Jefe's House

Theatre

My Dinner With Tina

by on Mar.21, 2021, under Film/TV, NYC, Shaheb Cafe, The Sixth Boro, The Truth Is In Here, Theatre

brockvid2

Into the Absurd. A Virtually Existential Dinner Conversation.

Why is this man making a hand-rabbit? Scroll down to find out.

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If you missed my interview last night with the masterful Tina Brock of the IRC and would like to hear more about my mis/adventures in India, my work as a Fulbright Scholar and the nonfiction book I’m currently finishing, along with Tesla, ghosts, paan, religion, David Ives, and a few other surprises, you can catch it here on the IRC’s youtube channel:

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Into the Absurd

by on Mar.14, 2021, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

ircThe picture says it all. Mark your calendars and tune in next Saturday 3/20/21 at 5pm EST for my interview with the masterful Tina Brock of the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium theatre company, streaming live on Zoom and Facebook. Links below:

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Zoom:

https://lehigh.zoom.us/…/regi…/WN_NQXt3ZCPSku8MCpXYoigzw

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Facebook Live:

https://www.facebook.com/IdiopathicRidiculopathyConsortium

 

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The Indian Farmers’ Strike in 90 Seconds

by on Jan.20, 2021, under Politics, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

Photo via Al Jazeera

Photo via Al Jazeera

My US Bengali friends’ theatre company Kushilob put together a series of online theatrical shorts reacting to, and explaining, the massive farmers strike currently happening in India. You probably saw protest footage and tear gas on CNN or glimpsed it in the New York Times but perhaps aren’t exactly sure what the fuss is about.  The full Kushilob video is here on YouTube. Most of the pieces are in Bengali so for my other friends here’s what the Indian farmers strike is about in 90 seconds.  “Salt of the Earth” features Bedatanu Banerjee and me:

Feel free to share either of these vids with anyone anywhere. Thanks.

#farmerstrike

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Enjoy a BLT This Saturday

by on Dec.23, 2020, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Webinar banner

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Very excited that my good friend and colleague Dr. Vijay Padaki of the Bangalore Little Theatre will be in conversation this Saturday, December 26th at 5pm with Tina Brock of Philadelphia’s Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium theatre. Don’t miss it! Link is below. Until we meet on the stage once again, IRC is exploring creations and conversations with adventurers in our community and around the world on Into the Absurd: A Virtually Existential Dinner Conversation, each Saturday at 5 pm for 50-minutes on Zoom and Facebook Live.

cherryorchardblt

BLT then.

Vijay is a Theatre Educator based in Bangalore who has been active in the theatre for sixty years. Vijay joined Bangalore Little Theatre in 1960, the year of its inception, and later served in many capacities – as actor, director, trainer, writer, designer and administrator, including stints each as Secretary and President. Vijay is a psychologist and behavioural scientist by training.

blt

BLT now.

Vijay has written over 50 original plays; he has also adapted or translated several play scripts.  Seagull Books has published a volume of two Gujarati plays translated by Vijay; in 1993 he won the award for the best contemporary play script instituted by The Hindu newspaper for the play Credit Titles.  Vijay is the Series Editor of nine volumes of plays being published by Bangalore Little Theatre.

Tune in for his conversation with Tina Brock at 5pm this Saturday on Zoom or Facebook Live.

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Adding the Method to my Madness

by on Sep.28, 2019, under Film/TV, NYC, Theatre

logoI’m truly honored and humbled to be a part of The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute family teaching Theatre History for Actors.  Strasberg is one of the world’s top acting conservatories celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

website bio partial

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Tagore and Whitman at ICCR Kolkata

by on May.21, 2019, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

On 4/25/19 I was in a show at ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) Kolkata performing selections from Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel-winning “Gitanjali” poetry collection in English while my counterpart Indrani Majumder performed them in Bengali. I ended with a selection from 19th century US poet Walt Whitman‘s “Song of Myself” as it always reminds me of Tagore. Their shared search for the divine in the everyday seems to make them a perfect pairing. Above is a short excerpt from the show.

 

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My Indian Film Debut

by on Apr.28, 2019, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

byomkesh

Anirban Bhattacharya as Kolkata detective Byomkesh Bakshi on Hoichoi.

Today I had my film debut and I’m thrilled it’s in an Indian flick. I was honored that accomplished director Abhijit Choudhury, whose current HoiChoi (think Bengali Netflix) series Astey, Ladies rocked my world, asked if I’d do him a favor and play a British officer in his new feature film, a period drama entitled Maanbhanjan adapted from Rabindranath Tagore’s short story “Giribala.” Really he was doing me the favor because it turns out he’s shooting a historical film set in the 1870s against the backdrop of the nascent Bengali theatre scene which is exactly one of my research areas.

I’m not going to give away the entire plot but suffice it to say they had done their homework and recreated it spot on. My hat’s off to the set designers, choreographer, director and the whole crew. The 1870s saw the first productions of Dinabandhu Mitra’s controversial (for the British) play Nil Darpan (literally “Blue Mirror,” in this case the blue referring to nil darpan coverindigo), which held a mirror up to the gross mistreatment of poor indigo farmers. I won’t go into detail here, but it led to an amazing turn of events and other protest plays culminating in the 1876 passage of the Dramatic Performances Control Act which was only ever enforced by the British against Indian plays.

In my obsession with this time period, and having visited what’s left of Kolkata’s old theatres and perused hundreds of old theatrical advertisements, articles and photos at this point, I have often wished I could go back in time and see the real productions. Tonight on set I got a glimpse of what that might be like. We were shooting in an old playhouse recreating what would have been a typical night at a Bengali theatre, opening with a mythological drama (in this case a story from the life of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha), then a long wait for the audience while the set was changed for the next play, and then a social drama, in this case Nil Darpan.

So here I am watching actors in period clothing doing scenes from Radha-Krishna, then Nil Darpan, while an “audience” of actors in 19th century period attire sat watching and reacting to it. I played a British officer sitting with my wife and our British friends in the front row becoming highly offended and eventually enraged by what I saw onstage. I’m stopping there regarding the plot.

The biggest thrill for me was getting to share the screen with a major star, Anirban Bhattacharya, who is known for many award-winning stage and film roles but he’ll always be HoiChoi Byomkesh to me. Byomkesh is India’s answer to Sherlock Holmes, the stories written by Sharadindu Bandhopadhay and set in pre-Independence Calcutta. I’ve been a fan for several years, have read all the stories, seen I think all of the movie adaptations and all of the HoiChoi episodes. And this was long before I knew I’d not only be meeting Mr. Bhatttacharya but performing alongside him.

At one point I said to a fellow actor who seemed unaware of who he was, “That guy’s a famous actor.” She replied that famous people didn’t impress her.   I said, “Yes but he’s famous for a reason. He’s famous because he’s a terrific actor. One of the finest in India.”

She thought for a moment. “What was his name again?” came her response as she whipped out her phone to Google him. You should have seen me gushing at him between takes pumping his hand up and down saying, “I’m a big fan. I’m aware of who you are. It’s an honor to work with you.”

One more day of shooting for me later this week in which I get to have a face-off with his character. Suffice it to say I’m brushing up on my British accent.

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East & West Poetry Performance This Thursday in Kolkata

by on Apr.23, 2019, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

tota april 25th poster

This Thursday, April 25th at 6pm IST I’ll be performing in the East & West poetry reading with Kolkata performance artist Indrani Majumder. I’ll be reading some selections from Rabindranath Tagore’s 1912 Nobel-winning collection “Gitanjali” in English as a counter to Indrani performing the same poems in Bengali. Gitanjali’s central theme in this collection of largely pastoral poems is devotion, or as Tagore puts it in one of his verses, “I am here to sing thee songs”.

When I first read “Gitanjali” years ago it immediately brought Walt Whitman’s late 19th century “Song of Myself” to mind in its sensual appreciation for life and its seeking of the divine in nature. I love this epic poem so much that I keep a small pocket edition in my camping gear and always take it with me backpacking or camping, and make a point of spending a few minutes alone in the forest reading it; a tradition I hope to impart to my son. That said, I’ll be concluding my portion of the evening by reading a selection from “Song of Myself.”

We’re part of a larger evening lineup and the event is free.

Location:

ICCR Kolkata (Indian Council for Cultural Relations)

9A Ho Chi Minh Sarani just opposite the US Consulate

 

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But wait, there’s more…

by on Mar.06, 2019, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

Double-feature on 3/26.  After my lecture I’ll be part of a livestreamed poetry reading featuring, and produced by, pro Kolkata performer of Rabindra kobita (poems by Rabindranath Tagore spoken in Bengali) Indrani Majumdar.  I’ll be reading some Tagore in English along with some Walt Whitman.

tota jeff poetry reading

 

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Lecture in Kolkata

by on Mar.05, 2019, under Film/TV, On the Road, Politics, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

In case you’re in the neighborhood I’ll be doing some standup comedy, I mean giving an academic lecture, at the US Consulate’s American Centre in Kolkata on 3/26.

(click the pic to enlarge it if you actually want to read it)

Vande Mataram

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