Somehow midway through this semester I found myself in New York to see a production of Hamilton! Honestly, that show deserves more of a novel than a blog post, so I’ll just say that it delivered on the hype and I was blown away.
Hamilton was a matinee and my bus back to Boston didn’t leave until midnight, which left me with several hours to kill around Times Square. Of course I hit up TKTS, but let me tell you… Broadway has lost their damn minds and people are charging anywhere from $80 to $250 a ticket! The day-of!! You’re not tricking me… I know you have empty seats in your house that you want to fill so why why why are you sitting up on your high horse and charging so much money?! But that’s a whole other post. My point is that I didn’t buy a ticket at TKTS, which meant I still had time to kill.
So here I was walking from box office to box office looking for central heating, entertainment… a seat. I was about to give up when I passed this tiny theatre with a sign for $15 student tickets to a show called Chotto Desh. Perfect! The show had already started but the tickets were cheap and the house was warm. I got a nosebleed seat and tried to sneak in as quietly as I could. Before I could even take off my coat there was a wave of audience laughter that sounded really high pitched… it sounded… childlike? I whipped out my program and sure enough, Chotto Desh is a show for children! No! I wasn’t in New York for children’s theatre! I wanted gripping, deep, heart-wrenching drama! Ugh. Whatever. Theatre is theatre, right? I guess I’ll suffer through it and maybe learn something.
Here’s the thing – knowing what I know now, I would pay twice as much for those tickets. The show was endlessly creative and sucked me into its world after five minutes. Chotta Desh blew my mind. This one man show utilized projections, shadow puppetry, countless light cues, and a giant white chair on wheels to explore the journey of a young boy and his intersections with his Indian family and heritage. The play transitions from a his bedroom, to his own imaginary jungle, to the streets of India, all without any set or props. The one actor onstage was able to completely transport us simply through his movement and the lighting of the space. Apparently it was adapted from a show targeting adults, but I don’t know the specific adjustments that were made. I’ve watched trailers of both the original piece and the children’s adaptation, and it looks like the piece was shortened, props and set were pared down, and some of the more violent content (a piece where a projection of an army tank pointed their barrel at the actor) was cut. that being said, the piece had no less heart or depth. As a young adult I was as captivated by the performance as the children in the audience. I’ve seen a lot of children’s theatre and let me tell you, that is not always the case. This wasn’t neon-colored caricature-filled comedy, this was a moving piece of theatre that happened to be speaking to children. Amazing!
When I called my friend to tell her how my weekend was, I could only talk about Chotto Desh and she had to ask me about Hamilton. I hopped right off the NY bus and into rehearsals full of new ideas. New ideas of how to move, how to light a stage, how to create a new world with limited set, and how to redirect children’s theatre towards a less condescending and more stimulating piece of art.
It’s the end of the semester. It’s halfway through Junior year. I would be lying if I said I couldn’t use a second wind, and that’s exactly what Chotto Desh gave me. I went up to New York to see Hamilton and have my mind blown and the show that truly took my breath away was a minimalistic children’s show for $15.
Here’s the trailer for Chotto Desh done by the Akram Khan company at the New Victory Theatre!
Here’s the trailed for the original piece called Desh.