California Natyamela 2008 and Taconic Parkway

Recently we (ECTA) had the opportunity to stage our new play “Taconic Parkway” at the California Natyamela 2008 held at the Amador Theater in Pleasanton, CA. Last year when I was visiting California to see the staging of my play “Ron” by the local group ENAD, I met Pradosh Sarkar who invited me to participate at the 2008 Natyamela, their fourth year of the festival. Pradosh Sarkar, a playwright and director himself, is a key member of Sanskriti, the group that organizes the Natyamela. In the previous years they limited their invitation only to the local groups, but Pradosh told me that he wants to make an exception in 2008 by inviting us from New Jersey. And I had no option but to accept the offer when he also assured me that they would take care of the expenses. However, Pradosh reminded me that they have a time limitation and each play must be limited to an hour, give or take ten minutes. This was a challenge for me since the plays we had in our repertoire all exceeded this limit. But I thought that this may be a perfect opportunity to work on a new play that was brewing in my mind for some time. After I came back, I started to work on the script and soon developed a one act play named “Taconic Parkway” which perfectly fits the bill for the California Natyamela 2008. It had three characters, and was limited to an hour and ten minutes.

California Natyamela 2008 was hosted jointly by Sanskriti and BINA (Bangladesh Community Bay Area). The theater hall, Amador Theater, was a bit out of the way for most Bay Area residents, but as the festival progressed the hall was almost full. The festival included two children’s plays, the Sukumar Ray classic “Lokkhoner Shoktishel” and “Maa’r kaachhe shona” by Bangladesh Community Children’s Ensemble, Bay Area. Including children’s plays was indeed a laudable effort and I congratulate the organizers for keeping these slots for our next generation. These kids, when they grow up will surely carry a fond memory of this day and maybe develop an interest in the culture of their roots.
The next play was “Mimangsha,” a play written and directed by Pradosh Sarkar and produced by Sanskriti. Our play, “Taconic Parkway” was the next and was followed by “Amader American Dream : Belashesh Edition” written and directed by Abu Hena Mustafa Kamal and produced by BINA.

“Taconic Parkway” is a dark play in many ways. It delves into some of the areas of human psyche that we are afraid to face or deal with. Manasij, a veteran actor of the golden age of Bengali cinema, is visiting USA from Kolkata and is hosted by a middle aged couple Dipak and Sharika at their mansion in upstate New York. Although this invitation seemed to Manasij like a typical, well to do non-resident Bengali’s fancy to host celebrity guests at their homes, it soon turned out to be something else. Both Dipak and Sharika had their own agenda with Manasij, and Manasij was slowly pulled into a dark vortex of suspicion and animosity that was carefully camouflaged by the veneer of apparent happiness of an affluent NRI family.

Natyamela 2008 was the premiere show of “Taconic Parkway”, which featured some of our veteran actors, Indranil Mukherjee, Keka Sirkar and Pinaki Datta. The play received an overwhelming response as was evident from the applause at the end of the play as well as from comments from Sanskriti’s web site. Here are some of the comments:

“Very powerful. Aami maajhe maajhei naTokTa mone mone replay korchhi. Thanks for writing our stories.” – Sambit Basu, ENAD, CA.

“Sudipta Bhawmik is rather established in theatrical area. That’s what many told me there. I built up lot of expectation from this play. And, I got more than I expected. I can not thank the committee enough to bring this production all the way from New Jersey. We were totally engrossed. I can not mention any single moment as great. It was so seamless. The dramatic turn at each moment was just like a hide and seek. At the end what you get is a pleasant surprise.” – Jagat Bandhu Das, San Francisco, CA.

“New Jersey-r natok ekebare tan tan. Dipak ar Sarika ki bhison ujjol. Dipak bodh hoy sobaikei chhariye gechhen. Monosij-ke khub maniyechhe choritre. Emon thas-bunot-er natok to kotodin dekhi ni. Golper ki othapora! Ki bandhuni! ” – Debaraoti Sen, Livermore, CA.

“Durdanto…oshadharon natak ei Taconic Parkway…amar pore eto bhalo legechhe…je…ki bolbo…anekkei nataktar kotha bolechhi.” – Amitava Dutta, Ganakrishti, Kolkata.

As a side note, let me mention that “Taconic Parkway” has been officially invited by Ganakrishti of Kolkata to stage it at their festival (Ganakrishti Natyotsav 2008) this year. Unfortunately, I am not sure if we would be able to take our show due to the high costs involved. Hence, we are looking for sponsors. Anybody interested to help us take our story back to Kolkata, please contact me.
Thank you.
P.S. Please do not miss Taconic Parkway to be staged in New Jersey on June 29th.

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