Prasanna Ramaswamy’s latest play, Telling Stories addresses environmental degradation and peasant struggles
An independent production by the Chennai-based 66-year-old writer-director, Telling Stories is a trilogy. The first part —In the name of Heritage, Development — will premiere today.
Director Prasanna Ramaswamy believes in empty spaces. Unless she invites an artiste to do an installation for the sets of her play, she doesn’t like to work with constructed sets. “Empty spaces liberate you to create time and space with much more freedom, especially for stylised theatre, which is what I do,” says Prasanna, who after her adaptation of the Kannada play Madaiah the Cobbler in November, is back with her next directorial, Telling Stories.
An independent production by the Chennai-based 66-year-old writer-director, Telling Stories is a trilogy. The first part —In the name of Heritage, Development — will premiere today. Consisting of five acts, the 90-minute play will address the topic of environmental degradation by focusing on the activity that has been done to nature in the name of development.
“In the play, we look at the history of peasant struggles and farmer suicides in India,” says Prasanna, while adding that through the trilogy she aims at featuring the six main peasant struggles of India.“While throwing light on the history of what has been happening to the farmers, we are focusing on a couple of peasant struggles that have happened in India such as the Champaran movement and the Telangana peasant struggle,” she adds.
Having known to draw inspiration for her plays from various text sources such as poetry as well as newspaper clippings, Prasanna takes a step beyond with this play. Two episodes of the play are developed through improvisations where the text is completely contributed by the actors. “The actors were given specific themes to explore and improvise after which it was incorporated into the script,” she shared.
While there are contributions to the script from Goa-based artiste Subodh Kerkar (Champaran episode) and Tamil theatre writer Pralayan (Telangana episode), the final act is a compilation of speeches from a symposium by environmentalists Navroz Modi, Lawrence Surendra, Bittu Sehgal and philosopher Ramachandran Gandhi.
Paintings that reflect the lives and struggle of the farmers by various artistes will be used as props and in the background to tell the stories. “The actors in the play portray multiple characters. Since there are no blackouts between the scenes, we have kept the costumes very minimal, where the actors will add or discard something from their body to become the next character.” The eight-member team of the play consists of five actors, a singer, guitarist and a drummer who will be playing live music throughout. The songs in the play will feature Tamil, Telugu, English, Bengali, Hindi as well as Sanskrit verses in it.
Entry free. 7 pm. August 24-25. At Goethe Institut.