Honor, Excitement — and Terror?

IC students and faculty perform Indian folktale for esteemed playwright. 

By Samantha Allen ’11

“We are honored, we are excited, and we are terrified,” said Claire Gleitman, professor of English, as she stood before an audience at the Handwerker Gallery last October 28. Her introduction launched the On the Verge production of the Indian folk drama, Hayavadana, directed by Gleitman. Sitting in the front row was the playwright of the evening’s performance, esteemed Bollywood actor, film director, and writer Girish Karnad.

Every semester On the Verge, a play reading series run by faculty in the departments of theatre arts and English, stages readings of plays based on what students are studying in their drama classes.

“If students only encounter [a play] as a text, they’re not getting the full sense of what it’s ideally meant to be,” says Gleitman, who joined On the Verge in 1995.

Rachael Dugas ’10, who played a valley-girl-style doll, says she was inspired to take part in the performance after reading the Karnad play for her drama class.

“Things really come alive [when plays are performed],” Dugas says, “There’s a layer of richness added.”

Performing a reading for the original
playwright added yet another dimension.

“It was a thrill,” says Gleitman. “This isn’t something that happens very often.”

The plot of Hayavadana, which is based on a 12th-century story, is a complex one, involving many twists and turns. The leading lady, Padmini, played by Rebecca Kuznick ’13, is in love with two men: her husband, Devdatta, played by Max Lorn-Krause ’12, for his intelligence, and their mutual friend Kapila, played by Anthony Derrick ’10, for his body. The love triangle ensues when the two men fight over Padmini and cut off each others’ heads. But all is made right, sort of, when an Indian goddess grants Padmini the power to put them back together—until she accidentally mixes up the two heads. The play raises intriguing questions about identity. Dugas says it was made even more complicated by being performed as a play within a play.

The show featured performances by students and several theatre arts professors. With only three rehearsals, the cast and crew felt proud of the performance.

In the audience was Dana McCalla ’13, who says she enjoyed the play, which she had heard about through her Introduction to Literature class. “Theater is something that brings everyone together, and it’s so good to have a new perspective and exposure to different cultures,” she says