Akka (A Dialogue on Women Through Theatre in India- Female Lead and Women's Empowerment)

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Item Code: NAV909
Author: Kikkeri Narayan
Publisher: Central Institute Of Indian Languages, Mysore
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8173421218
Pages: 158
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 300 gm
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Book Description

CIIL, in collaboration with Karnataka Nataka Rangayana, Mysore, had brought together a basket of about 28 plays and performances for the connoisseurs of theatre in Mysore in 2001 — all with a focus on women directors and performers — an event rightly named as ‘Akka.’ On the margins of the festival — the performances of which are being brought out by the Institute in the form of CDs, there were a few very interesting academic events. What we present to the theatre-lovers here is a culmination of that in the form this book.

The moot question raised by many performing aggregates is whether the space provided by theatre must be made to copy the real-life space or should it have a grammar of its own? The disparities that exist in gender equations get immediately reflected if it mirrors what is outside the space. Surely, one way of underscoring the gender issue would be to do that. The other way would be to consider ‘theatre as a suspended space’ — a position that was presented as a performance lecture on 21 March 1997 with a spoken word piece penned by Sydney writer, David Nerlich, entitled, With a Will (at the Institut fur Theaterwissenschaft, University of Wien, Austria). As Andrew Garton reports later, and I quote him from what followed from the word ‘go’ there : "The lecture room at the Institut fir Theaterwissenschaft was rearranged in a way that was uncommon for the students. The seats were arranged in a semi-circle facing the front of the room...Tables were placed on top of each other and the windows were covered with heavy cloth which was taped back to prevent any light from entering the room. The lights were turned off and the students were then allowed to enter. The idea was to create a space they were unfamiliar with within the room they generally take their lectures in. AS they entered the room I was huddled on the floor, a pair of black buckets outstretched on either side of me in my hands. When the students were seated, the door was closed, ..no entry 10 the room was permitted. When the room had settled I leapt up off the floor, and using the buckets as a kind of amplifier, performed With a Will, a powerful lyric penned by Sydney writer, David Nerlich. Two assistants were on either side of the room with torches in each of their hands. These were flashed randomly across the room. As one would go through such accounts of performances, the first thing that would strike vis-a-vis the plays put up during AKKA festival is that the spectators were being sensitized here to a space that they were ‘familiar with’ — because this was the space where discriminatory acts against women was taking place not in any temporarily suspended space. Once again a question will arise here, namely, whether theatre could (and even should) be viewed as a suspended space when women’s issues are to be put on theatre stage. The degrading messages against women that have these days been dominating in our visual media — both in cinema and television as well as in the short ad-films have already queered the pitch and brought a great mental divide. These issues were important during the AKKA seminars here as one needed to examine after a lapse of six years of the Beiying Conference on Women where government delegations pledged themselves to tackle increasing violence against women as to how much of this has become a reality - both globally and in India.

Although very little is said outright, resentment is rife between the various sections of our society or between different generations or gender-groups in our workplaces as well as homes. In a rapidly changing society such tensions and conflicts are perhaps unavoidable. These plays and the proceedings provide an Opportunity for students to study theatre and film texts authored by women and to explore critical and theoretica] perspectives on the relationships between gender identity and cultural production.

As Stephen Bronner said in his essay ‘Points of Departure: Sketches for a Critical Theory with Public Aims’, any critical theory begins with an emancipatory promise, and it must offer an interdisciplinary perspective seeking to inform the struggle against oppression in all its guises. Although the sketches of speech by performers, authors of plays and directors of women’s theatre put together in this volume do not claim to be of lofty theoretical enterprise, these statements are such that will reverberate for in our ears fora long time — forming some ideas or some basis for construction of a gender theory for women’s theatre in India.

I would like to thank my friend Prasanna (who is no more associated with Rangayana) as well as all others in Rangayana to have organized this wonderful series of events in Mysore as a result of which we are now able to release these Statements, documents and performances. My gratitude to all great performers and theatre persons who had kindly enriched our experience during those few days must be expressed formally here. The team at CIIL that documented the entire event (especially Tataji, Tolkoppiyan, Krishnamurti and Prabhakar) and the follow-up team with Kikkeri Narayana and Jennifer Bayer who edited the Proceedings _ deserve special thanks.

But most importantly, we need to thank the people of Mysore who made the event look like a great festival that will be long cherished by all of us. It is only in the fitness of things that the proceedings and the AKKA CDs are being released by the Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development, Prof. Murali Manohar Joshi. on goth January, 7004. I am sure theatre lovers in the country and abroad would enjoy these productions.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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