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FRINGE '04: Yâtra: Journey for Identity

The Untouchables Collective
proudly presents
‘Yâtra: Journey for Identity’

The Untouchables Collective was formed in August 2003. We are a group of 16 members informally structured and focused on creating artistic work that will allows us to express our South Asian identity in New Zealand. We formed through a collective desire to perform with other like-minded young South Asian artists and to establish a footing for South Asian theatre in Aotearoa.

For our first theatrical project we have confirmed a space:

Bats Theatre
Friday 6th Feb till Saturday 14th Feb, 2004 @ 8pm (no show Sunday).
Tickets: $15, $12 & $10

Synopsis of the work

“Yâtra: Journey for Identity’ is a new devised collaborative work that draws on the talents of the all members of the collective. The work stems loosely from the themes explored by the performances devised by Rina Patel and Rashmi Pilapitiya for their final year graduating monologues at Toi Whakaari. This work merges theatre and live music around these themes by incorporating the voices of all the members of the collective including two other actors (Tarun Mohanbhai and Rajeev Varma), as well as the musical influences of the members of Tu-Faan Express sound system (Karnan Saba, Dikesh Gandhi and Arindam Sen).

Underpinning the work is the issue of migration and the sense of isolation and dislocation. Through this piece the members of the collective are given a chance to voice their stories, thereby celebrating South Asian migrant culture and identity in New Zealand. This work will facilitate the creation and expression of South Asian identity here in New Zealand for the actors and musicians as well as the audience. For the members of the collective, this work represents an awakening of their New Zealand South Asian consciousness.

Integral to the expression of this New Zealand South Asian identity is the manner in which the devising process is to occur. Rehearsals are scheduled for the entire month of January. The first two weeks of rehearsals involve the gathering of images and ideas for the show. Jade Eriksen, Raj Varma and Arindam Sen will be facilitating this process.

Essentially this is a major brainstorming session that all the members of the collective contribute towards. Thus the process itself becomes part of the creation of our South Asian identity and the actual performance represents the totality of our journey during the devising process; our journey for identity.

Summary

This new joint venture promises to create work of a high quality and standard, as all individuals mentioned above have created work in the past with panache and flair, responses by the associated Industry professionals and general public have made this evident. We now have a need to collaborate and fuse our individual talents to create a solid piece of theatrical work that will reflect our South Asian heritage in the forum of theatre in Aotearoa.

This type of theatre is in its embryonic stage in NZ. The creation of this work is aimed at allowing a greater appreciation of South Asian culture in the wider community.

Apart from the efforts of Indian Ink Theatre Company we are not aware of any other group attempting a project quite like this.


Members of the Untouchable Collective 2004
Rajeev Varma: Artistic Director/Producer

Rajeev graduated from UNITEC’s School Of Performing and Screen Arts with a Diploma of Acting for Screen and Theatre in 1995. Since graduating he has forged a career for himself as an actor, producer and director of film and theatre.

His theatre credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Diary of Anne Frank, Medea, As You Like it, Versus, Salome, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. He has appeared in Vela Manusatae’s The Taro King and most recently in Awhi Tapu at Circa and for the AK03 Festival.

Screen credits include Letter to Blanchy, Flatmates, Xena:Warrior Princess, Hercules, Young Hercules, Cleopatra 2525, and Shortland St. Film Credits include Harry Sinclair’s The Price of Milk, and his more recent Toy Love.

Rajeev is the Artistic Director of the Untouchables Collective and he will also be one of the actors in its first collaborative piece of work.

Arindam Sen: Musical Director

Arindam was initially inspired to pursue his path through his experiences as the child of a passionate vocalist and musician. Starting with an event called Eastern Uprising, he has focused on organizing and creating music with other like minded people in order to practice his interest in this art form. From founding Moksha with Karnan Saba to playing bass in Roadfisher and conceiving of Tu-Faan Express and the infamous Big Bada Boom nights with Dikesh Gandhi, Arindam has continued to develop as an artiste.

“I was really excited after my chance meeting with Raj at the Fringe in 2001 and since then I have wanted to collaborate with him as an artiste, merging his acting skills with my musical interest. To do it within the Untouchables Collective, seems to me to have been an appropriate result of this desire.”

Jade Eriksen: Director

‘Yatra’ is the first project Jade has been involved in since completing her Masters in Theatre Arts (Directing) in 2003 at Victoria University and Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. Productions during this course included Genet’s “The Maids” and devised works “Arcane” and “Playing the Archive”.

“Being the token whitey in the group, I have been in a state of constant learning and absorption throughout this process. The challenge has been to compose a world for the stage that does justice to the incredibly diverse and rich stories that have been shared within the group. I feel very honoured to be part of such a generous and passionate project.”

Shreen Grewal: Publicist

Shreen Grewal is the Publicist/Manager for Tufaan Express, an all-Indian Soundsystem based in Wellington. Her experience in creating a marketable image for Tufaan Express gives her unique insight in managing the publicity for a contemporary Indian event.

Shona Sen: Production Manager

As a migrant into New Zealand with personal exposure to dance, music and storytelling, Shona has been supporting Tufaan Express as Sthri, playing music from the Asian Underground scene in UK and USA.

“The Untouchables Collective is a much needed voice for minority communities like ours where we are able to communicate our identities to the mainstream in an honest fashion without the garnish and spice.”

Shona will be primarily a support person for the artists within the Untouchables Collective assisting with publicity in the short term.

Tarun Mohanbhai: Actor/Comedienne

Tarun is a headliner at NZ’s top comedy venue The Classic Comedy and Bar, and is a highly sort after performer on NZ’s Comedy Touring Circuit. Having performed internationally at Vancouver’s Yaks Yaks, Laff Lines, Urban Wells and London’s Chalk Farm and Comedy Café.

His current TV credits included featured performances on the top rating TV2 Big Comedy Gala, weekly comedy show PULP Comedy (2 series), 2002’s TV2 Billy T’s Showcase and he has appeared in the award winning Mercy Peak.

Tarun has just finished a sell out tour of Melbourne and Sydney with his hit solo show D’Arranged Marriage which has been leased to international promoter Mollisons. Nationally it has just toured to the Nelson Arts Festival and will run in Auckland for the International Comedy Festival 2004. His company with Rajeev Varma, Those Indian Guys is premiering the sequal to D”Arranged Marriage at the Comedy fest that will star both Raj and Tarun, and is slated to be directed by Radar.
Rina Patel: Actress

Rina was born and raised in South Auckland, worked at Foodtown, studied at Teacher’s Training College and trained at Toi Whakaari.

“Kamchor? I am about to pursue a long-held dream of mine – to work with other talented and like minded Indo-Asian individuals. Self-expression and creativity is my buzz, and I believe that it’s about time our voices are heard in the realm of theatre to inspire and de-sensitize common stereotypes. Represent.”

Rashmi Pilapitiya: Actress

Sri Lankan/British/Kiwi? A what? Born in Sunderland (UK), Rashmi grew up in Somerset and then 10 years in Remuera. Rashmi is the first Sri Lankan female to graduate from Toi Whakaari.

“It’s been a huge journey through Toi Whakaari and it’s an honour to be part of this collective. I’ve always wanted to be part of a South Asian theatre company and here it is! A platform where the field of expression is essentially ‘ethnic’. I want to share my experience and identity with New Zealand.”

Karnan Saba: Musician

Karnan was born in Sri Lanka and migrated to New Zealand at the age of 15. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in Information Systems at Victoria University, Wellington and is currently studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Arts in International Relations. In the meantime, he plays the saxophone and guitar for Wellington bands Tufaan Express and Tryptych and produces his own music.

Dikesh Gandhi: DJ

From the shores of Fiji, Dikesh Gandhi brings with him an established musical awareness of contemporary Indian Music. He is an active member of Tu-Faan Express, and spearheads other music orientated projects in Wellington.
Currently balancing work and music ventures, Dikesh continues to test both personal boundaries and the boundaries which Indian music can strive towards.


Katrina Chandra: Lighting Designer

Katrina has been a professional lighting operator/designer since 1988. Since then she has worked for BATS and Taki Rua in Wellington, the Basement and the Silo theatres in Auckland (whilst completing a BA Hons in Film, Television and Media at the University of Auckland) and the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin. Her roles have included production manager, publicity adviser, lighting operator, sound designer, technician and occasional stage manager. More recently, Katrina has returned from a year long stint as an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea, where she also directed a production for the Seoul Players.

Anusha Parag: Set Design

Anusha is a New Zealand born Indian who grew up in a small town called Wanganui. She studied Visual Arts, Fashion and Beauty at UCOL, Palmerston North, and then moved to Wellington where she completed a certificate in Image Consulting. She is currently studying Design at Victoria University of Wellington.

Coming from a small town with a small Indian community, Anusha found it hard to experience and express her cultural identity and has developed a passion for the cultural diversity of New Zealand. Anusha has chosen her passion for set design as a medium to express this through the collective.
“It is a great pleasure to be a part of this project as I’ve always wanted to express my identity, explore my Indian background and most of all, reach out to others.”

Julie Kapila: Costume Design

“I have an artiste since the age of 3 when I picked up my first crayon. I am a mixture of Irish and Indian blood, this blood connects me to places far from my home in New Zealand. I have always been intrigued by my Indian heritage. I feel being part of the Untouchables gives me the opportunity to explore and embrace my ancestry. At 22 I am currently a psychology student at Victoria University in Wellington. I studied design at Massey University before I found psychology. I have always found Indian garments and their diversity mystical. Designing costumes for Yatra is a journey for me to reconnect with my heritage.”

Mishul Prasad: Production Support / Trainee Actor

Mishul was born in the beautiful islands of Fiji and came to New Zealand at the age of 7. Mishul has finished a BCA and is currently completing a Graduate Diploma at VUW. In his first year of University, he started to get involved in the university cultural clubs at which point he began performing dances and singing on a cultural platform. For the last four to five years, he has been involved in TVCs, Film and Music as well as had a general orientation to entertainment.

“I have always been interested in other cultures through out NZ. However, this is the first ever time I am experiencing such an exciting project in which I can explore my proud ethnic background and contribute to the promotion and awareness of the Indian culture. Working with people with similar goals and performing to the New Zealand audience will, I hope, create a greater understanding of what being Indian is all about.”

Sonal Patel: Script Development
Among other things, Sonal has worked as a playwright, publicist, producer, production manager, stage manager, lighting designer, postie, checkout girl and event assistant. Her plays include the critically successful “AVA”, “Duel” and “Remote” which all premiered at previous Fringe festivals. She was the winner of Playmarket’s New Zealand Young Playwright’s Competition in 2000 and 2001. In 2002 she was too old to take part anymore.
Aside from Yatra, Sonal is also working on the NZ premiere of Gregory Burke’s “Gagarin Way” at BATS in April and writing three new theatre works: “The Sisterhood” – an ensemble piece for seven women; “Confessions of a Serial Monogamist” – a play for technology and “Atlas” a full length play in blank verse. She is also campaigning to lower the price of theatre tickets to make theatre more accessible to audiences. Eventually she would like to work on an adaptation of one of Rabindranath Tagore’s plays.
Jivan Grewal: Script Development

Jivan has graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Religious Studies, as well as a Bachelor of Laws. He is currently working towards a Masters of Laws, which he hopes to have completed towards the end of 2003. During his period at University, he has been heavily involved with programmes and organisations, the development of greater cultural awareness and the empowerment of the Indian youth in Wellington.

While his practical experience with theatre has been somewhat limited, his legal experience gives him a unique perspective into writing. He hopes to combine both his passion for the development of a unique cultural identity, and his legal training to aid in the development of a performance that will lay the foundations for the development of a new approach to theatre.

ENDS

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