Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Queen

Written by Aditya Rawal
Directed by Gwynn MacDonald
Produced by Aman Soni in association with Juggernaut Theatre Co. and Theater for the New City 

Nominations: Outstanding Original Full-Length Script, Aditya Rawal; Outstanding Costume Design, Joseph S. Blaha; Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role, Sharvari Deshpande

Photos by John Barragan

About the Production: Set in 16th century India, at the peak of the Mughal era, The Queen is the story of Durga, who is consigned to the west wing of the palace after her husband, the Rajput king, marries a younger woman. She battles against the loss of her beauty and relevance as she resolves to burn the palace down and avenge her husband’s betrayal. The play draws inspiration from Macbeth, Medea and the works of Rabindranath Tagore. It explores themes of power and the position of women in society, an issue that in four centuries has not lost its importance.

What first attracted you to this project?

Aditya: I am immensely interested by the period in history that this play covers (the late 16th century in Northern India) - so that is the thought with which I began working on the play. Also, the fractured relationship that drives this play is based on one that I witnessed, and was deeply affected by, in my own life.

Joseph:  The script. I read it and I had to do it.

Gwynn: It's a rare opportunity to present a new play that feels like a classic, one that dramatizes South Asian history that is India in the 16c, and a piece about war and power that has a woman as the central figure.

What was your favorite part of this production?

Aditya: Apart from the joy of writing a new play, it was the pleasure of working with the wonderful cast and crew. We worked on a shoe-string budget - and everyone made a ton of compromises to be a part of the project. If it was not for their talent and amazing attitude - this play would not have been possible.

Joseph: The close-knit cast and creative team.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?

Joseph: The tight budget for a show with such specific needs.

What was the weirdest thing that happened during this production?

Aditya: The final show was definitely the most interesting one. Our lead actor, Nilanjana, had her bag stolen from the venue an hour before the performance and we went around the neighborhood searching for it as she prepared to go on stage.

I remember thinking as I was driven around Union Square in the back of a police car - I may do many more plays in the future, but I don't think any one will be as exciting as this one. In a fittingly heroic manner, our producer and actor, Aman (who played her son), chased after the thief and got the bag back.

The play began on time, to a full audience, and went very well. Apparently, the tension helped Nilanjana perform in a manner she had never done before.

Did you learn anything new from your experience of working on this production?

Joseph: I learned how quickly I can work on my feet. Also, was able to learn something new from each of my fellow artists.

What was it like working with this group of artists?

Gwynn: They are all -- in my opinion - young and brilliant. So it's a thrill to see talented artists at the beginnings of their careers; for Sharvari and Aditya this production represented their New York City debut.

 Check out The Queen on Twitter @TheQueenTNC

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