A monk sits on the side of a road, he prays towards becoming nothing. A king, Alexander the Great, 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 laugh at each other and begin a friendship that hopes to demystify their objectives.
They share their worlds and get swept into an ecstatic tour through India where they encounter queerness of all kinds. 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 the body of his love, he must take the heart of his country.
This play 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 notions of queerness.
We are in the beginning stages of a collaboration on what Queerness is in India. 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. The British then silenced what they 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?
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 Deevdut Patniek’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.