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The Bet

Rehearsal footage and production photos from The Lonely Painter Project's ensemble-devised adaptation of the Chekhov short story, THE BET, adapted and directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury. Produced at Columbia's Schapiro Theatre, November 13rd to 16th, 2014. Featuring William Green and Lindsay Tanner. Set Design by Peiyi Wong. Lighting Design by Sarah Abigail Hoke-Brady. Sound Design by Doug Anderson.

The Bet is the story of two people who gamble with their lives, only to learn their lives were never really in their hands. Arguing over whether the death penalty or life imprisonment is more humane, a banker bets a lawyer fifteen million dollars that she won’t be able to withstand fifteen years in solitary confinement. She takes the bet, and, in the years that follow, comes face to face with her own mortality. For our ensemble-devised adaptation of the Chekhov short story, we entered into rehearsals with no script but the text of the story itself and a hunch that there was something urgent and inherently theatrical about the journey these characters take. We began each rehearsal with a structured improvisation of the late-night debate. In each iteration, we learned something new: that the lawyer grew up in Greenwich, for example, or that the banker used to rescue mice from mousetraps. I transcribed these improvisations and gathered together a blueprint of the scene. This kind of collective authorship was central to our process.

As a director, I am always drawn to collaborate with artists who share a vocabulary of intention: we are doing this because we believe it will unearth some understanding in us and in our audience. Lindsay Tanner and Bill Green are actors with whom I have built such a vocabulary over time. The three of us met over lunch before rehearsals began to try and wrap our brains around the ambiguous sense of surrender, gloomy and enlightened, that the lawyer arrives at during her long, voluntary imprisonment. Digging into her state-of-mind—its color, its music, its temperature—was an engine spinning in me throughout the work.

The Bet is a story about confinement, so it was our task as a team to establish a world in which time and space were loudly felt, the way they are inside a stuck elevator. Peiyi Wong, our set designer, sent me photographs of "architectural spaces that exert power over the individuals within them." The images that evoked the kind of confinement we were hoping to achieve were all looking from the outside in, so we began to wonder: were we, the audience, spying on the lawyer? Peiyi built a scale model so we could grapple with the mechanics of building a tiny room that was claustrophobic enough for the actor, but which the audience could also see into.

Meanwhile, in rehearsal, Bill and Lindsay and I were busy building the human architecture of these worlds from scratch. While the lawyer was trapped spatially, the banker, it became clear to us, was trapped inside the confines of his own routine. Though he was free to come and go, his life was a kind of Groundhog Day. These discoveries fed back into my conversations with the designers: how could lighting render the banker’s penthouse harsh and cold, while the lawyer was warmed by light bouncing off the walls of her "cell"?

On a conference call one afternoon, I was wrestling with how the audience—voyeurs throughout—could enter into the mind of the lawyer, where the spiritual action of the piece takes place. Listening to our lighting designer talk about backlight and tempo, a piece of cello music popped into my mind. At rehearsal, I played the piece on repeat, watching each change in the music tremor through the actors like little bits of lightning. On a break, I opened my e-mail to find a cellphone video of Peiyi letting torn pages flutter out of books as if they too were dancing to that cello. I showed the video to Lindsay; she began to play with scrap paper until a single page landed outside the boundary of her cell. She followed it. And suddenly, she was looking up into my eyes: into the audience’s eyes. In her face, I saw the glimmer of an old woman.

The birth of that moment of intimacy between the lawyer and the audience was, for me, a microcosm of how the actors and designers and I worked as true co-creators. We had constructed a kind of private laboratory for ourselves. Indeed, when my mentor, Brian Kulick, came to watch a runthrough, we felt as if a stranger were walking in on an illicit moment. To me, this was evidence that we had found a process that matched the story itself: an opening of the soul that can only come with holing up, hunkering down, and looking inward. 

 

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The Optics of Dying Light


The Optics of Dying Light


The Optics of Dying Light

a new play about light, sight, and the things we cannot see

written and directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury

It's the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Two second-generation Armenian-American physicists are grappling with what they have inherited. They fell in love as teens refracting stained-glass light through lenses in their hometown church. Now he teaches at community college, and she's trying to get funding from the military to see the earliest light in the universe. If only she could see more clearly...

...but light is always out of reach. Always just beyond the lip of the horizon. 

Photos from the dress rehearsal of THE OPTICS OF DYING LIGHT, written and directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury, with music composed by Laura Grill. Produced at HERE Arts Center, October 21st to 24th, 2015. Featuring Julia Joyce-Barry, William Green, and Keith Foster. Music performed by Laura Grill, Vuyo Sotashe, and Fima Chupakhin. Set Design by Peiyi Wong. Lighting Design by Sarah Abigail Hoke-Brady. Costume Design by Kat Jeffery. Projection Design by Grayson Earle. Sound Design by M. Florian Staab. Radio Design by Doug Anderson.

 

Listen below to an original song from the optics of dying light



Scroll down for more collaborations between Misha and laura

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Before and After


Before and After


Before and After

a new musical by Shayok misha chowdhury and laura grill

Remember. Before? You were born. Before you were. Born you were a fish. You had gills. You breathed the ocean inside your mother. You sucked your thumb even back then. You liked how claustrophobic it was in there, swaddled in salt water.

Then.

Then, always then.

You come out screaming, waking from a dream, gulping for breath, one eye open to the new world. You are terrified of air. Your mother holds you, but it's no good. Somebody snipped you from her. All that's left is a little tail that'll wither and fall off and leave you with a belly button.

Look at your belly button. Look at what you have left. A negative. A before picture...

Excerpts from the original musical BEFORE AND AFTER by Shayok Misha Chowdhury and Laura Grill, directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury. Produced at Columbia's Schapiro Theatre, August 8th to 10th, 2014. Featuring Elizabeth Evans, Kiet Tai Cao, Julia Joyce-Barry, Kevin Tobias Johnston, and Roberto Johnson. Set and Lighting Design by Christopher Cancel. Musicians: Laura Grill (conductor, guitar); Brad Barrett (bass); Jacob Means (mandolin); Tucker Antell (saxophone); Steve Boudreau (percussion).

 

listen to tracks from before and after and laura and misha's first musical, artemis in the parking lot

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The New World


The New World


The New World

Rehearsal footage and photos from The Lonely Painter Project's THE NEW WORLD, a site-specific performance piece directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury at the Barn Arts Collective in Maine. Featuring Lindsay Tanner, Alex Moreno, Kea Trevett, Imani Roach, and Natalia Duong.

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Hingsha


Hingsha


Hingsha Shomporkito Dharabiboroni

awarded best director at the 2012 bangamela one-act play festival

direction and original score by Shayok Misha Chowdhuryfeaturing Partha Chowdhury

Based on the long Bengali poem by Joy Goswami, this one-man production is the story of a street-prophet -- someone you might see squatting on a sidewalk in any Bengali border town. He bears the burden of seeing the invisible clockwork that moves his world, and this seeing tests his sanity. He grapples with his complicity in the machinery of inward and outward violence.

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Bodas de Sangre


THEATER WITHYOUNG ACTORS

Bodas de Sangre


THEATER WITHYOUNG ACTORS

Bodas de Sangre

an adaptation of Lorca's blood wedding

Directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury, for the Meridian Academy Theater Ensemble

Watch clips from the production below

 

 

On the Razzle

by tom stoppard

Directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury, for the Meridian Academy Theater Ensemble

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