International theatre project gives queer relationships visibility, fosters acceptance

Holding on: Even Mists Have Silver Linings will next be staged on March 14.

Holding on: Even Mists Have Silver Linings will next be staged on March 14.  

Even Mists Have Silver Linings has been funded by U.S. Consulate General Mumbai

A married woman in love with a woman and the husband playing a supportive ally, a homophobic man coming to terms with his own toxicity, transgender parents separated from their children, and indoctrination camps in which masculinity becomes an armour. These vignettes of Indian queer lives are part of an international collaboration, Even Mists Have Silver Linings, a theatrical project advocating for change in perception among the audience.

Supported by a grant from the U.S. Consulate General Mumbai to develop and document a theatre performance that addresses LGBTQIA+ issues of identity and stigma in India, the play is a collaborative effort between directors Jeffrey Pufahl and Will Weigler of the University of Florida, Hardik Shah of the Mumbai-based Five Senses Theatre, playwright and dramaturge, Vikram Phukan, director Victor Thoudam, and seven actors. The purpose is to foster acceptance and de-stigmatise queer lives and relationships by providing visibility.

“Lesbian visibility is very strong in this play,” said Mr. Phukan, who provided an original open script, and sensitisation workshops for the actors. “The intimacy and struggle of queer women is seldom seen on stage, which we have in this play. Some monologues, like that of actors Lauren Robinson and Tanvi Lehr Sonigra, come from a personal space.”

Collaborative theatre

The creative process began with the open script by Mr. Phukan, followed by psychophysical direction by Mr. Thoudam, which entails using the body to emote. The actors interpreted the script using community-based research like a queer heritage walk in Colaba, extensive discussions about the Indian queer communities, and Mr. Weigler’s techniques as discussed in his doctoral dissertation, The Alchemy of Astonishment. Mr. Weigler’s method involves using a set of teaching cards, containing a compilation of ideas and motivations, for actors to create theatrical moments that audiences might find unforgettable. The making of the play is also the subject of an independent documentary by filmmaker Malati Rao.

The play features a dozen episodic verbal and non-verbal stories involving characters like gender non-conforming adventurists, cloistered homemakers opening up to desire, fierce warrior princesses raised as men, and young urban millennials in same-sex love grappling with both loss and fulfilment.

In order to calculate the impact of this theatrical project, the Humsafar Trust, as an audience research partner, will hand out a questionnaire to viewers, asking them to fill in their answers before and after the play. The questionnaire includes opinions like, “Do you believe that sexual orientation is nature or nurture?”

The audience answer ascertains how influential the play has been in changing their perceptions. “It’s very interesting to see how the answers change, because some of these questions fall in grey areas and with some others, we are already speaking to the converted,” said Mr. Phukan.

Even Mists Have Silver Linings premiered on March 7, and will be staged again this evening and on March 14 at G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mahalaxmi.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 10:03:35 AM |

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