Rasaka started like so many theatre’s have – someone wanted to put on a show!
The Founding Members were informally brought together in January 2003 when Anjalee Deshpande was looking for South Asian actors to read scenes from her play “Tamasha”, a South Asian-American adaptation of Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters. It quickly became apparent that we had the artistic merit, focus and vision to present interesting and compelling works of theatre. Anita Chandwaney worked with the Lawyers for Creative Arts and Rasaka was formed on February 4, 2004. Barnali Das was responsible for our logo, website and business cards, ensuring Rasaka it’s distinctive presence in the Chicago theatre community!
Rasaka Theatre Company’s public launch was our benefit party on December 11, 2003 at The Fizz Loft. The hypnotic sounds of Karma Sutra enchanted the guests as the timeless mystery of the East mingled with the modernism of the West.
Rasaka’s Inaugural Production – The award-winning “Masrayana”
Rasaka, in conjunction with the Prop Thtr Group, produced the world premiere of William Kovacsik’s The Masrayana. We are proud to have provided for the professional directorial debut of Founding Member Anish Jethmalani. The production team for this critically praised and JEFF RECOMMENDED show was lead by Ensemble Member Kern Wasan, who served as Production and Marketing Coordinator.
2004 to 2007
Rasaka Theatre Company’s proposal for a Staged Reading Series at The Storefront Theater was granted and inaugurated with Founding Member Anjalee Deshpande’s Tamasha, directed by Cecilie Keenan. The next performance was of “Mausi” (which became the HBO film – Karma Calling), an original screenplay by Sarthak and Sarba Das. The year was closed out with “Gandhi Marg” written by Founding Member Anita Chandwaney and directed by Cecilie Keenan.
2005 staged readings were also hosted by The Storefront Theatre, featuring: “The Waiting Room” by Tanika Gupta; “Women of the Dust” by Ruth Carter; the first ever all South Asian female version of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” (allowing our South Asian actresses an opportunity to shatter stereotypes); Rasaka closed out 2005 with Pat Rahmann’s “The Opposition”.
2006 and 2007 staged readings were hosted at the Chicago Cultural Center Studio Theater. 2006 featured: “Light in the Village” by John Clifford; “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” by Tennessee Williams; Martin Sherman’s stage adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India” in collaboration with Lifeline Theatre; the 2007 season closed out with a presentation of the stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children.”
2008 – 2009
Winter 2008 and 2009, Rasaka Theatre Company presented two successful productions of “Yoni Ki Baat” (the Chicago premiere), a funny, heartfelt and thought-provoking monologue cycle, loosely inspired by Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”. By combining spoken word, music and dance, Rasaka created an exploration of female sexuality, seen through the lens of diasporic culture. Like a chain letter passed through the theatrical community, “Yoni Ki Baat” features contributions from female writers across the country, including new monologues by local writers. We were proud to include ensemble members Anita Chandwaney (finalist, Chicago Dramatists’ Many Voices Project) and Mary Anne Mohanraj (author of Bodies in Motion and several erotic novels), plus choreography by Alka Nayyar (Jeff nominated for her work on “The Masrayana”).
Page to Stage – the nation’s first South Asian playwriting bootcamp
In August 2008, Rasaka held a weekend-long playwrighting workshop, facilitated by Will Dunne. With the help of Dunne’s guided writing exercises, ten South Asian-American writers each created a 10-minute play. Shortly thereafter, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs (supported generously by the Kiran Bavikatte Foundation) invited Rasaka to further develop these plays via a month-long workshop. This included an additional critique session with Dunne, rehearsals with professional actors and a director and finally a staged reading performance for a public audience and panel of theatre professionals.
After three more months of development and 6 weeks of rehearsal, Rasaka presented culture/clash: three plays about the South Asian diaspora. We decided to call this project culture/clash because each play featured a South Asian protagonist interacting with a non-South Asian culture. Each piece was representative of the diasporic experience, in which we saw one group’s traditions and values mingle and mix with another’s, ultimately leading to cross-cultural understanding and social change.
In addition to our staged reading series, Rasaka developed a show in collaboration with Remy Bumppo’s ThinkTank series entitled ‘Desi Women of the Diaspora.” The show featured a series of original works written and performed by Rasaka artists, discussing various topics related to immigration. The show was also presented at the Kriti Literary festival.
Rasaka hopes to once again present new and powerful South Asian voices allowing Rasaka to further our goal of sharing the rich and bountiful stories of the South Asian community.
International Voices Project
In the summers of 2010 and 2011, Rasaka Theater collaborated with Premiere Theatre and Performance for The International Voices Project. Rasaka presented staged readings at the Indian Consulate. Rasaka presented two crown jewels from Indian theater: Shakuntala & The Toy Cart.
In conjunction with Polarity Ensemble Theater Rasaka produced the World Premiere Production of Keith Anwar’s, Kabulitis. The production was directed by Artistic Director Lavina Jadhwani and featured Managing Director Kamal Hans as D’aud.
Winner of Polarity Ensemble Theatre’s 2010 Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays, Kabulitis gives an intimate look into the life of an American woman married to an Afghan and living in Kabul, Afghanistan. The story was inspired by the lives and stories of the playwright’s parents and family. It gives an insider’s perspective into life, politics and religion in Afghanistan. But most of all it is the story of an elderly American woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease who is haunted by her memories of Afghanistan