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Aarohan-Gurukul Theatre Festivals

gurukulfestival_thumbKathmandu International Theatre Festival in Retrospection

  • Prakash Subedi

Apart from the regular national theatre festivals, Aarohan-Gurukul successfully organized NIB Theatre Festival in 2004 in association with International Theatre Institute Nepal Chapter which featured plays from Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, and Ibsen International Theatre Festival in 2006 which included plays by nine theatre groups from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Norway. The active participation and support of the audience, theatre critics, media persons, and theatre lovers during those festivals encouraged the group to organize international theatre festival every two years. Kathmandu International Theatre Festival was an attempt to materialize the same commitment. The first edition of this ambitious project was Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2008.

Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2008: An Overview
The 17-day long Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2008 festival, organized from 11 to27 November 2008, included performances by groups from Nepal, UK, India, Bangladesh, USA, Norway, Denmark and Thailand. Every play had saw performances, one in the day and another in the evening. The following is a brief introduction of the groups, their performances, and the highlights of the festival.

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The first day of the festival (11 November) included the performance of Dreams of Peach Blossoms (directed by Sunil Pokharel) by Aarohan Theatre, Nepal. The play written by Prof. Abhi Subedi was an attempt to capture the indigenous tradition of drama and music in a symbolic form through the use of the poetic language and images. It projected the complex and somber story broken with jerks by the tourist guides who dramatize their relationship with the cultural heritage and the mercerization of the serious ideas and icons of time and place.

The second day (12 November) was followed by Eloquent Protest (directed by Hazel Roy) by Feelgood Theatre, UK. The production was a fusion of music, poetry, and drama turned into a moving reminder of the price of war.
The third day (13 November) saw the performance of Bhelua Sundari (directed by Saidur Rahman Lipon) by Centre for Asian Theatre, Bangladesh, which remained one of the audience’s favorite of the festival. An experimental theatre, it presented love stories from the Ballads of East Bengal.

On the fourth day of the festival (4 November), Ritwik theatre group from India performed Fulamoti (directed by Goutam Roy Choudhury), emphasizing the fact that man can’t last long by refuting the basic truth that the survival of the body and entity has its roots in the fertility of soil.

Bimaar & Bade Bhaisaab (directed by Bharti Sharma) by Kshitiz, India, performed on the fifth day (15 November) were adaptations of two stories by celebrated writer Sadat Hasan Monto. The short plays attempted to delve deeper into human psychology and relationships.

On 16 November, i.e. the sixth day of the festival, Parnab Mukharjee presented his solo performance entitled And Dead Trees Give No Shelter (directed by Parnab Mukherjee) a production of Best of Kolkata Campus, India. It also was an experimental work dealing with issues like women’s rights, humanity and loneliness.

On 17 November, Hanglai (directed by Y. Rajendra Singh) by Panthoibi Natya Mandir, Manipur, India, was performed. The play was based on a traditional myth of Manipur, India. It was presented in the form of marionettes.
Happiness directed by Heather Harpham, USA, was performed on November 18, a play that explored the euphoria and fear we face as physical beings who are immensely fragile.

Nati Binodini (directed by Amal Allana) by Theatre and Television Associates, New Delhi, India, was performed on November 19. This exceptional theatre adaptation of a 19th century Indian actress Binodini’s authobiography “Aamar Katha” was yet another audience’s favorite of the Festival.

On November 20, Oglethorpe University and Relativity Theatre, USA performed Miss Julie (directed by Deborah Merola), the famous play by the celebrated Swedish playwright August Strindberg, with some modern interpretations.

On November 21, a Nepali play, Hajurbako Katha (directed by Khagendra Lamichhane) by Shatkon, was presented. This second solo performance of the festival told the touching story of different generations of Nepalis who have been fighting as mercenaries in a number of wars, as British-Gorkha soldiers in the World War I and II, or in recent Afghanistan.

Woh Khali Mukha Dekhai Chhi (directed by Anil Chandra Jha) another Nepali play by MINAP, Janakpur, was presented on November 22. The play highlighted the dark sides of the dowry system and tried to search ways out of it.

On November 23, A Bit Above Earth, USA, performed Circle Course (directed by Mira Kingsley). Described as the dance/theatre excavation of the last flight of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fredrick Noonam, the play provided an unexpectd look at those rare souls who dare to live impractical lives in a practical world.

Oppland Fylkeskommune, Norway, on November 24, presented Johan Sara in Pictures (directed by Morten Hovland). It was a musical performance by the Sami joiker and composer Johan Sara, Saxophonist Kristin Sevaldsen, and dancer/ choreograhper Tine V, with a moving backdrop of Sami life.

Max and Mia, Denmark, performed Hungry Tigers (directed by Else Marie Laukvik) on November 25. This comic, sureal cabaret, with live music ranging from jazz standards to classical favorites, blended physical performance and songs, and created an intimate and hilarious evening about relationships, food and the tiger in all of us.

26 November, the second last day of the festival, saw the performance of Wesandon, the Lost Track to Nirvana (directed by Janaprakal Chandruang) by The Moradokmai Troupe, Thailand. This story adapted from biography of the Buddha in his last life before he was born as the Buddha was a Thai contemporary play with live music.

Aarohan and Karnali Theatre, Nepal performed Karnali Dakkhin Bagdo Chha (directed by Sunil Pokharel) on November 27, the last day of the Festival. This improvised play was based on socio-cultural realities and problems of Mugu District, the remotest district of Nepal, and remained yet another audience’s favorite of the festival.

Apart from the regular theatre performances, an art exhibition entitled “Journey of Liberation” was organized during the festival that showcased joint work of renowned artist Kiran Manandhar and talented photographer Dipendra Bajracharya. Similarly, discussions on theatre were carried out throughout the festival.

Similarly a multidisciplinary artistic performance called “Divinity of the Common Life” was organized at the Open Theatre, Khula Manch, on November 7.

Another important aspect of the festival was artist Kiran Manandhar’s painting based on the performances throughout the festival. He would be in the theatre with his canvas, colors and brushes during the noon performance of every play, and would paint his impressions of the play. The paintings were presented as a gift to the theatre group after the evening performance of the play.

The festival was supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, B. P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation, Aliance Francaise Kathmandu, Cultural Corporation Kathmandu, Bank of Kathmandu, Everest Insurance Company, Shri Lunkaran Das – Ganga Devi Chaudhari Academy for Art and Literature, Spey Livet, Nepal Investment Bank Limited, Music n’ Expressions, Ujyalo F.M., Corona Int’l Foundation, Maitri F.M., Star F.M., Radio Audio, Cable Television Network, Music Nepal Kathmandu, National Forum of Photo Journalists, Yeti Airlines, and Dreams and Ideas.

– Prakash Subedi

Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2010: An Overview

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Encouraged by the huge support of all and successful organization of Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2008, Aarohan-Gurukul enthusiastically prepared for yet another international theatre festival, and the result was Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2008  which was much larger in scale compared to the previous festival. It included the participation of more international theatre groups and a much bigger audience.

The 22-day festival brought together plays and performances from 17 countries including Nepal. A brief introduction of the groups, their performances, and the highlights of the festival is given below.

The festival kicked off on November 17 with a performance of Agniko Katha (directed by Sunil Pokharel) by Aarohan Theatre, Nepal. The play written by Prof. Abhi Subedi was an exploration into the climate of uncertainty and burning prevailing in Nepal during the period of conflict.
The second day (18 November) was followed by Pacotille (Cheap Junk) (directed by Aude Marrechal) by CREA, France. The play, targeted to the young audience primarily, was based on a succession of a dozen of scenes connected between them by a vital lead: a small magic box.

The third day (19 November) saw the performance of Death of a Scarecrow (directed by Adam Darius and Kazimir Kolesnik) by the Unique Physical Theatre, Finland. The play embraced a spectrum of themes veering from the startlingly dramatic to the outrageous comic.

The fourth day of the festival (20 November), say two performances: one by an ensemble group from Argentina, Chile and India, and the other by Niksa Eterovic, Germany. Act Without Words (directed by Manoj Mathai) by the ensemble group put together two short plays by Samuel Beckett. A James Joyce Cycle in Three Parts, a production of the German group and directed by Niksa Eterovic,  was a play on three phases of James Joyce’s life: first, Joyce as a young man who strongly defied social conventions and disapproved of the form of religious compulsion and bigotry  he experienced not only in church but as well in school and at home while living in Ireland; second, stirring experiences Joyce as well as his wife and son had with Joyce’s daughter, Lucia; and, third, based on seven stories from Joyce’s collection, Dubliners.

Similarly, on the fifth day (21 November) too, two plays from groups of Srilanka and USA were performed. A Wonderful Day (Director: Chamika Hathlahawaththa) by Audio Visual Creation and Experimental  Forum (Sri Lanka) was a light story of two young people trying to spend a Sunday with a very small amount of money in their hands. Let It Be Art directed and performed by Ronald Rand (USA) was a play based on the life of Harold Clurman, the renowned American theatre critic.

On 22 November, i.e. the sixth day of the festival, Artizani, Slovenia presented The Wiard of Oz directed by Irena Rajh Kunaver. The performance was a lively and colorful attempt to retell the well known story without text, and full of movement.

On 23 November, Kiss of the Spider Woman (directed by Deborah Merola) by The Ride across Lake Constance (USA) was performed. The play based on Manuel Puig’s celebrated novel, brought forth a section of the story of Argentina’s “Dirty War” in which thousands of people were either disappeared or killed by the right-wing military.

Andre and Dorin directed by Inaki Rikarte (Kulunka Theatre Company, Spain) was performed on November 24, a play that explored the life of a lovely couple ultimately turned silent by Alzeimer.  This exceptional production remained one of the audience’s favorite of the Festival.

Nightwind (directed by B.J.Dodge) by ImaginAction, USA, was performed on November 25. A solo performance by Hector Aristizabol, it was based on his true story of being arrested and tortured by the US-supported military in Columbia. On the same day, Russian play Morphine by A Bird of Two Worlds (director: Andrey Spiridonov) was also performed, a play about the disintegration of the person under the influence of narcotic drugs.

On November 26, Artists for Peace, UK, performed The Messenger: A Tribute to the Life and Spirit of Nina Simone (directed by Hazel Roy). A play with dialogues and songs, it told the sotry of Nina Simone’s development as a black woman artis int eh segregated world of America in the 1950s and 60s with her music providing a backdrop to the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement.

On November 27, an Indian play, John Gabriel Borkman (directed by Anuradha Kapur) by Vivadi, New Delhi, was presented. The wonderful adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play remained yet another audience’s favorite of the Festival.

The trial of Wantong (directed by Chang Janaprakal Chandrung), a play by Moradokmai Theatre Troupe, Thailand was performed on November 28. This was a successful attempt to retell an ancient Thai story in a Brechtian style.

On November 29, JSS Kalamandapa, Mysore, India, performed Chitrapata, a folk version of Ramayana, where Suparnakha returns as a childhood playmate and destroy’s Sita’s peace by making her portry a picture of Ravana, which makes Ram Suspect her chastity again.
Centre for Asian Theatre, Bangladesh, on November 30, presented Kafka’s Metamorphosis (directed by Kamaluddin Nilu). An experimental production of the masterpiece, this play brought together the themes Gregor Samsa’s story, Kafka’s life, and the possibility of seeing all these things in a metaphorical light.

Mass Foundation, Pakistan, performed Akhhiyan Walio (directed by Aamir Nawawz) on December 1, a story about the hypocrisy of the society which tried to show how people are blind to their rights and how blinds can see what people ‘with eyes’ cannot see.

December 2 saw the performance of Opekkhoman (At the Threshhold) (directed by Ataur Rahman), a play by Nagorik Natya Sampradaya (Bangladesh). An experimental play, it intermingled Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and An Enemy of the People, and Syed Shamsul Haq’s acclaimed verse play, Irsha (jealousy), and brought together characters all of whom are lonely but believe in new transformation of life.

On December 3, Shamayel, Iran, presented And Men Always Come Back Home (directed by Abdollah Barhasteh Yazdi). Based on the Sophoclean trilogy of Orestes, it narrated the story of hatred, vengeance and duty of a king, and tried to see it in the contemporary light.
On December 4, Srijana Sewa Samity, Sikkim (India) performed Siddartha Gautam Dekhi Buddha Samma…Ek Yatra ( directed by Bipin Kumar). The play was an attempt to look at the conflict surrounding the Buddhist Sangha right from its day of inception.

Prison directed by Kamaluddin Nilu, a production of Beaivvas: The National Sami Theatre, Norway was performed on December 5. A spellbinding solo performance by Anita Suikkari, the play told the story of a woman in dark prison cell.

Suina Karnalika (directed by Sunil Pokharel) by Karnali Natya Samuha, Nepal was performed on December 6. In a dreamlike performance, the play presented Karnali as a region of possibilities and potentialities unlike the regular image of scarcity, poverty and disease.

December 7, the last day of the festival, saw the performance of Colombo Colombo: The Story of Your Coffin (directed by Indika Fernando) by Theatre Plus, Srilanka. A tragic-comic experimental piece, it told the story of relationships in a war torn island.

Each performance was followed by an interaction with the director and actors the following day.

Apart from the theatre performances, the festival brought together other various activities. For instance, a musical concert “Melodies and Rhythm” by Sukarma, the popular folk-classical band of Nepal, was organized as a part of the festival on December 4. Similalry , a number of theatre workshops were organized during the festival, which gave Nepali actors and theatre practitioners an opportunity to learn from and interact with international experts and artists. These included “Master Class Workshop in Physical Theatre” by Adam Darius and Kazimir Kolesnik on November 18, “The Art of Transformation” by Ronald Rand on November 19, and workshops on the “Theatre of the Oppressed” by Hector Aristiaabal (November 26, 27, 28) and by Susan Quick and Anthony Mcgovern (November 29, 30 and December 1).

One might need some more time to review the real output and contribution of the two editions of Kathmandu International Theatre Festival to the theatre fraternity in Nepal and elsewhere. But one can claim with assurance that it definitely has strengthened  the networking of theatre groups in an international arena and promoted alliance among theatre artists. In addition to that it has helped immensely in exchanging diversity of styles and systems in theatre around the world, and in exploring the new idioms of theatre.

As Aarohan-Gurukul readies itself to organize Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2012, we look ahead with enthusiasm and anticipation to newer plays with newer styles and newer voices, plays that stimulate and challenge our thoughts, plays that force us to think and rethink everything all over, and, on top of all, plays that heal the wounds we have seen in the distant and the near past.

– Prakash Subedi 

Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2008

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Apart from the regular national theatre festivals, we successfully organized NIB Theatre Festival in 2004 which featured plays from Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, and Ibsen International Theatre Festival in 2006 which included plays by nine theatre groups from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Norway. The active participation and support of our audience, theatre critics, media persons, and theatre lovers during those festivals encouraged us to organize international theatre festival every two years. Kathmandu International Theatre Festival 2008 was an attempt to materialize the same commitment.

The 17-day long festival, organized from 11 to27 November 2008, included performances by groups from Nepal, UK, India, Bangladesh, USA, Norway, Denmark and Thailand. Every play had two performances, one in the day and another in the evening. The following is a brief introduction of the groups, their performances, and the highlights of the festival:

The first day of the festival (11 November) included the performance of Dreams of Peach Blossoms (directed by Sunil Pokharel) by Aarohan Theatre, Nepal. The short play written by Prof. Abhi Subedi was an attempt to capture the indigenous tradition of drama and music in a symbolic form through the use of the poetic language and images. It projected the complex and somber story broken with a jerk by the tourist guides who dramatize their relationship with the cultural heritage and the mercerization of the serious ideas and icons of time and place.

The second day (12 November) was followed by Eloquent Protest 3 (directed by Hazel Roy) by Feelgood Theatre, UK. The production was a fusion of music, poetry, and drama turned into a moving reminder of the price of war.

The third day (13 November) saw the performance of Bhelua Sundari (directed by Saidur Rahman Lipon) by Centre for Asian Theatre, Bangladesh, which remained one of the audience’s favorite of the festival. An experimental theatre, it presented love stories from the Ballads of East Bengal.

On the fourth day of the festival (4 November), Ritwik theatre group from India performed Fulamoti (directed by Goutam Roy Choudhury), emphasizing the fact that man can’t last long by refuting the basic truth that the survival of the body and entity has its roots in the fertility of soil.

Bimaar & Bade Bhaisaab (directed by Bharti Sharma) by Kshitiz, India, performed on the fifth day (15 November) were adaptations of two stories by celebrated writer Sadat Hasan Monto. The short plays attempted to delve deeper into human psychology and relationships.

On 16 November, i.e. the sixth day of the festival, Parnab Mukharjee presented his solo performance entitled And Dead Trees Give No Shelter (directed by Parnab Mukherjee) a production of Best of Kolkata Campus, India. It also was an experimental work dealing with issues like women’s rights, humanity and loneliness.

On 17 November, Hanglai (directed by Y. Rajendra Singh) by Panthoibi Natya Mandir, Manipur, India, was performed. The play was based on a traditional myth of Manipur, India. It was presented in the form of marionettes.

Happiness directed by Heather Harpham, USA, was performed on November 18, a play that explored the euphoria and fear we face as physical beings who are immensely fragile.

Nati Binodini (directed by Amal Allana) by Theatre and Television Associates, New Delhi, India, was performed on November 19. This exceptional theatre adaptation of a 19th century Indian actress Binodini’s authobiography “Aamar Katha” was yet another audience’s favorite of the Festival.

On November 20, Oglethorpe University and Relativity Theatre, USA performed Miss Julie (directed by Deborah Merola), the famous play by the celebrated Swedish playwright August Strindberg, with some modern interpretations.

On November 21, a Nepali play, Hajurbako Katha (directed by Khagendra Lamichhane) by Shatkon, was presented. This second solo performance of the festival told the touching story of different generations of Nepalis who have been fighting as mercenaries in a number of wars, as British-Gorkha soldiers in the World War I and II, or in recent Afghanistan.

Woh Khali Mukha Dekhai Chhi (directed by Anil Chandra Jha) another Nepali play by MINAP, Janakpur, was presented on November 22. The play highlighted the dark sides of the dowry system and tried to search ways out of it.

On November 23, A Bit Above Earth, USA, performed Circle Course (directed by Mira Kingsley). Described as the dance/theatre excavation of the last flight of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fredrick Noonam, the play provided an unexpectd look at those rare souls who dare to live impractical lives in a practical world.

Oppland Fylkeskommune, Norway, on November 24, presented Johan Sara in Pictures (directed by Morten Hovland). It was a musical performance by the Sami joiker and composer Johan Sara, Saxophonist Kristin Sevaldsen, and dancer/ choreograhper Tine V, with a moving backdrop of Sami life.

Mx and Mia, Denmark, performed Hungry Tigers (directed by Else Marie Laukvik) on November 25. This comic, sureal cabaret, with live music ranging from jazz standards to classical favorites, blended physical performance and songs, and created an intimate and hilarious evening about relationships, food and the tiger in all of us.

26 November, the second last day of the festival, saw the performance of Wesandon, the Lost Track to Nirvana (directed by Janaprakal Chandruang) by The Moradokmai Troupe, Thailand. This story adapted from biography of the Buddha in his last life before he was born as the Buddha was a Thai contemporary play with live music.

Aarohan and Karnali Theatre, Nepal performed Karnali Dakkhin Bagdo Chha (directed by Sunil Pokharel) on November 27, the last day of the Festival. This improvised play was based on socio-cultural realities and problems of Mugu District, the remotest district of Nepal, and remained yet another audience’s favorite of the festival.

Apart from the regular theatre performances, an art exhibition entitled “Journey of Liberation” was organized during the festival that showcased joint work of renowned artist Kiran Manandhar and talented photographer Dipendra Bajracharya. Similarly, discussions on theatre were carried out throughout the festival.

Similarly a multidisciplinary artistic performance called “Divinity of the Common Life” was organized at the Open Theatre, Khula Manch, on November 7.

Another important aspect of the festival was artist Kiran Manandhar’s painting based on the performances throughout the festival. He would be in the theatre with his canvas, colors and brushes during the noon performance of every play, and would paint his impressions of the play. The paintings were presented as a gift to the theatre group after the evening performance of the play.

The festival was supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, B. P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation, Aliance Francaise Kathmandu, Cultural Corporation Kathmandu, Bank of Kathmandu, Everest Insurance Company, Shri Lunkaran Das – Ganga Devi Chaudhari Academy for Art and Literature, Spey Livet, Nepal Investment Bank Limited, Music n’ Expressions, Ujyalo F.M., Corona Int’l Foundation, Maitri F.M., Star F.M., Radio Audio, Cable Television Network, Music Nepal Kathmandu, National Forum of Photo Journalists, Yeti Airlines, and Dreams and Ideas.

– Prakash Subedi

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Aarohan Theatre Festival 2007

Aarohan Theatre Group was established by a group of five theatre enthusiasts, namely Sunil Pokharel, Chandrakala Sharma, Badri Adhikari, Pradip Shrestha, and Samanta Kansakar in 2038 B.S. (1982 AD). This year Aarohan Theatre Group completed its successful 25 years. To celebrate its Silver Jubilee, Aarohan-Gurukul organized a three-week long Aarohan Theatre Festival 2007 in January-February 2007 (Magh 2063). Commencing on January 23 (Magh 9), and continued till February 12 (Magh 29), the festival saw the performance of 7 of its most popular plays, each play being performed for three days.

Inaugurating the festival, Honourable Minister for Tourism and Culture, Mr. Pradeep Gyawali expressed his appreciation for the perseverance shown by Aarohan in reviving, promoting, and professionalizing Nepali theatre. Among those who addressed the inaugural meeting were its founders, playwright Abhi Subedi, and the pioneer culture expert Mr. Satya Mohan Joshi, among others. Minister Gyawali also distributed tokens of love from Aarohan to its founder members.

Among the plays performed during the 21-day long festival were: “Jeevan Dekhi Jeevan Samma” (From Life to Life) written by Abhi Subedi and directed by Sunil Pokharel, “Jaat Sodhnu Jogiko” (Ask the Ascetic His Caste), written by the Indian Playwright Bijaya Tendulkar, adapted into Nepali and directed by Anup Baral, “Mayadevika Sapana” (Dreams of Mayadevi),written by Abhi Subedi and directed by Nisha Sharma, “Putaliko Ghar”, a Nepali adaptation of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, Translated and directed by Sunil Pokharel, “Agniko Katha” (Fire in the Monastery), written by Abhi Subedi and directed by Sunil Pokharel, and “Tarabaji Lai Lai”, an improvisational play directed by the Norwegian director, Morten Crog.

Talking about the festival, artistic director of Aarohan, Sunil Pokharel says: “The objective of the festival was, in fact, manifold. We wanted to bring all its founder members together and honour them. We wanted to celebrate the successful 25-years of Aarohan. And, apart from that, we wanted to give our audience an opportunity to see all the good plays from Aarohan-Gurukul they had missed before. And for all these, the Silver Jubilee Celebration was the most appropriate occasion.”

According to Milan Kumar Karki, the box office manager of Gurukul, about 7000 people turned in to see the performances, and became a part of the silver jubilee celebration.

– Prakash Subedi

Aarohan National Theatre Festival 2007

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Aarohan-Gurukul, in association with Shree Lunkarandas- Ganagadevi Chaudhary Sahitya Kala Mandir, organized a 27 day long Aarohan National Theatre Festival from April 15 to May 11, 2007. Twenty Six different theatre groups all the way from Panchathar in East and to Surkhet in the west of Nepal presented their unique performances representing different cultures and geographical locations. Seminar on Nepali Theatre and Interactions with Directors and artists were other attractions of the festival.

The festival was inaugurated by Chitralekha Yadav, Deputy Speaker of the House of representative on April 15, 2007. The session was chaired by playwright and culture expert Satya Mohan Joshi and was graced by other prominent guests including Bhojraj Ghimire, the chief secretary, Bairagi Kainla, litterateur, Basanta Kumar Chaudhary, President of Lunkarandas Gangadevi Chaudhary Sahitya Kala Mandir, Prof. Durga Prasad Bhandari, and prof. Abhi Subedi, president, Nepal Chapter of ITI. The subjects raised in most of the plays were indigenous myths and cultures, effects of decade long ‘people’s war’ and political turmoil of the time.

Almost 16000 audiences turned to see the performances during the festival. This festival is probably the biggest and the most inclusive theatre festival ever organized in Nepal.

– Prakash Subedi

Ibsen Theatre Festival 2006

To commemorate the death-centennial of the famous Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, Aarohan-Gurukul, in association with Shri Lunkarandas Ganga Devi Chaudhary Sahitya Kala Mandir, organized an 11-day long Ibsen Theatre Festival, from 1 to 11 November 2006. Ten Ibsen plays and plays on Ibsen performed by nine theatre groups from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Norway were the main attraction of the festival. But apart from these performances, But apart from these performances, release of the books on drama and theatre, Ibsen Seminar, and a musical performance based on Ibsen plays became successful in inviting throngs of people to Sama Theatre and Rimal Theatre of Aarohan-Gurukul.

The festival was inaugurated by the Honourable Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on November 1, 2006, amidst the enthusiastic presence of artists, academicians, and theatre lovers. Present in the program also were Mr. Tore Torang, the ambassador of Norway to Nepal, Mr. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, the ambassador of India to Nepal, Prof. Abhi Subedi, President of international Theatre Institute, Nepal Chapter, and Mr. Basanta Kumar Chaudhari, Chairman of Shri Lunkarandas Ganga Devi Chaudhary, among others. In his inaugural speech, chief guest Prime Minister Koirala shared his reminisces about watching plays like “Mukunda Indira” and “Muna Madan”, and assured the support of the government to the reviving Nepali Theatre. The inauguration was followed by the release of books by the chief guest. The released books include Nepali Theatre As I See It by Prof. Abhi Subedi, Putaliko Ghar (Nepali Translation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House ) by Sunil Pokharel, Nepal Ma Rangamanch: Shrot, Shadhan ra Shrijana by Dr. Shiva Rijal, and Ibsen: Beyond Time and Space edited by Prakash Subedi, Jeebesh Rayamajhi, and Bal Bahadur Thapa.

On the same day, after the inauguration programme, Aarohan presented the opening performance, “Mahan Shilpi”, a Nepali adaptation of Ibsen’s “The Master Builder.” Translated from English into Nepali by Jeebesh Rayamajhi and Bal Bahadur Thapa, the play was directed by Sunil Pokharel. In his note, the director gave two reasons for liking the play: one, because it deals with ego, inner world, selfishness, quest and whims of creators, second because it deals with the conflict between the generations. The audience expressed their appreciation for the way one of the difficult plays of Ibsen had been well-adapted to Nepali context.

The second day (November 2) saw two performances of Jan-Shatru, a translation of “An Enemy of the People” by Shailnat, a theatre group from Uttarkhand, India. While answering a question from the audience regarding why there was no effort made to adapt the play in the local context, the director, Shrish Dobhal, a graduate of National School of Drama, replied that the play had a universal theme which would be equally poignant even while performed in its original form.

Ritweek, a group based in Baharmpur, India, presented two shows of another version of “An Enemy of the People” on the third day of the festival (November 3). Adapted to an Indian town, “DeshoDrohi”, though in Bengali, a language majority of the audience did not understand, nevertheless gained high acclaims for its vivid characterization, and mostly for the role of Dr. Mitra, played by the veteran actor Amal Bhattacharya.

A Bengali adaptation of Ibsen’s “Ghosts” entitled “Pretachhaya”, was performed by NatyaBhumi Tripura, another group from India on the fourth day of the festival (November,4). The lavish setting created all out of bamboo work remained the attraction for Nepali audience apart from the performance. Discussing about the Bengali adaptation of the play, the director, Sanjaya Kar, mentioned that though he had tried to keep deep adherence to the text of Ibsen, he also had taken freedom to add some flashback. He further said that he had taken the ‘privilege’ to regenerate Ibsen’s realistic approach.

The fifth day of the Festival (November, 5) saw an experimental adaptation of Ibsen play, “The Wild Duck.” In this Norwegian presentation entitled “The Story of the Wild Duck”, all the characters were enacted by a single artist, Ingunn Oyen. The actress expressed the changes between different characters through her voice and gestures. Directed by Stig Braten, the play signalled the innovations and experimentations sought within Ibsen.

On November 6, the sixth day of the festival, M. Art Theatre, a Nepali Group based in Kathmandu, presented another experimental performance on Ibsen- “The Death of Happiness”, a performance based on Ibsen’s three poems, “The Tear”, “Amid the Ruins” and “Dance”. Birendra Hamal, a versatile Nepali theatre artist, had used his skill and ingenuity in dealing with Ibsen poems, translated by Jeebesh Rayamajhi. Talking with the audience during the interaction session, Hamal said that his effort was to explore another talent of Ibsen, i.e. his poetry, about which many people did not know anything at all. Beginning with the birth rituals of a Limbu boy from eastern Nepal, Kansare, the performance showed all the stages of his life nearing with the life of Ibsen. Hamal mentioned the performance as a tribute to Ibsen.

The sixth day of the festival was also marked by a seminar under the topic “Ibsen Studies in Cross-Cultural Context”. Coordinated by Prof. Abhi Subedi, President of international Theatre Institute, Nepal Chapter, the seminar was conducted in two sessions. In the first session, chaired by Prof. Subedi himself, Dr. Krishna Chandra Sharma from Nepal, Dr. Utpal Banerjee from India, Dr. Arun Gupto from Nepal, and Prof. Shafi Ahmed from Bangladesh presented their papers dealing with the issues of adaptation, translation and performing Ibsen in different languages and contexts, and   the significance of such activities. The second session which was chaired by Dr. Benerjee, included three papers presented by Ranavir Singh from India, Gunnar Thon Lossius from Norway, and Prof. Abhi Subedi from Nepal. Participated by theatre workers, teachers and students, the seminar saw active participation and discussion.

Aarohan presented its second performance during the festival, “Putaliko Ghar” a Nepali adaptation of “A Doll’s House” on 7th November. Translated into Nepali and directed by Sunil Pokharel, the play which had seen its hundredth performance long time back, surprised all by the immense number of audience who turned in to see it. Hundreds of viewers had to be sent back, and out of the immense pressure from the audience, the organizers had to declare another schedule to perform this play continuously after the festival.

On November 8, the eighth day of the Festival, a Pakistani group, Ajoka Theatre, presented its performance “Dushman”, the third presentation of “An Enemy of the People” during the festival. Directed by Shahid Nadeem, this play in Urdu, was set in a Northern Pakistani town. The effort of the play was to see the classic play in the modern light. The ultimate question the performance tried to raise was whether majority was always right, and, though collective will and wisdom was still a virtue, shouldn’t we question the established and certified truths every once in a while.

This performance was followed, on November 9, i.e. the ninth day, by one more solo performance of the festival, “Inviting Ibsen for a Dinner with Ibsen” by Parnab Mukharhee from the Best of Kolkata Campus, Kolkata, India. Subtitled ‘A Play on life and times of Ibsen’, Mukherjee brought the issues of translation and interpretation and the underlying complexity into discussion through a study on his life and works. With his versatile acting and exceptional sense of humour, Mukherjee invited loads of appreciation for performance.

On November 10, i.e. the second last day of the festival, the famous Nepali classical band Sukarma performed a musical composition based on three great Ibsen plays, Master Builder , Hedda Gabler , and A Doll’s House .   In their performance, the members of the band, Dr. Dhrubesh Chandra Regmi, Shyam Nepali, and Pramod Upadhyaya made an effort to present the main themes of the plays, characters and situations in a musical form. According to Dr. Regmi, they tried to make the composition lively and interesting by adding different kinds of short melodies which were based on either some ragas or popular folk tunes of Nepal.

The last day of the festival saw another unconventional performance on Ibsen. Centre for Asian Theatre, Bangladesh, presented its performance “Resurrection”, based on Henrik Ibsen’s life and works. Filled with music, songs and dances, this play was an effort to understand Ibsen at present. The play was directed by Kamaluddin Nilu, a pioneer theatre person of Bangladesh.

After the performance of “Resurrection”, a brief closing ceremony was organized. Sunil Pokharel expressed his gratitude to all who had supported the festival, and thanked the audience for their enthusiastic presence. He described the festival as a grand success with five counties participating in it and with more than 6000 audience turn out. When Abhi Subedi described the difficult days Aarohan Gurukul had come through, and narrated the story of the relentless efforts Sunil Pokharel had made for it, every one in the audience was filled with awe for the pioneer and versatile theatre artist. What followed ahead was an unceasing applause.

– Prakash Subedi

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