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For the love of theatre

The Mustard Seed Art Company in its 29th year brings to the Goan audience a brand new play ‘All Those Pipe Dreams’. Ahead of the staging of the play, NT BUZZ catches up with the founder Isabel Santa Rita Vas to talk about the play, theatre, and society in general.

Janice Rodrigues| NT BUZZ

Art is a reflection of society and very often things seen around in society find their expression in the various forms of art. This is true in the case of theatre as well and playwright Isabel Santa Rita Vas, has never shied away from incorporating the nuances of society into her plays. Her amateur theatre group, The Mustard Seed Art Company in its 29th year of staging plays has been experimenting and performing since 1987. The company will stage its forthcoming play ‘All Those Pipe Dreams’ this weekend.

Talking about the play Vas says the idea and theme is taken from something that has always been a part of her consciousness. “The theme of the play revolves around people’s dreams and ideals,” says Vas. The play set in a typically Goan neighbourhood and revolves around a family who has just shifted into an ancestral house. “The father, who has been working abroad, returns and buys an old heritage house in a village. Living in this house the family finds that it offers them many surprises, and treasures that they have not dreamt of,” says Vas. The house is so intricately woven into the script that it becomes a character itself.

Keeping with the title of the play, the central narrative revolves around dreams and ambitions. “The house plays a very important role. In fact, all the characters’ dreams and aspirations and ambitions become more acute and pronounced in the house,” says Vas.

There is a very small cast of four characters for this play. The father, Caitano Manuel Soares played by Kiran Bhandari; the mother Dissolvina Esmeralda Maria Soares played by Kanchi Mehta; their daughter Sonali played by Marisse Bhobe and her boyfriend Nitish Godiwala played by Nigel Khamkar. “There is the father, who has returned from abroad and wants to start a restaurant, the wife who is not really interested in the husband’s dream and has her own issues, their daughter who has dreamt of becoming an artist and its only in the house that she achieves the power to pursue her art, and has left home to start a career and then there’s the daughter’s boyfriend who comes to look for his girlfriend. They all meet in the house and thus begins the interactions with the characters in relation with the house, which is the fifth character,” says Vas.

Speaking about the house, when asked if she chose any particular house when doing the set, Vas responds: “Not a specific house, but there are elements that I have seen in various houses in Goa. They have become a part of my thinking process. The heritage houses in Goa have many layers, they have been built over hundreds of years and they always provide surprises.”

While the theme of this play is about dreams and is located in the Goan landscape, Vas says that in the past she has made plays based elsewhere too. “Recently many of the plays have been centred in Goa, but we have had plays written about Rabindranth Tagore set in Bengal, Mozart in Austria. In the future I am planning to write a play about somebody in China. We do like to experiment and keep options open,” says Vas.

Themes, she says, varies as there is so much yet to be told through theatre. She explains her thought process when writing a story: “The themes haunt a writer over the years, but the actual story can come up in a much unexpected way, sometimes you can read something that triggers an idea, or you hear a conversation, the immediate trigger for a story is generally very unusual. There was a time when I used to look around and say, what can I tell? What story should I tell? Now I find that there is so much to be told, so many perspectives, so many people from different strata, and different interests. There are indeed so many stories waiting to be told.” Though Vas started the Company in 1987, she began writing only in 1992. With an average of staging two plays every year, the company has staged over 60 plays till date, some self produced, some adapted, like those of Indian writer Mahesh Dattani.

Thought she takes feedback when she is writing the play, once the group gets together to practise, she says they stick to the script. “Once the script is written, then we go by the script. A play that is written in meant to be staged,” she adds.

Since the company is an amateur group, it becomes difficult to get together sometimes to practice. “It is certainly not easy to get all the members together, but we are informal. It’s not easy but we’ve managed,” says Vas. She adds that the members often double up as actors, directors, and other members of the crew.

For this play the crew involves Israiel Sarvishta who has done the choreography for a couple of scenes that need stylised acting, the music for the two songs are provided by Schubert Cota while the lyrics are written by Mario Coelho and Isabel Vas, the sets are designed by Dean D’Cruz, lights provided by Dhananjay Phalkar, the art work is done by Craig Vaz and the script by Isabel S R Vas.

Being a freethinker, she believes that freedom of expression is necessary for the evolution of a society. “Freedom is absolutely necessary, without freedom how can a civilisation evolve. You need freedom to think freely and an atmosphere to express. It is good that people are demanding a right to speak and the as for the arts, if you go on censoring the arts, it’s very saddening,” she says.

 

(‘All Those Pipe Dreams’ will be staged on February 26 at Black Box Ravindra Bhavan, Vasco; February 27 at Goman Vidhya Niketan, Margao; and February 27 at Institute Menzes Braganza, Panjim. Tickets are available at Alex Cecol, Vasco; Optica Opticians, Margao; and Magsons Supercentre, Miramar.)

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