Pangea World Theater to stage ‘5 Weeks’ by Meena Natarajan
MINNEAPOLIS (Feb. 9, 2017) — Pangea World Theater has announced its 2017 spring production, “5 Weeks,” a world premiere story about peoples divided by the 1947 hastily drawn border of the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan.
This play by playwright Meena Natarajan and directed by Artistic Director Dipankar Mukherjee, is composed of narrative and music, evokes the history of the Indian partition and the effect it had on the generations that followed.
“5 Weeks” opens Friday, April 7, 2017 at The Lab Theater located at 700 N 1st St, Minneapolis, MN 55401. Performances run April 7-23 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 general admission, $15 groups of ten or more, and $12 for students and seniors. For more information visit our website, www.pangeaworldtheater.org. Reserve tickets at thelabtheater.org and (612) 333-7977.
Inspired by personal narratives and short stories about partition, “5 Weeks” brings to stage the stories of Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Anglo-Indians, and the fate of women and children abducted during the partition of India and Pakistan. Set at this pivotal moment in South Asian history, this play journeys through a complex web of narratives, bringing to life those forced to flee what they once called home, the pressures to choose allegiance, and the desperate search for compassion in a time when humanity hung in the balance.
“I developed this project after going through a process of interviews with Indian and Pakistani immigrants in India, England and the United States, who were personally affected by the partition of India of 1947 or are descended from individuals affected by the partition. These interviews form the basis of my second play about partition,” playwright Meena Natarajan explains. In her extensive research process, Natarajan gathered photographs, documents and archival material relevant to this experience of migration. She also consulted with scholars and spoke to Sikh, Muslim and Hindu families affected by the partition. She says, “When the British decided to leave India, it took only five weeks for Sir Cyril Radcliffe to draw borders on either side of the subcontinent. These hurriedly drawn borders divided people by religion and caused havoc in the lives of people who were on the wrong side of the border. Everyone affected by the partition suffered, especially those who had to flee their homes without any warning. Seventy years later, the lessons from this partition are as relevant as we see millions of refugees who have been uprooted and displaced. I hope this silent history and the lessons from it heal people today”
Musicians Pooja Goswami and A. Pavan will compose and play live music. Both musicians are trained in North Indian classical music. Pooja Goswami is also well versed in Punjabi folk music. According to Natarajan, “The music is the spine of the performance.”
“This is a timely story that resonates powerfully in the world today as ethnic and religious tensions escalate all over the world,” comments director Dipankar Mukherjee. “The entire cast is made up of performers from the South Asian local community which is groundbreaking in it of itself. We have more than 50,000 South Asians – Indians, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Sri Lankan – living in the Twin Cities at this time. I am so proud to be a part of bringing all these sensibilities together.”
Through song and stories, Natarajan and Mukherjee hope to reach new audiences, bring the large and disparate the South Asian community together, provide opportunities for all in the Twin Cities to share their migration stories, and further Pangea’s mission to increase understanding across diverse cultures through art.
Meena Natarajan is a professional playwright whose scripts have been professionally produced both in India and the U.S. She has created, written and performed in stage and street theater pieces in India raising issues such as social injustice, corruption and dowry deaths. She is deeply inspired by larger mythological themes and poetry and has adapted texts such as The Egyptian Book of The Dead, 2000-year old love poems from India and large events such as the partition of India and Pakistan. She has written several plays for Pangea World Theater including – Osiris, Partitions, The Inner World, and has co-adapted Rashomon. Her last play was No Expiration Date in 2015 dealing with aging and sexuality. From 2000-2003, she served as the President of Women Playwrights International, an international organization promoting the work of women playwrights, and convened the 7th Women Playwrights International Conference in the Philippines in 2003. She recently was awarded a Visionary Leadership award from the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits in 2013. Natarajan served on the Board of the National Performance Network and the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists.
Dipankar Mukherjee, is the artistic director of Pangea World Theater. He has been leading the organization since its inception over a decade ago. He was invited to join the artistic community in the Twin Cities as a resident director of the Guthrie Theater. He has international experience in creating theater in UK, Canada, Lebanon, South Africa, India and here in the US. Aesthetics evolved through social justice, equity and deep spirituality and relevant politics forms the basis of his work. He works closely with noted South African playwright Athol Fugard and has addressed issues of race and reconciliation while creating theater. He was recently awarded a Bush Leadership Fellowship for his artistic work on non-violent methodologies post racial and religious violence. He serves on board the The Lake Street Business Council and Mizna.
Composer and Musicians Bios
Dr. Pooja Goswami Pavan is a multifaceted performer, composer, teacher and scholar of Hindustani (North Indian classical) vocal music. The versatility in Pooja’s repertoire is evident in her consummate ability to sing Khayal, Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal, Bhajan, Sufi and folk inspired forms of North India, such as Hori, Kajri and Chaiti. Trained initially by her father Pandit Surendra Goswami, she received advanced training in Khayal from Prof. Ajit Singh Paintal and her elder brother Dr. Shailendra Goswami. Pooja received a PhD from the University of Delhi for her research on the body of work of Pandit Amarnath – the prime disciple of the iconic vocalist Ustad Amir Khan. She developed her expertise in semi-classical vocal music under the tutelage of the eminent vocalist Vidushi Shanti Hiranand – the reigning queen of Thumri and Ghazal and the universally acclaimed successor of the legendary vocalist, the Late Begum Akhtar. A recipient of multiple prestigious National Scholarships in India, Pooja has performed and lectured extensively at prominent venues and academic institutions in India and the USA. She has taught several courses in Indian music and culture at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College since moving to Minnesota in 2006. Pooja has three CDs to her credit featuring her original Sufi, Ghazal and Bhajan compositions. Pooja has been a past recipient of multiple grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and the American Composers Forum. Her growing collaborative footprint in Minnesota includes several original works and performances for premier arts groups such as Ananya Dance Theater, Katha Dance Theater, Pangea World Theater and Cedar Cultural Center and multiple concerts with leading performers of Jazz, American-Folk and Middle-Eastern music. She is the recipient of the prestigious McKnight Fellowship for Musicians for 2016-17, awarded by the McKnight Foundation in Minnesota.
Dr. A. Pavan is a regular figure in the Twin Cities’ (Minneapolis-St. Paul) music circles as a Tabla player and teacher. He has studied with several masters and presently trains with Ustad Shabbir Nisar and Sri. Rajendra Nakod. He has performed for several premier music, dance and theater groups in Minnesota in their productions and concerts. Dr. Pavan also appears on recordings of world/fusion music with many MN based artists. Since 1999, Dr. Pavan has provided Tabla instruction to well over 200 students. He has also been a very active presenter and promoter of Indian classical music in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, currently serving as an Advisor to the Indian Music Society of Minnesota (IMSOM).
About Pangea World Theater
Pangea World Theater illuminates the human condition, celebrates cultural differences, and promotes human rights by creating and presenting international, multi-disciplinary theater.
Pangea World Theater is a progressive space that brings thinking artists from very diverse backgrounds and ethnicities together to create art for a multiracial audience. As we create work at this particular time in history, when cultural and political divides are rapidly shifting, Pangea offers itself as a place where a mutual respect for differences amongst our artistic collaborators exists, not merely a tolerance for diversity. This is a core value of our artistic vision.
Our creative cosmology can be represented by a circle where the participating artists inhabit an indispensable space in the circumference, and only the “work” lies at the center. Our aesthetic is enriched by the journey of exploration to and from that center energized by intercultural dialogue, the memories and experiences that artists bring with them, different styles and traditions and the creative process itself. This aesthetic is not fixed; it includes the voices and artistic visions of multiple voices and realities. Pangea’s art form is influenced by both western and non-western vocabularies and styles in a complex way.
~Executive Director Meena Natarajan
Since 1995, Pangea has worked to create and present new possibilities and new aesthetic realities for an increasingly diverse audience. Our artistic direction evolves out of relevant shifts in the social, cultural and political pulse of the communities in which we live and work. We bring artists together to confront stereotypes, push the boundaries of their art forms and challenge audiences with diverse perspectives and aesthetic. Each season Pangea produces, commissions and presents artistic, innovative and genre-crossing works, challenging the expectations of our artists and audiences.