Saturday, September 17, 2016

Spotlight On...Arpita Mukherjee

Name: Arpita Mukherjee

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Education: University of Virginia , Columbia University

Favorite Credits: How to Succeed as an Ethnically Ambiguous Actor - 2016 (NY), Romeo & Juliet at the Access Theater - 2015 (NY), My First Time - 2010 (DC), Love Times Seven, Washington DC. - 2010 (DC), I  AM SAAM - 2007 (DC) .

Why theater?: It’s not readily apparent but South Asians have a rich tradition of the performing arts. I grew up learning Indian classical music and dance and whenever my cousins and I used to get together for the holidays, we used to put plays up. It was never a viable career option, especially being a second-generation immigrant and for a long time, I faltered, trying to find examples of people who look like me out there doing this, but they were quite few and far between. I started making theatre anyway and now happy to say especially in New York, there is a real community of artists of color.

Tell us about Tamasha: A Festival of South Asian Performing Arts: The festival brings together South Asian artists (and other artists of color) across disciplines. There is theatre, music, dance, comedy and even spoken word. We want to focus on the range of experiences that South Asians are talking about to move the conversation beyond the “identity play.”

What inspired you to create Tamasha: I guess it goes back to my first answer. 10 or so years ago, when I wanted to work in theatre, I didn’t think someone like me could do this. I didn’t know where to go to make Shakespeare mixed with Indian classical dance or which theatre would want to make the old story of Shakuntala as an opera. I didn’t have a festival that didn’t want me to just talk about being a South-Asian-American or didn’t automatically assume that’s what I wanted to contribute to the fabric of American theatre. This is why Shubhra Prakash (Hypokrit co-founder and artistic director) and I created Tamasha for emerging artists, to give them a place to just come and play - to take risks, to be daring. There is no so much pressure on South Asians for ‘excellence,’ at the cost of personal happiness even, that we equate success with no failure. I don’t think you can go into the arts without the willingness to fail and I think if you start and you fail, you will go on. The fear of failure on the other hand can be crippling.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I try to learn from everything I see .

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Shah Rukh Khan (one of the biggest superstars in the world - Bollywood actor) ; I’ve always wanted to work with Mira Nair…and now I am on Monsoon Wedding; Rachel Chavkin - I would do anything in a production of hers.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (just closed), Daphne’s Dive, Hadestown, Hamilton (of course), Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility .

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would want Viola Davis to play me and I think the film would be called "Bokami," which means silliness or foolishness in Bengali.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I wish I had seen the Deaf West Spring Awakening (most recent example I can think of) .

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching Criminal Minds/ Law & Order/CSI - those kinds of crime shows as a way to de-stress.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Working in politics .

What’s up next?: 2016 is our big year! We have already had two award-winning and highly critically-acclaimed shows this year - How to Succeed as an Ethnically Ambiguous Actor and Eh Dah? Questions for My Father. Next up, we have Tamasha ( - A Festival of South Asian Performing Arts, which will feature over 50 artists across disciplines. Then in November, we will premiere our flagship event. In a co-production with Junoon Performing Arts, we will be bringing a dual presentation of Bengali classics Devdas and Chokher Bali. Devdas will be presented as a ballet and is being choreographed by Dance India Dance Finalist Swarali Karulkar and Chokher Bali will be presented as a Greek tragedy, directed by me.