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Story


"There are no new ideas waiting in the wings to save us...only old and forgotten ones."

Audre lorde

 

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Story


"There are no new ideas waiting in the wings to save us...only old and forgotten ones."

Audre lorde

 

 

In my parents’ Massachusetts split-level, in a drawer beneath their Bose sound system, a set of home-recorded cassette tapes collects dust. Each trip back to Calcutta growing up, I would assemble the whole swarming family for a “concert.” They would last through the night, and I, already the archivist, would record them feverishly, burning through blank tape after blank tape. Shona Mashi, my golden aunt, dancing to her daughter’s singing, the dog barking downbeats to her bare feet against linoleum. My grandmother reciting a poem from her faltering memory. My father whistling a riversong his grandmother had taught him.

Art, for me, is that sitting-room floor: a place to come together; a place where music, movement, and story can speak eloquently to each other. At the beginning of every rehearsal, I make sure to gather whoever’s in the room that day—actors, musicians, designers, stage managers—and say, “Take a look around. These are the folks who showed up.” It’s a ritual I’ve carried with me since my teenage days in my hometown Little Theater, where I learned what it meant to relinquish ego in service of ensemble—in service of that something else beyond words we were trying to do together. Over the course of the past decade, I’ve been blessed to work with some formidable artists who have offered me a vocabulary to describe that mystical register I’m always reaching for: Cherríe Moraga and Sharon Bridgforth, who urge me to access the “abandoned villages of my forgotten”; Anne Bogart, who speaks the intricate language of time and space. I try to carry their wisdom with me.

On some level, every project I embark upon is committed to a kind of reenchantment. In a modern world defined, as Audre Lorde says, “by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization,” the reason I return again and again to writing, to music, to theater-making is to take a breath and remember what it means to bask in the strange glow of what we don’t know. In my career, I hope to share that expansive sense of wonder with my collaborators and with my audiences.

These days, I am teaching Bangla singing to my cousin’s daughter. “You’ve gifted me the first flower of the rainy season,” she sings. It’s a song my mother gifted me, which her sister gifted her. Watching my niece’s lips shape this inherited music, I am keenly aware of the work it takes to remember. This, then, is my mandate as an artist: to hold what was gifted me with humility; to sculpt it gently into new life.

 
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Rehearsal


Rehearsal