Janaki—Daughter of the Dirt
Siren Theatre Company
Sometimes it sucked to be Sita. The wife of Prince Rama who’s hailed as the perfect wife in Hindu tradition, Sita is kidnapped by the rival King Ravana in the epic Ramayana and held captive in his palace for a year as she defends her chastity against Ravana’s romantic advances. Her husband rescues her but suddenly doubts her faithfulness, so she walks through fire to prove her innocence. Rama believes her, but after they get home he hears people gossiping about his having taken her back after she lived with another man, so for the sake of appearances he exiles his loving wife, pregnant with twins that she has to raise on her own. As great love stories of religious scripture go, it’s problematic. Now Oakland’s Siren Theatre Company, devoted to theatre pieces by and about women to effect social change, presents Janaki—Daughter of the Dirt, which ponders the question: "What if the Ramayana was a cover-up ... most of all, for hiding women who were too hot to handle?" Written by KPFA radio producer Virali Gokaldas and helmed by Siren artistic director Roke Noir, this world premiere at Mission Cultural Center centers on a young girl who writes about the women around her in letters to Janaki (one of the many names of Sita) as she tries to understand what life is like for an Indian woman. Visit sirentheatre.org.
Sam’s Other Picks:
Sep. 21–Oct. 24
Canadian-born, formerly local playwright Adam Bock has a long history with Berkeley’s Shotgun Players, which has produced, hosted or coproduced his plays Swimming in the Shallows, A Fairy’s Tail, The Typographer’s Dream and The Shaker Chair (the latter two with Encore Theatre Company, another outfit that’s staged several of his plays). Now Bock’s back at Shotgun with the world premiere of Phaedra, based on Jean Racine’s 1677 play Phèdre, itself based on Greek myth that inspired Euripides’ play Hippolytus, Seneca’s Phaedra and Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms. There’s plenty of fodder for drama in the ancient yarn: While King Theseus of Athens is off on some adventure or another, his wife Phaedra starts giving her stepson Hippolytus the eye, with tragic consequences. A new translation of Phèdre played ACT just last year, so it’ll be interesting to see how Bock’s modern, Connecticut-set adaptation differs. Visit shotgunplayers.org.
Night Over Erzinga
Golden Thread Productions
Sep. 15–Oct. 9
Inspired by the playwright’s own family history, Adriana Sevahn Nichols’s Night Over Erzinga follows a couple seeking a fresh start in the United States after the Armenian genocide only to find the past still casting a shadow over them. The play was the inaugural commission of the Middle East America Award, given biennially to an American writer of Middle Eastern background by Golden Thread, New York’s Lark Play Development Center and Chicago’s Silk Road Theatre Project. The world premiere plays at the South Side Theatre, across the hall from (and formerly part of) Magic Theatre at Fort Mason, and is a welcome return to local productions for Golden Thread two years after its last show. Visit goldenthread.org.
Brava! For Women in the Arts
Chicago-based playwright and performer Rohina Malik comes to Brava with her show Unveiled, depicting five fictional Muslim women: a Pakistani American dressmaker in Chicago, a London-born rapper with South Asian roots, a Moroccan American lawyer, an African American convert in Texas, and a Middle Eastern restaurateur who lost family in the World Trade Center—all of them serving tea as they talk about encountering backlash and prejudice after 9/11. Brava artistic director Raelle Myrick-Hodges directs the show to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks. Visit brava.org.