Willst du den Himmel, die Erde, mit Einem Namen begreifen;
Nenn’ ich, Sakuntala, Dich, and so ist Alles gesagt

Wouldst thou the young year's blossoms and the fruits of its decline,
And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed?
Wouldst thou the earth and heaven itself in one sole name combine?
I name thee, O Shakuntala, and all at once is said. (Eastwich translation)

What is it that inspired the writer of Faust to take all heaven and all earth and find its fullness in the name of Shakuntala?
What is it about her that inspires you?
What is it about her story that can inspire an audience today?