TARAMANDAL! EK NAYA SAFAR
Inspired by Neel Chaudhuri's Taramandal
Conceptualized and directed by Ahon Gooptu
Written by Atif Ally Dagman, Rini Tarafder, and Ahon Gooptu in collaboration with Anjali Jain, Priyanka Bhaskar Patil, Sooji Son, and Mayo Sueta
A project funded by the Sandy Moffett Award for Practice in Theatre and Dance
This show will run for 45 minutes without any intermission.
There will be a talkback after the US Opening Night performance. Audience members are invited to stay on after the performance and have their cameras on for this!
(in order of appearance)
ANISH'S DIMMA (GRANDMA) / Voice of TANI'S MOM
Priyanka Bhaskar Patil
Voice of JOURNALISTS
Jin Chang & Sooji Son
MR NEGI, Tani's neighbour
Voice of CAPTAIN
Voice of REPORTER JASMINE KIM
SCENIC BACKGROUND DESIGN
SOUND DESIGN & EDITING
Anjali Jain & Sooji Son
OBS PROGRAMMING & BROADCASTING
Sooji Son & Anjali Jain
POSTER & PROMOTIONAL ARTWORK DESIGN
CAMERA & LOCATION SUPPORT
(for Priyanka and Keshav)
A PASSING THOUGHT
This project started as a passing thought while talking with a couple of my friends in the Grill (if you know, you know). I was briefly visiting Grinnell at the beginning of fall 2019, days before I was about to depart to spend 14 weeks training at the National Theater Institute (NTI). That thought kept percolating in various forms and fashions as I learned new techniques and realized what it was that I was particularly drawn to when it came to making theatre: collaborating with people I like and creating new art that speaks to all of us in a room.
When I returned to Grinnell in the spring of 2020, I enlisted Anjali Jain as my partner in crime for devising Neel Chaudhuri’s Taramandal as our senior capstone. It would be catered specifically for the Grinnell student body, i.e. we would stage the play with Chaudhuri’s words but devise original music and movement to reflect the ensemble’s dreams and aspirations. I recruited other artist friends for the band and the production and design teams. The pandemic thwarted our plans as neither Anjali nor I were prepared or trained to take on this behemoth of a project and devise virtually.
A NEW PLAY FOR A NEW WORLD
About a year later, when the opportunity arose to work on a new independent theatre project through the Sandy Moffett Award for Practice in Theatre and Dance, I felt more prepared to take on this project. But we were living in a completely different world than when I had had that fleeting thought in the Grill back in 2019. And who knew how long the pandemic was going to be a thing? Besides, I was about to leave my home in Iowa and move to Florida for the next two years and I didn’t know anybody in Florida. Who would I devise with?
Thankfully, one of the better things that came with this new world was the opportunity to create with anyone in any corner of the globe. I asked friends from Kolkata, Grinnell, NTI, and beyond to join me in this endeavour and together we shared and created for three weeks in the summer of 2021, while logging in from cities in Illinois, California, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Washington as well as Kolkata and Pune, India and Tokyo, Japan.
The project went on hiatus thereafter as live theatre began making a comeback and each of us in the ensemble became busier and more pre-occupied with the changing world. A couple of us returned to the project later toward the end of 2021 to workshop the script that had been written at the end of the summer. And in the new year, we met for about three weeks to bring this piece to life and share it with the world.
At Grinnell College, I was almost always the only South Asian or only international student of colour in any theatre class or production that I was a part of (thank you, Anjali and Sooji, for being there). At NTI, I was one of two in our 60-person cohort (shoutout to Priyanka for carrying me through). Theatre has always been an inviting and accepting space for me but there were numerous times in these four years that I felt like I had to work twice as hard to earn a role that was originally written for a white person or speak twice as confidently to advocate for myself.
So, when I had the chance to put together an ensemble to tell a story about struggling in the arts, I knew I wanted people who got it, people to whom I didn't have to explain why it was doubly important that we kept going despite all the cards (legal, financial, and most importantly, emotional) stacked against us.
This is the first theatre project I have undertaken since moving to the United States that entirely comprises Asians and South Asians. The table has always had space for people like us. We just have to make room for us to sit at it. We will always be the ones to tell our stories and this is one of them.
JIN CHANG is from Minnesota. They are excited to be here for the ride.
Jin joined the show in this final phase as a voice actor. They voice the Captain and one of the journalists.
ATIF ALLY DAGMAN is an actor, writer and theatre director based in Calcutta, India. He was part of the primary cast in Disney India's live-action stage musical Aladdin. He has also written and directed his own plays and traveled to perform them across the subcontinent, collecting awards for Best Director, Best Actor and Outstanding Writing in multiple festivals along the way. He currently works as an associate casting director with Tess Joseph Casting.
Atif was a part of the ensemble in the initial devising process and a primary writer for this show.
AHON GOOPTU is an actor, writer, theatre deviser, and scholar-in-making from Kolkata, India. He attended Grinnell College to study theatre and English and also trained at the National Theater Institute. He is currently pursuing an MA in Theatre and Performance Research at Florida State University. Over the last four and a half years, Ahon has made theatre in the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, New England, and virtually with folks from around the world. He is fortunate to be collaborating on this project with many of the theatre friends he met at those places. Ahon is grateful to Neel Chaudhuri for writing Taramandal, to Paper Faces for introducing him to it in 2013, to Anjali Jain for dreaming with him, and to this incredible ensemble of friends for bringing this project to life. Special thanks to his family and friends in Chicago, Palatine, Mount Prospect, Seattle, Portland, and DC for housing him during the summer of 2021 when this project was in its early stages of development.
Ahon was a facilitator in the initial devising process, a writer and dramaturg in the workshopping stage, and director and actor in this final phase. In the show, he plays Anish.
ANJALI JAIN is a designer, dancer, and researcher from California. She has been rooting for Ahon and this project since it's first phase as a Mentored Advanced Project proposal at Grinnell College back in 2020. She has recently been living in Chicago, awaiting the go-ahead to begin an anti-colonial archival Fulbright project on the block-printing industry in Bagru, India. She is thrilled to be working on this project with friends both old and new, and being able to finally present this work to the world.
Anjali was a facilitator in the initial devising process and created the soundscape for various scenes in this final phase. In the show, she plays Mimi.
KESHAV NAUTIYAL is an actor, writer, theatre-activist and currently an educator in Pune, India. He graduated in Commerce (Hons.) from Hindu College, University of Delhi. Keshav has been part of many Hindi-Urdu productions as an actor, director and writer in the Delhi Collegiate Theatre Circuit (notable performances include Shaayad, Rabt and Musalsal-Imam). He has also been an active Nukkad Natak performer. Nukkad Natak is a traditional theatre form which aims at creating social awareness through public street performances. Currently, as a Teach For India fellow, he is working with 30 kids from the Lohiyanagar Slum Community on an English Musical called 'Conference of the Birds' as their Acting Coach. Keshav is working towards representation of his North-Himalayan Garhwali culture through theatre and cinema. He is thrilled to be working with such talented people on this exciting project.
Keshav joined the show in this final phase as an actor. He plays Mr Negi.
PRIYANKA BHASKAR PATIL is an actor, writer, and educator from Pune, India, where she is currently working as a Teach for India fellow. She graduated with a Theater and Psychology major from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She also trained at the National Theater Institute, where she met Ahon. Priyanka’s previous roles include Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Phebe (As You Like It), Naja (Anonymous), and Friendship (EVERYBODY). She played the role of Jasmine Sharma (Radial Gradient) at the Twenty by Twenty Fringe Festival 2021 (Lime Arts Production). Priyanka is beyond grateful to Ahon Gooptu for inviting her as a collaborator on this very special project which takes us slightly closer to the stars than we were before.
Priyanka was a part of the ensemble in the initial devising process and is an actor in this final phase. In the show, she plays Tani.
SOOJI SON is just some person from Seoul, Korea. We say “just some person” not because they’re an enigma, but because Sooji kind of does whatever is needed to help the show move forward. Like a couple others who worked on this show, Sooji attended Grinnell College, and came out with a Theatre and Dance and a Computer Science major. This is where Ahon and Sooji met, as a director and an actor (the other way around!), so it has been amazing for them to see Ahon work his magic. While Sooji is currently putting her computer science degree to work, it can be said that her heart still lies in the creative world, and maybe even misses the days when they stage managed, directed, devised, created several shows with incredible people. Sooji is honored to be a part of this project and is grateful that they got to spend time with beautiful souls who inspire her greatly. Check out her work here!
Sooji was a part of the ensemble in the initial devising process. In the show, she voices one of the journalists, Reporter Jasmine Kim, and the background crew of the space mission. You can see her work in the virtual scenic backdrops. She’s also running the show so if there are any glitches, well, she urges you to file that bug report to Zoom instead.
MAYO SUETA is a writer from Tokyo, Japan. She graduated with an English major from Grinnell College, where she also dabbled in theatre as a stage manager, director, actor, and backstage crew. She enjoyed being part of the ensemble, even for a short while, and is excited to see the final product!
Mayo was a part of the ensemble in the initial devising process.
RINI TARAFDER is a theatre scholar and playwright from Jamshedpur and Kolkata. Presently, she is a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is working on her dissertation on cosmopolitanism and Indian theatre. Rini has been part of theatre ensembles in Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Madison, working as a writer, translator, performer, musician, designer, and stage manager.
Rini was a part of the ensemble in the initial devising process and has been a primary writer for this show throughout the entire development for this project. In the show, she also plays Anish’s Grandma and voices Tani’s Mom.
(in order played)
Chaand Taare (Moon and Stars)
From Yes Boss (1997)
Written by Javed Akhtar
Composed by Jatin-Lalit
Performed by Abhijit Bhattacharya
별이 진다네 (Stars are Setting)
Written , composed, and performed by 여행 스케치(Travel Sketch)
Written and composed by David Bowie & Brian Eno
Performed by David Bowie
Akash Bhora Surjo Tara (Sky Full of Star and Suns)*
Written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore
Arranged by Prattyush Banerjee
Performed by Jayati Chakraborty,
with Arena Mukherjee & Brishtilekha Nandini
*This version is different from the one on the full Spotify playlist linked below
Performed by Autoheart
Produced by Danton Supple
Yeh Tara Woh Tara (This Star, That Star)
From Swades (2004)
Written by Javed Akhtar
Composed by A. R. Rahman
Performed by Udit Narayan, Master Vignesh, and Baby Pooja