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The Monk & Alexander
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?
Akhshay Gandhi, Violeta Picayo, Jonathan Taikina Taylor & Caitlin George first met in New York City during the 2016-17 SITI Conservatory. In 2019 Akhshay invited Jonathan to India to host a workshop with local artists. During this time Akhshay introduced Jonathan to queer artists in Bangalore. From this encounter with local Queer artists facilitated by Anita Gandhi & Akhshay Gandhi the play Monk & Alexander was conceived.
In 2020 Jonathan Taikina Taylor returned to India to work with Anita & Akhshay Gandhi and lead a development workshop with the queer artists from their initial workshop.
Since 2020 Anita & Akhshay Gandhi and The SuperGeographics have remotely continued their collaboration on Monk & Alexander. In 2021 they were awarded the NET/TEN Virtual Collaboration Grant in 2021.
In 2021 Still Space Theatre & The SuperGeographics co-produced a workshop series together, Community Box, showcasing the work of rural artists practicing traditional folk forms.
In 2022 The SuperGeographics' co-produced along with Anita Gandhi & Akhshay Gandhi a two week workshop together with a team of 11 artists in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India. With the goal to devise new material using aural storytelling traditions with playwright Mahesh Dattani. We asked ourselves how we could organize a rehearsal room to allow a multiplicity of cultures and perspectives to be experienced inside a single event.
We plan to continue our collaboration into the future, with a goal for a full scale premiere of the piece in 2024.
Juan Diego Bonilla Ibáñez
Juan Diego Bonilla Ibáñez is an actor from Chile with degrees in Stage Design and Vocal Performance.
He has worked with Cía. Tercer Abstracto as actor and researcher in “Bermuda”, “Atacama” (Selected on International Festival Santiago a Mil) and “Material Body” (upcoming), with Cía Interno in “Chejov”.
Mahesh Dattani is a playwright and stage director based out of Mumbai. Penguin Randomhouse, India, published his plays in three volumes. In 1998, he received the Sahitya Akademi Award, one of the highest literary awards in India. His film credits as writer-director include Mango Souffle (2000), awarded the best motion picture at the Barcelona Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and toured the UK as part of the London Gay and Lesbian Festival. His works are produced in all major cities of India and elsewhere.
Akhshay Gandhi is an artist-practitioner based in Bangalore, India. He works as Director, Actor & Facilitator-Researcher in the field of Theatre & Performance. His work has been performed at prestigious venues including, Stanford University, UCLA, Spoken Festival, Mumbai International Storytelling festival to name few.
Anita Gandhi wears many caps at Still Space Theatre while managing their otherwise crazy teams and creative processes. Still Space Theatre's host, organizer, cook, supporting shoulder, coordinator, calendar planner, finance manager and much more.
Caitlin George is an Australian playwright, actor, and theatre-maker currently based out of Melbourne, Australia. Her work has taken her out of her small Australian hometown and around the world. Caitlin graduated from BAPA's acting program in 2014 and the 2016/17 SITI Conservatory.
Manjari is a Delhi based performer, director and teacher. She is a graduate of the DUENDE School of Ensemble Physical Theatre (2015) and hold a Masters degree from The School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her most recent work is "Firefly Women", a Digital Theatre piece based on the letters written by two women during their time of incarceration under a draconian law.
Shilok Mukkati is a Multidisciplinary Artist based in Bangalore, India. She has worked as a dancer with Chris Leuenberger Production in Switzerland with the project “Ef_Feminity”, Choreographed Solo Theatrical Play “Undraping Silence”. She is a columnist for Deccan Herald, Indian National Newspaper with the column “Somewhere in Between”. She is a renowned Queer Kannada Poet. Her work involves her expertise with the subject of Sex, Gender & Sexuality.
New York, USA
Violeta Picayo is a bilingual Cuban-American director, actor, and choreographer. A born and raised New Yorker, she is passionate about creating works of and for her home city. Guided by a deep interest in the inherited body, Violeta has made her artistic home with some of New York's most dynamic theater companies. Violeta is an associate artist of Anne Bogart's SITI Company, and a company member at Bedlam and at One Year Lease.
Priiya is a performer, mover and video artist currently based in Berlin, Germany. Recent graduate with an MA in Movement Direction from University of London, Priiya has been on a journey of finding roots in the moving body. Currently working on 'Facing Traces', an ethnographic archive of people's faces and the history of lived memories.
Sandeep Shrestha is one of the most prominent young theatre practitioner, actor, director and facilitator in contemporary Nepali theatre. He is one of the few stage actors in Nepal who perform in both Nepali and English language. He acted in plays such as The Laramie Project - Ten years later.
Jonathan Taikina Taylor
Jonathan Taikina Taylor is a director, teacher, and movement artist split between Mexico City and Brooklyn. He is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The SuperGeographics Ensemble Theatre. Under his direction The SuperGeographics work has been seen across The US and in Sweden, Chile, and India.
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