ASU’s Department of Theatre and Dance will host the world premier of South African author and playwright Muthal Naidoo’s Flight from the Mahabharath on Wednesday, April 26 at 7 p.m. in the Valborg Theater on ASU’s campus. The production, which explores one of ancient India’s two major Sanskrit epics, will continue through Sunday, April 30 with 7 p.m. performances held Thursday through Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.
Naidoo will come to Boone to attend the production’s first performance, after which she will host a talkback with audience members. During her five-day stay in the High Country, Naidoo will also lead classes and meet with the play’s cast and creative team to discuss her 1992 work that imagines the role that women from the Sanskrit text Mahābhārata play outside of the context of the original work.
The South African playwright of Indian decent often focuses her works on “power dynamics in racially-divided societies.” In Flight from the Mahabharath, Naidoo explores the role that women from the Mahābhārata play when they escape from the ancient epic into the play’s genre of drama. The escape enables the women to leave behind the patriarchal society of the epic where women “function mainly as adjuncts,” giving the women, along with two men escapees, the opportunity to explore their identities in the new setting.
“In the original story [Mahābhārata], the women are given very short shrift in the story, so in the beginning of the play, the women race onto the stage, reaching away from the epic. Then they try to discover what their own voices are, and they use the stage as a way in which to create that,” director Dr. Ray Miller said.
Students and staff from the Department of Theatre and Dance have worked tirelessly on the production, which has presented the department with many unique opportunities considering that Wednesday’s show will be the world premier of the play.
“It has been a really collaborative process from the whole cast and with our director, Dr. Ray Miller. The script left so much room for artistic interpretation, so we’ve all been really working together to make it a whole collective piece, and we’re really excited about that,” sophomore dance major Sabrina Furchess stated in an interview that aired on AppTV.
Playing Draupadi in the play, Furchess has worked alongside senior theatre performance and dance double-major Darius Gregory. Gregory will play the role of Brihannala, one of the male characters joining the women in their escape.
“It has been a process, but it has been a fun process and, I think, a challenging process,” Gregory remarked.
While the preparation process may have been challenging, everyone involved in the production has been excited by the unique opportunities that the world premier has afforded them.
“It has been really enjoyable seeing how the actors approach the writing and the script and just have fun with it,” stage manager Christina Donovan said.
While each character serves an important role in the development of the production’s plot, the nature of the play is especially meaningful for Furchess.
“As someone who identifies with a lot of feminine energy, I think it’s awesome. I think that the women in this department and that are in this cast are just made for these types of characters that are strong and powerful and willing to do anything to make their voice heard,” Furchess asserted.
The production will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26 and run through Sunday, April 30 at the Valborg Theater on ASU’s campus. Wednesday through Saturday’s shows will be held at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s matinee will begin at 2 p.m. Tickets for the show are $10 for students and $17 for adults.
For more information on tickets and the show, call the Valborg Theater box office at 828-262-3063 or visit www.theatreanddance.appstate.edu.
Stay tuned for more information on Naidoo and the upcoming premier of Flight from the Mahabharath!