Shakuntala

Pleiades Theatre is proud to present the Canadian premiere production of Shakuntala by the great classical Sanskrit poet and dramatist Kalidasa, adapted and directed by Charles Roy. Produced in association with Toronto?s Harbourfront Centre, the play runs from February 4 to 15, 2009 at Harbourfront?s Fleck Dance Theatre (formerly Premiere Dance) as part of World Stage Festival.

A masterpiece of world theatre, Shakuntala, which means one who is brought up by birds (Shakun), is an epic love story, known and revered by South Asians the world over. It is about King Dushyanta and a devout young woman, Shakuntala, who meet in innocence, fall in love, then are cruelly separated before they are eventually reconciled and reunited in eternity. Their child is destined to become the enlightened ruler of the world. Poetic and deeply human, this story takes us on a magnificent, emotion-filled journey that is profound and far-reaching. This marks the first professional production of Shakuntala in Canada.

Adapted and Directed by Charles Roy, Choreography by Hari Krishnan, Original music by Reza Jacobs.

 

Starring Anita Majumdar, Sanjay Talwar and Pragna Desai with David Collins, Frank Cox-O’Connell, Melee Hutton, Reza Jacobs and Carrie-Lynn Neales.

Set Design by Teresa Przybylski, Costumes by Milan Shahani, Lighting Design by Itai Erdal.

Shakuntala by Kalidasa

February 4 - 15, 2009

Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre
Queen’s Quay Terminal
235 Queen’s Quay West, 3rd Floor
Shakuntala is part of World Stage Festival at Harbourfront Centre
Preview: Wednesday, February 4 at 8:00 PM
Opening:
Thursday, February 5 at 8:00 PM
Performances
: Tues – Sat at 8:00 pm | Matinées: Sat/Sun at 2:00pm

Synopsis

The legend of the exquisitely beautiful Shakuntala and the mighty King Dushyanta is a thrilling love story from the ancient epic, Mahabharata, which lies at the origin of Indian culture and religion. The great poet, Kalidasa, retold the story in his immortal play, The Recognition of Shakuntala or (Abhijnanashakuntalam.)
 
While on a hunting trip, King Dushyanta of the Puru dynasty stumbles into an ashram where he meets the hermit-girl, Shakuntala. They fall in love and, in the absence of her father, Shakuntala weds the king in a ceremony of 'Ghandharva', a form of marriage by mutual consent with Mother Nature as the witness. When the time comes for Dushyanta to return to his palace, he promises to send an envoy to bring her to his side at the palace. As a symbolic gesture of his love, he gives her a signet ring.
 
One day when the irascible hermit, Durvasas, arrives at the ashram expecting hospitality, Shakuntala, lost in thoughts of love, fails to hear the guest when he calls for attention. The temperamental sage turns back and curses her: "He whose thoughts have so engrossed you will remember you no longer." When Shakuntala’s companions’ plea for forgiveness, the angry sage relents and adds a condition to his curse-statement: "Only on sight of a significant memento will his memory of you be restored."
 
Days and weeks pass and no one from the palace comes to fetch her. Kanva decides to send his daughter to the royal court, secure in the belief that the King will recognize her and also welcome as his own the child that she is carrying. En route, when Shakuntala stops to bathe in a stream, her signet-ring accidentally slips from her finger and is lost.
 
When Shakuntala presents herself before the King, Dushyanta is still under the spell of the curse and refuses to acknowledge her as his wife. Heart-broken and humiliated, she begs the gods to remove her from the face of earth. Her wish is granted and she is taken to the kingdom in the clouds, where she and her newborn child will live. Months later, a fisherman arrives bearing a ring with the King’s crest on it. The guards accuse him of stealing it but he explains that he found it in the belly of a fish that he caught. Taken before the King, the spell is broken when he sees the memento that he gave to Shakuntala. Wracked by feelings of guilt and loss, the King languishes in his court until one day he is called upon by the gods to fight celestial demons in the heavens. Victorious, he is resting there when he encounters a young boy with whom he strikes up an immediate rapport. When he asks about the child’s mother, he sees his beloved wife and in a beautifully moving scene, Shakuntala and Dushyanta are reunited for eternity. Their son, Bharat, which means India, is destined to return to the world of mortals where he will found a great kingdom that will bear his name.
 
Director’s notes
 
Shakuntala is one of the most famous and beloved plays in all of South Asia. It is seen as being the masterpiece of the classical Indian stage and it holds a position in South Asia akin to what Romeo and Juliet hold in the west. Yet for most Canadians, Shakuntala is not especially well known – very few people have even seen it, let alone heard of it. It is my belief that Shakuntala could become as beloved and influential here as it has proven to be in South Asia. Shakuntala, as with most South Asian plays, arose from a tradition entirely separate from that which we have here in the west. In fact the aim of a South Asian play, according to the classical tradition, is to induce a particular experience in the minds and imaginations of the viewers. Called “rasa”, it is a unique aesthetic experience that all South Asian art strives to achieve, almost a trance-like, drug-like high, perfectly legal but central to the Indian artistic tradition.

I
n bringing Shakuntala to modern Canadian audiences, I have sought to underline the universal qualities of Kalidasa’s play by using a very diverse cast and by mixing many theatrical traditions with those from classical Indian theatre. By taking these traditions from all over the world and mixing them together, we’re actually able to extract elements that might in some way relate to our audiences here, thereby allowing them to access this glorious world of 5th century India, and hopefully to unlock the play’s unique and very rich power.-- Charles Roy
 
BIOS
 
Charles Roy - Director

Charles was born in Vancouver to Indian and British parents.  He studied at McGill University (BA), Visva-Bharati University (Santiniketan) and York University (MFA – Directing).  He is the co-founder of the Classical Theatre Project, Talking Camel Productions and The Lower Ossington Theatre.  Recent directing credits include: Hamlet (Classical Theatre Project), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (CTP), Romeo and Juliet (Dora Nomination),  the Canadian premiere of Neil LaBute’s Autobahn, Shakuntala (York University), and Look Back In Anger (Santiniketan Dramatics, Kolkata, India.)  Most recently he composed and played the music for The Great Gatsby at the Lower Ossington Theatre.
 
THE CAST
 
David Collins (Kanva, Charioteer)

David Collins has performed extensively on stage, film, TV and radio, throughout Canada and the US. This year he was a Company member at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, performing in Romeo and Juliet, Love's Labor's Lost, and Ceasar and Cleopatra. Most recently he received a Dora nomination for his performance in Twilight Café. Toronto audiences will remember him in The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God (Mirvish), Comedy of Errors (Canstage), Pusha Man(Theatre Passe Muraille), Bunnicula (LKYPT), Film and Television:   Mr. Magorium’s Magic Emporium, Regenesis, Owing Mahoney, Shoot em Up, The Incredible Hulk, MVP and Nurse Fighter Boy.

Frank Cox-O’Connell
(Vidusaka, Durvasas)

Recent acting credits include The Drawer Boy (Theatre Passe Murialle as well as a British tour with Farnham Maltings, UK), Sanctuary Song (Tapestry New Opera for Luminato), Bach at Leipzig (Theatre Athena) and The Demonstration (Theatre Direct). Frank also creates and performs new work with, among others, Small Wooden Shoe (with whom he is currently developing Dedicated To The Revolutions for Buddies in Bad Times spring ’09), Public Recordings, and One Reed Theatre (founding member creating Never Underestimate The Power, It’s Hard to Count to a Million and Nor The Cavaliers Who Come With Us – spotlight award for performance SummerWorks ‘06), As a musician, Frank plays drums and banjo with Boys Who Say No. He’s a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada.

PRAGNA DESAI (Priyamvad)

Most recently: Bhopal in Canada Steel for which Pragna was nominated for a Dora Award - Outstanding Performance. Selected TV and Film: CBC’s The Border, ABC's In Justice; NBC's award-winning series ER; Slings and Arrows; Train 48 on Global; Missing; Sue Thomas FBI; Blue Murder; Mutant X; Tom Clancy's The Sum Of All Fears; Deepa Mehta's Bollywood/Hollywood. Selected Theatre: Sabra in Eastern Front Theatre’s production of In The Backseat. Two seasons at the Stratford Festival in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Pride and Prejudice, Tartuffe, The Alchemist, and the Governor General award-winning play by Timothy Findley Elizabeth Rex; Canstage; LKTYP; and Great Expectations at Winnipeg's Prairie Theatre Exchange. Pragna is the recipient of a Tyrone Guthrie Award from the Stratford Festival for Outstanding Talent.
 
Melee Hutton (Gautami)
 
Melee trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama graduating with the James Bridie Medal and the Citizen’s Theatre Award. Recent theatre work includes Frosine in Moliere’s The Miser (STC),Blue in Bluebeard at the 2008 Toronto Fringe, Arkadina in Anton Chekov’s The Seagull (Equity Showcase), Water in Creon for The Stone Circle Project, Mum in Straight as a Line (SummerWorks) , Ruth in Blithe Spirit (STC)), Dionyza in Pericles (Festival of Classics). Selected work in the UK includes Popcorn by Ben Elton (London’s West End - Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy), Julie Johnson (Best Actress Award- London New Play Festival, Our Country’s Good (London’s West End - Olivier Award for best play), Weldon Rising and Disappeared by Phyllis Nagy, Gibraltar Strait for the Royal Court Theatre, London and Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey and ON by Jim Cartwright for the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain. As well, she has done extensive work in regional theatres throughout the UK. Recent directing includes Tara Beagan’s new Canadian adaptation of Miss Julie: Sheh’mah for her company KICK and upcoming Plautus’ The Menaechmi for The Stone Circle Project. Melee also teaches in the Acting Conservatory Programme at York University and at Professional Actor’s Lab, Toronto.
 
ANITA MAJUMDAR (Shakuntala)

Anita is a graduate of the acting program of theNational Theatre School of Canada and holds a degree in English, Theatre and South Asian Languages from theUniversity of British Columbia. Dancing for 12 years, Anita's training originates in Kathak, but she has also studied Bharatnatyam and Odissi.  Theatre credits include her self-written/self-performed The Misfit (PUSH Festival, Vancouver/ Theatre Passe Muraille) and Fish Eyes (The Other Festival, India.) Acting Credits include: Bloom (Modern Times Stage), Bombay Black (Cahoots Theatre Projects/Arts Club Theatre), and Tales from Ovid (Centaur Theatre). Film Credits include: Force Four/CBC's Murder Unveiled, loosely based on the true life story of Jassi Sidhu, for which Anita received her first acting award at the Asian Festival of First Films in Singapore.  Additionally, she was one of 50 artists invited to celebrate the Canada Council for the Arts' 50th Anniversary with the Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaële Jean. Anita was Playwright in Residence withNightswimming Theatrelast season and was invited this summer by British Columbia's Ministryof the Attorney General to perform excerpts from The Misfit for their annual forum on domestic violence.  Upcoming in 2009: Aisha n' Ben (South Asian Arts/ Theatre Jihad), Rice Boy (Stratford Festival) and Diverted (CBC Television).
 
Carrie-Lynn Neals

Shakuntala marks Carrie-Lynn's first full length production with Pleiades Theatre and she couldn't be more thrilled to be working with this incredible cast and creative team. Since graduating from Sheridan College's Music Theatre Performance Program Carrie-Lynn has worked with The Classical Theatre Project in Toronto performing such roles as: Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Ophelia (Hamlet), Helena (A Midsummer Night's Dream), and was a member of the ensemble in the Dora nominated production of Macbeth. Carrie-Lynn is excited to work on another challenging and inspiring classical piece.

Sanjay Talwar (
King Dushyanta)

Originally from Halifax, Sanjay was Artistic Director of Shakespeare in the Rough for the last four years and directed their most recent production, The Merchant of Venice, this past summer. Recent acting credits include Rosencrantz in Hamlet (Soulpepper) and two productions of Helen's Necklace at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and at Pi Theatre in Vancouver, where he won a Jessie Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sanjay played a recent role in CBC'c The Border, episode "Target of Opportunity" and appeared in the feature films The Dawn of the Dead and A Touch of Pink starring Jimi Mistry and Suleka Mathew.
 
Tickets: $30 |Previews, Seniors and Students with valid ID: $18
Box Office: (416) 973-4000, Extension 1
 

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