A monk sits on the side of a road when great king from the West comes upon him. They speak and trade reasons for being. The Monk hopes to become nothing, The King is here to conquer the world. They are mystified by each other and begin a journey which hopes to reveal whose purpose is right.
In an ecstatic tour through India, they encounter solid laws and customs, with a certain queerness celebrated on the side line. They fall in love, and again they must set intentions. Alexander’s desire is to conquer while The Monk aspires to become nothing. If Alexander cannot conquer his love, he must take the heart of his country.
The Monk & Alexander is about clashes in culture through colonization and queerness. It uses theatrical and non-dramatic text, folk dance, song and traditional performance to weave a complex view of Queer India, it’s history and relation to western ideals. Pre-colonial Indian traditions were rich in gender diversity and transformation. Trans heroes in myth are worshiped. The gods trade genitalia with mortals. Kings gave birth to sons. Performance forms reflected this flexibility through cross-dressing and gender performance. British colonization silenced what it could and encouraged the homophobia and transphobia that proved effective in their own country and previous colonies. Fast forward a few hundred years and drag culture is taking off in India. Ru-Paul and The Fab Five are “making India queer again”. What does this influx of western queer culture mean for the people who have been carrying on the old stories, dances and traditions of queer culture past?
The SuperGeographics and Still Space Theatre are three years into the beginning of this collaboration, having been stalled by distance exacerbated by a plague.
In February 2019 Akhshay invited Jonathan to come and teach Suzuki and Viewpoints for his company, Still Space Theatre. The idea for this project was born of the conversations on that trip and a reading of Devdutt Pattanaik’s The Pregnant King.
In 2020 Jonathan returned to India with Sandeep Shrestha to further research, work on the piece, and begin developing an ensemble. Rehearsals were stopped by the pandemic when the international artists had to flee home. Since then, the collaboration has continued online with artists in Nepal, India, Chile, Australia, The United States and Mexico. We plan to reunite the team in India to finish development and tour the piece as soon as we’re able. This continued collaboration has received generous support from the NET/TEN Virtual Exploration Grant.