Sarwanam in India!

This is a short diary of our tour to India, Bubaneswor, between 28th of February and 11th of March, were Sarwanam performed the “13th Multilingual Theatre-Festival” of Bubaneswor.

1st day:  9am: we all met at Naya – Buspark to start the long way to Bubaneswor, Orissa, India, to join as one of 7 other theatre groups in the 13th Multilingual Theatre Festival of Orissa. The bus drove us to Birgunj, a town located directly at the border to India. The travel took us far longer than we thought. We rested one night in a guesthouse at the main road. Everybody was fine, only the mosquitoes got on our nerves.

2nd day:  In the early morning two “tempos” brought us over the border to Raksaul in India. There we took the train to Kolkata (Howrah). It was a very long, but interesting travel. The train drove us nearly 24 hours through the north-east of India and we slept in fold out bed-seats.

3rd day: After the more or less rehabilitating sleep in the train we arrived in Kolkata in the morning. We had a lot of time to explore and discover all corners of the big train station of Kolkata, because we had to wait 18 hours for the next train to arrive. But well, that’s Indian railway.

4th day: Lucky wise the train arrived and departed punctually. As exhausted as we were from the long rest in Kolkata we all fell asleep fast. The train arrived in the early morning in Bubaneswor. There one of the coordinators of the theatre-festival welcomed us and brought us to a guesthouse near to the theatre-building. After taking rest and discovering the guesthouse and the streets around it and enjoying a very tasteful meal, we saw one of the seven theatre plays, which were shown at the “13th Multilingual Theatre-Festival” in the theatre-hall  of ”Satabdira, Kalakara”.

è The “Multilingual Theatre-Festival” is a Festival with a long tradition. It takes place since thirteen years now. “Multilingual” in this case means, that the staged theatre- plays are performed in different languages, which are spoken in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

5th day: First rehearsal in the morning in a room of the guesthouse. In the afternoon we visited the centre of the “Natya  Chetana” -theatre, which established in the 80ties and aimed to make political and social theatre on issues such as land-occupation and democracy. It is a very alternative theatre: In the 90ties they were practicing “cycle”-theatre around the district of Orissa (all theatre-material is transported with bicycles, no use of cars, busses etc.). Similar to Sarwanam “Natya Chetana” also focuses on street-theatre.

In the evening we watched the fourth performance of the Festival, performed by a group from Bangladesh.

6th day: The day of our performance. We arrived early this morning at the theatre to build up our theatre-background and to check the light and sound system. After a little lunch break we continued the rehearsal, this time with all features and the real settings of the performance on stage. We rested in the theatre the whole day long, only for a small lunch we drove back to the guesthouse.

è For the Festival Ashesh Malla decided to stage the play “Remaining Pages of History”. The story was written some years ago and it was already performed in Nepal as well as in Thailand. It deals with the extremely cruel civil war, initiated by the Maoists, which took place in Nepal until the year 2005. In the play a small innocent village gets involved into the struggle between Maoists and Army by accident. At the end a whole family dies without cause.

Evening: The play was performed and the people loved it, everything went fluently and as it was planned! The group can be really proud of it! But there were even more good news! Additionally we got to know that the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu wants SARWANAM to develop a theatre play based on a novel of the famous nepali literate “Rabindranath Tegore” It should be staged in May.

That night we went to bed very late, discussing the good and bad sites of our performance.  Everybody was happy.

7th day:  Sarwanam went to the theatre in the morning to give a discussion about the performed play one day before. Most of the criticism was positive. A lot of people liked the play in his whole composition; some liked the special style of Sarwanam-drama to put the focus on the body language. That makes the play understandable, although mankind doesn’t understand the spoken language. The negative critic was only facing small details of the play. The rest of the day we used to just hang around and take a rest of the exhausting heat of Orissa. Later that evening we watched the 6th theatre play of the week.

8th day: We got up from bed very very early in the morning to go to Puri, a famous town at the coast of Orissa, which is popular for its huge Hindu-temple “      “. Members of the “Natya Chetana” theatre accompanied us and helped us to get through the chaos of Puri’s streets and traffic. Thanks a lot!

After the more or less short visit of the temple the Sarwanam members took a bath in the Indian Ocean. That was a pleasure for everybody, especially for those who didn’t see ocean yet. In the evening we saw the last theatre-play of the festival.

9th day:  After relaxing in the guesthouse for the whole day and a short visit in the office of the” Natya Chetana” – theatre we took our last meal with delicious food provided by the kitchen of the guesthouse and drove to the train station in the evening to make the long way back to Kathmandu again.  At the train station we had a long farewell with the president of the Satabdira, Kalakra – theatre “Dhira Mallik“ and the main coordinating persons. We were all very thankful for the great services, which were provided for us during our rest in the guesthouse. Thanks a lot.

11th day: Early in the morning we reached Kathmandu, tired, but with good feelings in our stomachs, telling us that the future will contain a lot more projects for us to work on!

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Sarwanam at “Park-Gallery”

At  the 13th of march, Sarwanam performed at the “Park Gallery” in Lalitpur due to the opening of a new art exhibition called “Future of History”, a collaborative art project by eight different painters and artists, including Ashesh Malla , Sarwanam director and Mukesh Malla, who is a renowned painter and also the research coordinator of the project.

The play called “Lokeswor” deals with the theme of Rato Machhendranath Jatra, a popular festival which is located at the end of April/ beginning of May in old Patan and initiates the beginning of the rain-season.

The short play had duration of 20 minutes and was therefore fitting very well as a play to welcome the visitors of the exhibition. The audience was a mixture of both young and old people. Also foreigners took a look on our play. All in all it was a very interesting, comfortable and for our group successful evening, because we saw a lot of paintings and the audience was greater than we expected!

Some pictures of the evening:

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Sarwanam Overview

This short overview is written by me, Johannes, a new volunteer from Germany, who has been working as a volunteer at Sarwanam since 2 ½ months now. The purpose of this text is to show the view of a foreign, almost outstanding person, on the work of Sarwanam.

Sarwanam is moving on towards an auspicious future. In the past, Sarwanam, as a theatre with political claims, was an important institution for the integration of social aspects and the spread of democracy. Performing street drama in nearly every part of Nepal as well as in other countries, such as Thailand or India, Sarwanam has gained the reputation of being a unique kind of theatre due to its aims and subjects.

Since 4 years, the group, under the guidance of Sarwanam’s founder Ashesh Malla, is in process to build up an own theatre-building in Putalisadak, Kathmandu. Soon the building will be completed and marking the beginning of a new era for Sarwanam.

With the new field of acting on stage continuously the Sarwanam Drama expands its work. Of course the old fields of work such as street drama, giving workshops and others will remain.

The Sarwanam-group

As the Sarwanam-group is young, therefore it is powerful!

Before I started my work at Sarwanam, I didn’t expect the group to be so young. From Germany I’m used to watch theatre whose members have an average age of 30. But in Sarwanam the average is far younger. It seems to me, that especially the mixture of young actors and an “old” director as well as some older actors will be a successful receipt for the future of Sarwanam. The experience of Ashesh Malla and his older actors makes the Sarwanam in all its features stable and authentic, while the spirit and the motivation of our younger members will advance the drama by giving new and modern ideas and input.

Furthermore there is something special about the Sarwanam theatre.

In comparison to other dramas and work-fields the Sarwanam makes almost no difference between work and private life – in a very positive way.

As the Sarwanam has been a non-commercial theatre without the attempt to compete with other theatres and branches the whole “family” of Sarwanam was collected by inviting friends and/or by being willed to support Sarwanam as a volunteer. Therefore the group behaves like a family and a circle of friendship. This has got the result, that the whole atmosphere at Sarwanam is friendly and happy, which is essential for the success and the good work of it. If somebody has problems, one will always get help from other Sarwanam-members.

 

The Sarwanam-building

Speaking for a foreign person, I have to say that the Sarwanam-building seems to be on a good way to fulfill the claims both of nepali-visitors and foreigners. 

Since I began my work at Sarwanam two month ago, a lot of things developed forward rapidly.

The Café Rangakarma in the first hall of the building looks great with its bar at the corner and especially the floor appears to make a very serious impression on me. The same with the exhibition-room. Both floor and the light-installation make mankind feel serious and warm, entering the room. Although the library is quite small, it will have a similar effect on the enterer due to its style, which is similar to the café and the exhibition room.

Concerning the audience it is an exciting experience to recognize that there is also a theatre which will play in a hall, which is far longer than broad and has a so called “close”-stage.

Furthermore there is the rehearsal-room. A room at the ground floor of the house, which is already in its final status, after working hard on it for a few months. With one wall provided with mirrors the room is essential for our actors to reflect their acting during the time of rehearsal.

On top of that there is a total new office for our director Ashesh Malla, which was built by cutting the old rehearsal and working-room into two pieces. The old working-room is now used just as a small lounge for the Sarwanam-members.

With the latest achievements of a broad link-internet as well as a new generator, which will spend electricity for the whole building, the Sarwanam-building is approaching the status of a professional theater complex.

At last I am very curious about what will be the reaction of visitors on the outer color of the building, because I never saw a theatre-building in such a bright blue color! But I suppose that this will make the Sarwanam building appear even more interesting.

 

The actual Play

As the Sarwanam-building will be completed soon, our Sarwanam-group is now practicing rehearsals for the Opening Festival of the building. The name of the theatre play, which will be staged is: “itihaash ka baki prishthaharu“ (Remaining Pages Of History). It’s a play, written by Ashesh Malla, which was first staged in Nepal in the summer of 2007 and due to its success also in other countries afterwards.

In this play innocent villagers get struck into a conflict between Maoists and the Government, because the governmental army suspects one of the villagers to support the Maoists.

The suspicion evokes a serial of cruel and unintended incidents around the small community. Against this background the play focuses on the development of an unlucky woman, who loses almost whole of her relatives during the struggles between Maoists and Government.

In order to the typical style of Sarwanam’s way of acting I was quickly able to understand the content of the play without understanding the Nepalese language.

One main characteristic of this style is the exclusion of almost any requisites. The actor only acts with his own body, using it to demonstrate which item or object he his using.

Thus the Sarwanam emphasizes on mime and symbolic body movements to express social based stories.

In comparison to German theatre, for instance, the Sarwanam drama is more expressive, the actors act more dramatically.

I am curious about the coming year and full of anticipation to be able to observe the work of Sarwanam in such a time of critical change.

Some expressions of the rehearsal of “Remaining Pages Of History”:

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Shyam’s Wedding

Shyam’s Marriage

 

 

Latest News from Sarwanam Theatre Group

 

 

One week ago, Shyam, actor of the Sarwanam group was marrying and most of the Sarwanam members were pleased to join the wedding-ceremony at Wednesday the 15th as well as the delightful wedding party on the following day.

For this case also Luisa, a german volunteer and a friend of Johannes, Sarwanam’s volunteer, was visiting the ceremony by interest.

Unfortunately and by accident she took the wrong dress (Sari), which had the funny effect that some people on the street, on the way to the wedding location were thinking that the she might be the wife, who’s going to marry Johannes.

The ceremony took place at Guheshwori Mandir, a popular location for traditional hinduist’ weddings. After some problems about finding the right ceremony, because there were a lot of ceremonies going on at the same time, the Sarwanam members luckily reached the place with the help of Shyam’s nephew.

After beeing welcomed warmly by Shyam and some of his relatives, very soon the official marriage began.

As it was a traditional hinduist marriage, the process of the marriage was typical: Shyam’s wife, Sangita, was waiting with her female family relatives in one corner, while at the same time Shyam was getting blessed with mantra’s by a hinduist  priest, a symbolic act, which should prepare Shyam for a healthy and stable lifetime with his wife.

Meanwhile this quite long process a big and tasteful lunch was offered to the visitors.

Afterswards both husband and wife came together. Further as another traditional act, Sangitas family and relatives were washing husband’s and wife’s feet and drank the same water also. This purification-act is another blessing from god.

At the end all Sarwanam members joyfully blessed and greeted the new born husband and the new born wife.

 

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Award distribution and Sarwanam´s drama on upcoming Saturday

This Saturday Nabin kala kendra (nabin art center) is going to award Mister Ashesh Malla, pioneer of street drama in Nepal and Director of Sarwanam Theatre Group for his outstanding work.

Next to the award distribution Sarwanam will also perform one of their recent dramas called „Questions“.

Venue: Nabin Kala Kendra, Kalikasthan

Date: July 10th, 2010

Starting Time: 4pm

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Street Drama Tour with Amnesty International_Some Impressions

Tour Schedule

Saturday 12.6.2010 From Kathmandu to Pokhara
Sunday 13.6.2010 In Pokhara, first Performance
Monday 14.6.2010 From Pokhara to Syangja, Second Performance

Fom Syanga to Palpa, Third Performance

From Palpa to Bhairawal

Tuesday 15.6.2010 From Bhairawal to Butwal, Fourth Performance

From Butwal to Parasi, Fifth Performace

From Parasi to Sauraha

Wednesday 16.6.2010 From Sauraha to Narayangat, Sixth Performance

From Narayangat to Hetauda, Seventh Performance

From Hetauda to Birgunj

Thursday 17.6.2010 Eighth Performance in Birgunj

From Birgunj to Lal Bandi, last Performance

From Lal Bandi to Hetauda

Friday 18.6.2010 From Hetauda to Kathmandu, visit Sulo´s home
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Newsletter 2


Recent Events: Small Street Drama in the outskirts of the Kathmandu valley, containing information on the proper use of water

Sarwanam recently conducted a small street drama tour in the outskirts of Kathmandu.

In cooperation with “Indigenous Helpless Children and Women Development Organization” Sarwanam staged a comic play to increase awareness for the importance of responsible water consumption.

The play focused on two main aspects:

1.) Carefully washing hands before eating

2.) To only drink filtered water

in order to avoid water borne diseases.

Sarwanam conveyed these messages through a very entertaining play that told the story of one village’s villain. This character terrorizes the other inhabitants of the village and gives them a tough time, stealing their money and also their food.

Greedily, he eats all the snacks and licks his fingers. Afterwards he drinks from the village’s tab, ignoring two ladies’ protest.

He is about to glorify himself as the strongest and most powerful man in town, when he breaks down, suffering from stomach cramps.

While he is in pain, two mean germs enter the stage and tease him. But in the end, they are also swept away by soap.

The play was performed in the villages of Jitpur (Kathmandu District), in Bhaktapur on Durbar Square and in Suryabinayak and in Lalitpur District in front of students of two schools in Jharuwarashi and Chhampi. The cheering and laughing audience highly approved Sarwanam’s performance.

Continuation of Amnesty International’s play on working migrants-Street Drama Tour across the Country

After a delay of one month the street drama tour for Amnesty International will commenced last Saturday.

The topic of the street play written by human rights activist Krishna Pahadi is uneducated Nepali people leaving their country to work and earn abroad.

Unfortunately, due to exploitation and lack of rights many of them find themselves in a nightmarish situation.

The street play exemplifies the story of one young man who leaves Nepal full of hope and expectations just to suffer grief hardships and disappointments when he has an accident in a factory and is fired then.

Sarwanam travelled to different districts and performed in front of communities from which many people emigrate.

Sarwanam’s journey included Pokhara, Narayangat, Palpa, Butwal and some other places.

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