‘Nava’ brings nine trans stories to the mainstream

Kannada play ‘Nava’ brings nine trans stories to the mainstream

What will be evident at ‘Nava’, a Kannada play, that will be staged in the city on March 15, is the courage and resilience of the members of the transgender community. It tells the stories of nine urban transwomen through the nine ‘rasas’. Directed by Sharanya Ramprakash and staged by Dramanon, Bengaluru in collaboration with Aravani Art Project, the performers use song, dance and music to provoke the audience to think beyond what is shown on stage. In a quick chat with Metrolife, Sharanya talks about how she got nine transgenders to tell their stories and the effort behind pulling off such a large collaboration.   

How did you come across these stories? Are they inspired by real life?

Nava is a devised theatre performance, in which the nine actors are co-creators as well as performers. The stories are also theirs. Some are deeply personal, others are inspired from real life and some others are fictional. 

Do these transwomen have prior experience performing on stage? How did you get them to understand the concept and perform?

The transwomen have not performed on a mainstream theatre stage before. Trans people, especially transwomen understand performance in diverse intimate ways because they use performance in many ways in their daily lives. ‘Nava’ is an attempt to expand our understanding of performance by inviting trans bodies, voices and stories on the mainstream stage.

What kind of training has gone into making the actors ready for stage?

The play had a 10-month workshop collaboration, where we invited directors, audience, trans people to participate and help us evolve the performance. Theatre requires rigour for which our nine performers were slowly ready to embrace. The workshopping, open, collaborative environment was vital to enable this. 

Why do you think it is important to get these stories out to the public? 

Dominant mainstream gender normative heterosexual patriarchal narratives still dominate not just the stage but our lives as well. It is important to hear alternative stories because the world is a diverse place. No one gender or ideology can define it. 

What form of theatre has been used in this play?

This performance is devised through a workshop collaboration. It involves in different parts clowning, realism and fantasy. Singing and dance are a big part of the play too. 

What kind of songs have been used? Could you talk about who has written the songs and what form of music has been chosen?

We use songs that resonate with the community, from Rajkumar songs in Kannada to Tamil dance numbers and folk music. The songs and music come from the performers but the overall design, construction and execution have been done by Pardafash, a musician who works with alternative music and EDM. She plays live through the play along with the performers. 

What is the best part about working with transgenders? 

Their uninhibited sense of fun, everyday courage and resilience. 

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