... and a good time was had by all(I think)! The young actors who gave their time and energies to the reading did remarkably well, especially considering they had only two rehearsals and the audience was engaged, intelligent and responsive.
I am very grateful to everyone who participated and in particular to Paul Knox, the director, for the quality of his involvement. SALAAM theatre hosts its readings at the Asian American Writers' Workshop on the third Mondays of every month. It's not a huge space but perfectly adequate for the purpose and it seats around 50/60 people when full. Around 45 people came yesterday and after the performance, which lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, stayed on to ask questions and to share their responses to the issues presented in the play.
THE MATING GAME SHOW begins with an introduction to the six contestants, Dolly, Honey, Sweetie and Juju, Rocky, Sonny, participating in a TV game show in which they will either win a mate or … not. In the first act we see the players interacting with one another and with the show's host, Zed, who seems to be a two-faced manipulator, interested only in providing the show's audience of millions with entertainment at any cost. He invites Pooja, a young reporter who is very disturbed by events backstage, to do what she can to prevent yet another death onstage later in the evening. In the second act we see the game show, during which one of the girls will find herself forfeiting her life, because she cannot adequately match answers with her partner.
The play attempts to use the format of a game show to focus on dowry-related issues. While it's true that the audience last night certainly got the point, one of the probems (in my view) with my format is that it doesn't permit the actors much opportunity to express their personalities – whenever they DID get a chance, the mood picked up immediately. While the actual game show was a successful device for discussing dowry/marriage related issues, I felt the play needs more work if it is to succeed as a piece of theatre. I'll continue tinkering in the weeks and months ahead …
Members of the audience (largely, but not exclusively, Indian/South Asian) said they felt the play opened their eyes to the shameful practice of dowry murders, but was not depressing for all that. One lady said she wondered why the parents of the competitors were not brought into the picture, in order to explore their culpability in the situation. She also said (and I was very grateful for her perception) that she could see similarities between the fate of Indian girls trapped in dowry-fuelled marriages and that of American women buckling under the enormous social pressure to remain within unhappy marriages just to avoid being alone and single in an unforgiving social environment. Another audience member, my dear friend Dr Visa Chandrashekharan, made a warmly expressed point about finding the play positive, despite the negative view it offers of India.
For full descriptions of the cast and their bios, I would suggest visiting the SALAAM link to the right, but here's a quick who's who: Meeta Gawande and Priyanka Matthew played the ATTENDANTS in charge of props and sound effects; Mellini Kantayya: HONEY, Anita Raghuvanshi: DOLLY; Reena Shah: SWEETIE; Debargo Sanya: JUJU; Prashant Kumar: SONNY; Sam Morjaria: ROCKY; Nitika Nadgar: POOJA and Don Nahaku: ZED.
PAUL KNOX is the executive director of Circle East, formerly the Circle Repertory Company Lab. Among his directing credits are "Cornbury The Queen's Governor" and "Gilles De Rais", both by William M. Hoffman, and his own works, "Kalighat", which was produced by the Indo-American Arts Council and the Baruch Performing Arts Centre, and "Gehri Dosti: Five Short Plays with a South Asian Bent ;-)" which premiered at Harvard University last fall. His plays have also been seen at Circle East, the Circle Rep Lab, the Neighborhood Playhouse, the 42nd Street Workshop, the Columbia University Dramatists, Wellesley College, SAATh (the South Asian American Theatre of Boston) and at SALAAM. His new play, "Dawn of the Solstice Night" will be premiered by Circle East in January. Paul is also cofounder and trustee of the Tides Foundation – India Fund, which supports grassroots education and communty building efforts among sexually marginalized groups in South Asia.