Read NY Times Review Here!
In the fifth century, India 's master poet Kalidasa composed an epic of love, fidelity, courageous faith, hope in spite of despair, and memory. Bringing this work back to the stage provides the Magis Theatre Company with a lavish opportunity to engage some of the most beautiful traditions of the past and some of the most exciting innovations of the present in our production of "Shakuntala and the Ring of Recognition." Working with classical Indian techniques of storytelling, and contemporary music by the award winning Rudresh Mahanthappa, Magis will transport its audience to a world big enough to hold a fairy-tale and real enough to show us ourselves… a world where lush forests sing, heavenly “apsaras” fly, curses give way to blessings, and promises once forgotten are ultimately honored. This Valentine’s Day, treat your beloved, and yourself to a love that has endured for over 1500 years.
Magis Theatre Company
In the fall of 2003, several alumni of Columbia’s MFA Acting program were looking for a way to continue the rigorous and specific kinds of training they received in graduate school. At the same time, the president Notre Dame School asked Artistic Director George Drance to assist with the after-school drama program. In exchange for use of the school’s gym/auditorium for weekly training and rehearsals, volunteer actors began teaching the students. From this relationship, an ensemble of actors and teaching artists was born. Joined by others who share our desire for actor-driven physically based theatre, Magis has staged four productions including the critically acclaimed adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s novel The Great Divorce. This adaptation has been used by several companies across the country, and is currently being performed by the Taproot Theatre in Seattle. Magis members have presented our specific work methods at the Voice Foundation's Annual Symposium, the Austrian Voice Institute, and the New York State Theatre Education Association, and the New York Public Library for Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. In fall 2007, we began the Magis Student Actor Training Institute, sponsoring students from all over New York City in our after-school program. For more information, visit our site: magistheatre.org
George Drance, Artistic Director
George has performed and directed in over twenty countries on five continents. He has served as artistic director of Theatre YETU in Kenya and artistic associate for Teatro la Fragua in Honduras. He has acted in New York, Boston, Montreal, and Romania, as well as touring Europe and Asia with La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club’s Great Jones Repertory. George has been a guest artist and lecturer at Columbia University, Cornell University, Marymount Manhattan, Hebrew Union, and Boston College, and has been on the faculties of the Marist International Center in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Red Cloud Indian School on the Oglala Sioux Reservation. He is presently Artist-in-Residence and teacher of Acting at Fordham University.
Love, Curses and Delusions, From an Epic
by Rachel Saltz, nytimes
You don’t need to be an expert in Sanskrit aesthetics to enjoy the Magis Theater Company’s imaginatively staged production of “Shakuntala and the Ring of Recognition” at La MaMa E.T.C. The director, George Drance, understands that at its core, “Shakuntala” is about enchantment.
Written in the fifth century, “Shakuntala” is considered the finest work of Kalidasa, the finest poet of Sanskrit’s classical age. The tale, drawn from an episode in the epic Mahabharata, concerns a king, Dushyanta (a very blond Walker Lewis), who, while hunting in the forest, falls in love with Shakuntala (the excellent Soneela Nankani), daughter of a nymph and a sage.
They secretly marry, and the king returns to court. But when Shakuntala, now pregnant, travels to join him, he fails to recognize her. The lovers have fallen victim to a curse, which can be undone only when the king sees a ring he gave her in the forest. Alas, it is lost, swallowed by a carp.
Mr. Drance doesn’t try to impose naturalism on “Shakuntala,” nor does he burden it with postmodern cleverness. (A scene at court with actors in sunglasses doing a “Pulp Fiction”-type dance is a rare misstep in this direction.)
Mostly he makes visually appealing use of elemental stagecraft: four performers, their hands turning like wheels, are a chariot. A boat carrying a fisherman is a long piece of fabric held by actors at each end, like a hammock. (Gian Marco Lo Forte’s handsome, adaptable set shows the same visual care.)
The actors, who are black, white and South Asian, are uneven, but Mr. Drance has found a lightly stylized way for them to move and speak. He’s less successful with the music, by Rudresh Mahanthappa, which occasionally enhances the play but too often — loud, noodling sax — breaks its spell.
And “Shakuntala” is about spells: about love and curses and delusion, and about the spell cast by aesthetic experiences, like Mr. Drance’s artful staging. It’s a shame, then, that he has chosen to leave out Kalidasa’s prologue, which sounds this theme right off, as a director and an actress discuss how best to capture the audience with the play they’re about to perform.
Though rarely mounted here, “Shakuntala” has a long history in the West. Goethe wrote: “If you want heaven and earth contained in one name/I say ‘Shakuntala’ and all is spoken.” Mr. Drance, like Goethe, is clearly a fan, and he does the play a service: he shows what an accessible, delightful work it can be onstage.