Teatro del Pueblo and Pangea World Theater are teaming up to produce the first of three plays in the Latino Asian Fusion Series beginning this weekend. The new commission, Bandara, was written and directed by Aravind Enrique Adyanthaya, artistic director of Casa Cruz de la Luna, an experimental theater company in Puerto Rico. Opening Friday at Old Arizona Studio in Minneapolis, the work uses the cultural motif of the monkey to explore the playwright's own Indian and Puerto Rican heritage, as well as issues of migration and place.
One of the plans for the Latino Asian Fusion Series is to mix motifs and legends from Latin America and Asian cultures, says Adyanthaya, whose mother is from Puerto Rico and whose father is from India. The first piece's title, Bandara, comes from the Sanskrit word for "monkey."
In one story, which deals with reincarnation, a character begins to remember her life as a man in Puerto Rico. Another piece explores what is real and what is not when a girl meets someone online, and that person becomes more real to her than the people around her.
"It's a collage of many stories," Adyanthaya says. "Sometimes they come together and sometimes they don't, but it's an experimentation of a flow of stories." Toward the end of the play, audiences join in the storytelling process by writing about their own lives, with the actors taking that text and reading them as part of the play.
The writing process for Adyanthaya included a lot of reflection, he says, and "going back in my life and examining my relationship with India and Puerto Rico." Among the guiding questions for him was where family and home exist for him. "Going in between -- for me, at least -- was a very personal experience. I wanted to share that with a community that might be going through similar experiences."
In addition to the use of tableau and some movement sections, Adyanthaya says he incorporates technology into the piece, such as simple word programs that do voice transcriptions and turn sound into images. "That's an ongoing exploration in my work," he says, "to examine how to integrate technology in theater."
Adyanthaya has collaborated with both Teatro del Pueblo and Pangea World Theater in the past while living in Minnesota. "It's wonderful to work with both companies again and re-establish that connection," he says. Adyanthaya was a part of the Teatro del Pueblo's first company in the early 1990s, appearing in their first full production, La Bodega. He has also participated in readings and workshops at Pangea, and is an admirer of their work.
Following Bandara, the second play in the Latino Asian Fusion Series will be Isla Tuliro (Island of Confusion) by local playwright Marlina Gonzales. The piece was adopted from the Filipino children's fable The Lion, the Eagle, and the Little Mice, and will open in spring of 2015. The final commissioned play in the series is a love story by Luis Alfaro that explores tensions within a Los Angeles community over an older interracial couple. It will also to be presented in the spring of 2015.
IF YOU GO:
Bandara Friday, May 2 through May 18 Old Arizona Studio 2821 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 4:30 p.m. Sundays $12-$16; pay-what-you-can May 2 and 4 To purchase tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com