The vibe of live theatre is now just a Zoom call away

‘Islands of Contentment’, a unique virtual play brings together a stellar cast of actors from both the Indian film industry and the Indian diaspora in New York

The vibe of live theatre is now just a Zoom call away
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K.S. Swati

Who would have imagined that a day would come when the audience wouldn’t need to venture out to Prithvi theatre in Juhu or Mandi House in Delhi, Westend in London or Broadway in New York but just sit in the comfort of their homes and watch their favourite actors perform on Zoom?

Islands of Contentment is a unique virtual play that is getting performed on a platform largely identified for virtual meetings and classes in the post pandemic reality. It brings together a stellar ensemble cast of South Asian actors from around the globe, boasting some of the biggest names in the Indian film industry and Indian diaspora actors in New York City, including Kalki Koechlin, Suraj Sharma, Vinay Pathak, Ajay Naidu, Sumeet Vyas, Nina Davuluri and Maanvi Gagroo.

Arpita Mukherjee (artistic director, Hypokrit/ also the co-writer of Gulmohar and Mira’s Monsoon Wedding Musical) and The Tank — two of the most innovative and celebrated downtown theatre companies in NYC — are producing and presenting this, along with Rahul Chittella’s independent company, Autonomous Works. Mukherjee co-directs with Hannah Wolf and the selected filmed monologues have been directed by Chitella.

Written by Dipti Bramhandkar, Islands of Contentment is a “moving meditation” built around 13 monologues on the (dis)harmony in urban romantic relationships. Each piece invites us into the intimate, poignant and hilarious interactions with significant others in the form of modern-day confessionals. So, thirteen characters reflect on moments that have a universal ring to them, be it a break-up dream, the ex who unexpectedly shows up or even a baking fetish.

Says Maanvi Gagroo: “I am absolutely pumped about the performance as this plunge will enable me to broaden my base. As an artiste, I strongly believe that an actor must not be confined to one medium or format and that content always trumps everything else. The pandemic has forced us to be more creative with not just the content and stories but their format and execution as well. It has brought the world closer, in more ways than one.”

The audience gets a chance to not just have a close glimpse of the character’s heart and soul but also interact with the actor playing it. Each show will have a combination of pre-filmed performances and live performances by guest and recurring artistes. Audiences will be able to choose a track every night and experience these series of monologues in different ways and would also be able to share their responses to the characters on the chatbox, which will be read out by the live company of actors every night.

“Each performance is unique to the audience, the actors and which order the audience chooses. Inside the Zoom are two carefully curated, interactive and completely different journeys that the audience can take. These are intimate, limited ticket experiences in which the audience is asked to keep their video on and interacts with the performers through chat. They do not need to be seen in sequential order. Outside the Zoom, audiences are treated to the streaming-only, non-interactive version of the show,” informs the press note.

As the audience travels to living rooms, hotel suites, kitchens and beyond, they are guided by a mysterious theatre-loving narrator, who asks the audience to contemplate their own experience and contribute their own stories. In an attempt to connect through isolation, these stories just might become part of the play.

“At a time where isolation and distance are universal, Islands of Contentment is a reminder that even in our own strange splendour, we are never alone”.

Islands of Contentment plays every weekend from April 9 to May 2. Tickets available @ https://thetanknyc.org/islandsofcontentment

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