June and July of every year seems to the season for Indian regional conferences held all around USA. These conferences, mostly based on regional languages of India, are typically held during the July 4th weekend and celebrated along with the American independence day. North America Bengali Conference (NABC) also known as Banga-Sammelan, used to be the only such cultural conference held in major North American cities to celebrate Bengali arts and culture. But these days, multiple such Bengali conferences are held around the same time. Besides NABC, we now have Bangamela and Regional Bengali Conference. Last couple of years we have also seen the famous Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP) group hosting a Bengali festival of their own, in the same model as NABC and others. This list of course excludes similar such conferences held by Bangladeshi Americans. While this gives the ever growing Bengali population in America ample options to chose which festival to attend, it kind of dilutes the original motivation behind these conferences – to provide a platform to the expat Bengali to showcase their talents. In reality, these conferences have turned out to be commercial ventures targeted to attract the consumers of pop culture and entertainment. Well, to be fair, the organizers do throw in a couple of classical music performers, or a literary seminar, or arts and crafts exhibition, but these events are neglected both by the audience as well as the organizers. Unless the audience demands for such events, why would the organizers feel obligated? Continue reading
By Amitava Sen
Mike Steward loved to share my Indian lunch and I did not mind spending a part of my lunch break with him occasionally. Mike had a sense of humor and a ready wit. He mostly did the talking and he talked about his family often. His mother’s idiosyncratic personality was the butt of his jokes. He made no bones about his blue-collar background. His father was an electrician in an auto assembly plant in New Jersey and his mother was an aide in a local Knights of Columbus house. And according to Mike the so-called lower middle class American families have so many old-fashioned ideas and quirks that their worldview some times sounds hilarious. I enjoyed tales about his family, their sometimes-strange relationships, strange and at times funny to me.
One morning as soon as I walked into the office he came straight to my desk. “Big news” he said excitedly “My sister is marrying an Indian guy. And my mother said yes. I will tell you everything later” I of course, was a little intrigued and curious. Mike was of Italian descent. To his mother the world was all about “us” and “them;” It was quite understandable if she was a little leery about getting into the situation. Continue reading
Three months of gruelling rehearsals are over. Now comes the show time. This week, the cast and crew of “Cassandra or Maybe a Chair’s Tale” have been working in building the sets, transporting the furniture and props, setting up the lights and measuring their steps on the stage. Most theater groups like ours do not have the opportunity to rehearse extensively on the stage. We rehearse at one place and perform in another. We then need to scale our moves to the new environment and in three dimensions – length, breadth and height. And then on the show day, we put on our make-up and costumes, and get ready to step onto the stage under the limelight in front of a expectant audience – an audience who does not care how hard you have worked or what sacrifices you have made to reach to this stage. They expect perfection and they want to hear no excuses. They want to be entertained, they want to get their moneys worth. And for this, all components of this complex machinery, of which the audience is also an integral part, should work in perfect harmony. Only then, theater is created – art happens in front of our eyes, and we feel enriched – the audience as well as the performers. That’s why we toil for days and nights to create art.
This weekend, the cast and crew of “Cassandra…” will give their best to create theater – to create art. I welcome you to come to Edison Valley Playhouse this weekend and join us to become a part of this exciting process.
It’s showtime folks!
For details, visit ECTA Website.