PUBLIC OBSCENITIES to Return to NYC at Theatre for a New Audience This Winter

The production will be presented Jan 17 - Feb 18, 2024.

By: Dec. 08, 2023
PUBLIC OBSCENITIES to Return to NYC at Theatre for a New Audience This Winter

Theatre for a New Audience and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company will present the Soho Rep and NAATCO National Partnership Project's production of Public Obscenities, a bilingual play written and directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury and performed in Bangla and English. Public Obscenities plays at Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Pl, Brooklyn) January 17 – February 18, 2024, following its current run at Woolly Mammoth (November 14 - December 23, 2023).

 

 

When Choton returns to Kolkata on a research trip with his Black American boyfriend Raheem, his grandfather's photograph stares down at him from the walls of his family home. Choton loves being the translator, toggling nimbly between Bangla and English, interviewing queer locals, showing Raheem his world. But through the lens of Choton's grandfather's old camera, Raheem begins to notice things Choton can't. Visionary writer-director Shayok Misha Chowdhury places audiences in a Kolkata movie theater, inviting us to peer into a play about the things we see, the things we miss, and the things that turn us on.

The cast of Public Obscenities, all returning following the play's world premiere at Soho Rep, is Tashnuva Anan as Shou, Debashis Roy Chowdhury as Pishe, Abrar Haque as Choton, Golam Sarwar Harun as Jitesh, Gargi Mukherjee as Pishimoni, NaFis as Sebanti, and Jakeem Dante Powell as Raheem. Understudies for this production are Shreyo Banerjee, Rajib Bhattacharya, Jonathan Nathaniel Dingle-El, Komolika, and Mita Paul. The production stage manager is Tenley Pitonzo and the casting is by Stephanie Yankwitt. The creative team is Peiyi Wong (Scenic Designer), Enver Chakartash (Costume Designer), Barbara Samuels (Lighting Designer), Johnny Moreno (Video/Projection Designer), Tei Blow (Sound Designer), Patricia Marjorie (Prop Designer), Sarah Lunnie (Dramaturg), Sukanya Chakrabarti (Cultural Dramaturg), Teniece Divya Johnson (Original Intimacy Director), Shaquan M. Pearson (Intimacy Consultant), and Tommy Kurzman (Hair/Makeup Stylist).

Shayok Misha Chowdhury says of the play's genesis: “In Bangla, we don't just say ‘uncle.' We have a word for every different kind of uncle. Father's older brother is Jetha. Father's younger brother is Kaka. Mother's brother is Mama. In 1985, my Mama—my mother's only brother—had a dream. In his dream, Mama was in a movie theater, watching a movie. And he described the movie to me in meticulous detail. Shot for shot. As if he wanted me to go make the movie: me, his artist nephew, living in New York. I recorded a voice memo of our conversation, sitting in our sitting room in Kolkata. And that recording of Mama's dream inspired me to write Public Obscenities. Instead of making a movie, I wrote a play about who gets to be an artist and what to do with all the unexpected things we inherit, that we're left with after people leave us. Ten days after Public Obscenities closed at Soho Rep, Mama died. I've been listening to the recording of his dream over and over. It feels good to listen to his voice. To his laugh. To follow the current of his infinitely curious mind. Every time I listen, I discover something new. It's an ongoing collaboration. I'm glad that, through the play, Mama's dream gets to live on.”

In its world premiere at Soho Rep in Spring 2023, Helen Shaw of The New Yorker praised Public Obscenities as “delicate, wise, incredibly rich” and “gorgeously precise,” and The New York Times, in a Critic's Pick review by Juan A. Ramírez, praised the “expansive production” for leaving the audience “longing for even more” with its “uniformly excellent cast and deliberate pacing of a confident playwright,” describing Chowdhury as “a writer with great promise.” The production has won numerous accolades, including the Ensemble Award at the 2023 Drama Desk Awards.

Though Chowdhury had wanted to write a bilingual play for his “entire adult life,” he had stopped himself, fearing such a play would be impossible to produce. When Chowdhury became an inaugural member of Soho Rep's Project Number One—the program that gives theatre-makers staff positions, a full salary, and benefits to experiment and collaborate on new work—he felt it was his opportunity to explore this idea.

He says, “For a long time, I wondered if it was even possible to make a bilingual work like this: would Anglophone audiences understand it? How would I cast it? Working with Soho Rep and NAATCO, that seeming impossibility became possible — and it brought together these incredible actors, most of whom were making their Off Broadway debuts and have now all won Drama Desk Awards. Watching them accept that award and thank my uncle onstage definitely reconfigured my own horizons as an artist. I feel like I'm brimming over with an infinity of stories — it's not, ‘Okay, I wrote my one bilingual play.' There are so many plays I'm excited about writing.”

He adds, “I'm grateful for the opportunity to develop the script and the production even further with Woolly Mammoth and TFANA, and to bring Public Obscenities to new audiences in DC and New York.”

TFANA previously presented Soho Rep's world premiere productions of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' OBIE Award-winning An Octoroon and Jackie Sibblies Drury's Pulitzer Prize-winning Fairview.

 

About Shayok Misha Chowdhury (Writer and Director)

 

Shayok Misha Chowdhury is a many-tentacled writer and director based in Brooklyn. A Mark O'Donnell Prize and Princess Grace Award recipient, Misha was an inaugural Project Number One Artist at Soho Rep, where he recently directed the world premiere of his playwriting debut Public Obscenities “with a swooning hypnotism reminiscent of the best works of neorealism” (New York Times, Critic's Pick). Co-produced by Soho Rep and NAATCO, Public Obscenities was nominated for three Drama League and four Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Direction, and the cast won the Drama Desk Ensemble Award for embodying “the transnational world” of Misha's “bilingual play with memorable authenticity, remarkable specificity, and extraordinary warmth.” Misha is also a Jonathan Larson Grant awardee for his body of work writing musical theater with composer Laura Grill Jaye; their as yet unproduced musical How the White Girl Got Her Spots and Other 90s Trivia was awarded the 2022 Relentless Award in honor of Adam Schlesinger and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Misha was also a collaborator on the Grammy-winning album Calling All Dawns. Other recent collaborations: Brother, Brother (New York Theatre Workshop) with Aleshea Harris; SPEECH (Philly Fringe) with Lightning Rod Special; MukhAgni (Under the Radar @ The Public Theater) with Kameron Neal. A Sundance Fellow, Misha is the creator of VICHITRA, a series of short films including Englandbashi (Ann Arbor Film Festival); The Other Other (Ars Nova); An Anthology of Queer Dreams (Audio Unbound Award finalist); and In Order to Become (The Bushwick Starr). A NYSCA/NYFA, Fulbright, and Kundiman fellow in poetry, Misha has been published in The Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, Hayden's Ferry Review, Asian American Literary Review, and elsewhere. Residencies: Hermitage, Ucross, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, SPACE on Ryder Farm, NYTW 2050, The Public's Devised Theater Working Group, Ars Nova's Makers Lab, Soho Rep's Writer Director Lab, New York Stage and Film, Drama League, Mercury Store, BRIC. BA: Stanford. MFA: Columbia.

 

About the Cast

Tashnuva Anan (Shou) is a pioneering transgender human rights activist, actress, model, and dancer hailing from Bangladesh. She made history by becoming Bangladesh's first transgender news anchor, breaking down gender barriers and inspiring others in the transgender community to pursue mainstream careers. Tashnuva also holds a unique position on the ILGA World board as the sole Bangladeshi representative.

With a background in public health, she has dedicated years to advocating for the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics) individuals in South Asia. Her advocacy centers around advancing the human rights of SOGIESC individuals.

Tashnuva boasts over a decade of involvement with various human rights and SOGIESC organizations. She served as the executive director of Inclusive Bangladesh, a trans-led youth LGBTIQ+ organization operating in Bangladesh and the United Kingdom.

Beyond her activism, Tashnuva is a versatile artist, having acted, designed, directed, and managed stages in numerous productions. Her notable roles include appearances in productions like Target Platun, Tamoshik, Nononpurer melay ekjon komla sundori o ekti bagh ase, and Khona. She has also received accolades for her talent, such as the Drama Desk Award for her role as Shou in Public Obscenities and the Annyanya Human Rights Award for her tireless efforts in promoting transgender rights in Bangladesh.

Explore her work further at www.tashnuvaanan.com

Debashis Roy Chowdhury (Pishe) performed in Soho Rep's and Woolly Mammoth's runs of Public Obscenities. He and the rest of the cast received Drama Desk's Ensemble Award in 2023. Debashis was initiated into theater during his college days in Kolkata, India and was inspired by Badal Sarkar's third-theater form. In the US, he has acted in English and Bengali plays produced by multiple theater groups in Boston, notably Off-Kendrik and SETU. Some of his notable roles were: Master-chef Byakaron Singh in Boro Holo J, an original play by Off-Kendrik, Boston; Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Vatia in Spartacus, written by Badal Sarkar (Kolkata); Kaka-saheb (uncle) in Vijay Tendulkar's Kamala (SETU, Boston); and O'Brien in Bengali adaptation of 1984 (Kolkata). Debashis had directed two documentary films and a short animated film called Apartheid. He is a vocalist trained in North Indian classical music tradition. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

Abrar Haque (Choton) (he/him/his) recently made his NY debut with Public Obscenities at Soho Rep, and is thrilled to be back telling this incredible story. Other recent credits include Babu in a reading of Accidental Feminist (The Public Theater), Fouad in Refugee Rhapsody (Artists Repertory Theater) and Florizel in A Winter's Tale (Portland Shakes). He thanks his friends and family for their authenticity, compassion, and love. IG: @ahawk19

Golam Sarwar Harun (Jitesh) is a singer, actor, playwright, and a director. He recently completed Soho Rep's and Woolly Mammoth's runs of Public Obscenities and has won the Drama Desk Ensemble award for Outstanding Performance. Harun also directs films and television commercials. As an actor, he has played the lead in Three Penny Opera, Marat-Sade, and Mrichchakatikam, among others. He is the Artistic Director of Dhaka Drama, a theater group founded in Queens, New York, and has co-directed plays like I Shakuntala, No Man's Land, Nirastra (Unarmed), and directed Dhaboman (The Run), among others. His works have featured in multiple South Asian Theatre Festivals over the years. Apart from the theatre world, Harun has acted in multiple films from Bangladesh, and most notably in Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist in the US.

Gargi Muhkerjee (Pishimoni) has recently performed in Soho Rep's and Woolly Mammoth's runs of Public Obscenities. She has won the Drama Desk Ensemble Award for Outstanding Performance and was nominated by Drama League for Distinguished Performance for her role in Public Obscenities. She has also been performing in Women on Fire: Stories from the Frontlines, a Royal Family Productions in New York. She is seen on a regular basis at the South Asian Theater Festival, held every year at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in New Brunswick, NJ. Gargi has also appeared in films, including, The Namesake, in which she had a featured role, and Karma Calling, in which she played one of the leads. She has written/co-written and co-directed well-received plays performed in the tri-state area.

NaFis (Sebanti) (they/she/he) is a Bangladesh-born and raised, non-binary, queer actor and singer from Queens, New York. She is thrilled to be making her TFANA debut by reprising the role of Sebanti in Public Obscenities (NYT Critic's Pick, Drama Desk Best Ensemble Award)! NaFis originated the role in the 2023 Soho Rep production and finished the year by playing it at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in D.C. with the original cast. Other select credits include Theatre: TINDERELLA: The Modern Musical (Dylan; Broadway World 2022 Regional Awards: Best Performer in a Musical), RENT (Angel), The 25th Annual...Spelling Bee (Barfeé), Place of Assembly (Mr. Marsh), The Fold (Khalil), Polar Express (KIA). Film: Who Killed Taniya (Nadiya). NaFis dedicates their performance to all the Hijras and Kotis. He aspires to be part of more new and existing stories that push boundaries and stereotypes. They are thankful for this opportunity and hope you enjoy the show! "Follow your dreams and find your chosen family! <3" IG: @nafis_storyteller.

Jakeem Dante Powell (Raheem) can be seen in George C. Wolfe's Netflix feature Rustin produced by The Obama's Higher Ground Production Company. His recent credits include: Public Obscenities (Soho Rep, Drama Desk for Best Ensemble), Slave Play (Broadway and LA premiere), and the streaming play This American Wife (alongside Pulitzer finalists Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley). He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. Instagram: @jakeemdpowell

 

Public Obscenities Performance Schedule

 

Performances of Public Obscenities take place at Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Pl, Brooklyn) January 17–21, 23–28, 30–31, and February 1–4, 6–7, 9–11, 13–18 at 7:30pm; January 23 at 7:00pm; and January 21, 27–28, and February 3–4, 10–11, 17–18 at 2:00pm.  

 

Public Obscenities opens Wednesday, January 24, with reviews embargoed until 9pm.

The 2pm performance on February 4 will be open captioned.

TFANA will offer post-show Humanities events after select performances. The February 3 matinee performance will be followed by an installment of Reflections with Bianca Vivion (host of ALL ARTS' Generational Anxiety), and the February 10 and 17 matinees will be followed by TFANA Talks.

Season Subscriptions

 

Season subscriptions—with benefits including priority booking, flexible exchange policy, discounted guest tickets, discounts for the Book Kiosk in the Polonsky Shakespeare Center lobby, and more—are available online at tfana.org/season; by phone at (646) 553-3880; and in person at the box office.

 

2023-2024 subscription packages:

·         Three-Play Package ($174): One ticket to each of the remaining three productions in the 2023-2024 Season at just $58 per ticket: Waiting for Godot, Public Obscenities, Macbeth (an undoing)

·         Two-Play Package ($116): One ticket to each of the final two productions in the 2023-2024 Season at just $58 per ticket: Public Obscenities, Macbeth (an undoing)

·         Flex Pass Package ($240): a four-ticket package for just $60 per ticket. Use them in any combination for any of the shows in the 2023-2024 season.

 

Subscriber add-ons include Guest Tickets for $60 and New Deal Tickets for $20. Subscriber New Deal tickets—for those aged 30 and under, and for full-time students of any age—are available for all performances for $20 and can be purchased in advance or day-of online, by phone, or at the box office with valid ID(s) required at pickup.

 

All sales are final. No refunds. All packages are subject to a $10 handling fee.

 

Participation in 2024 Under the Radar Festival

 

TFANA is pleased to include its January 17-21 performances of Public Obscenities in the 2024 Under the Radar Festival. Under the Radar supporters who donate at the RADAR Friend level ($99+) receive a unique code for discount tickets.

 

The participation of Shayok Misha Chowdhury's Public Obscenities for performances January 17-21 in the 2024 Under the Radar Festival is made possible by a presentation of Theatre for a New Audience in association with Under the Radar; Mark Russell, Festival Director & ArKtype, Festival Producer. More information at utrfest.org.

 

Single Tickets

 

Full-price tickets are $90 for Public Obscenities, and Premium tickets are $125. New Deal tickets— for those aged 30 and under, and for full-time students of any age—are available for all performances for $20 and can be purchased in advance or day-of online, by phone, or at the box office with valid ID(s) required at pickup.

 

The calendar for every production this season will include one Sunday night Pay-What-You-Can performance. For Public Obscenities, audiences can purchase cash-only Pay-What-You-Can tickets at the door starting at 6:30pm for the 7:30pm performance on Sunday, January 28. Tickets are first come, first served, and limited to one ticket per patron.

 

New Deal ticket subsidies are supported by the Audrey H. Meyer New Deal Fund.

 

All productions, artists, and dates are subject to change.

 

 

About Soho Rep

 

Soho Rep provides radical theater makers with productions of the highest caliber and tailor-made development at key junctures in their artistic practice. The organization elevates artists as thought leaders and citizens who change the field and society. Artistic autonomy is paramount at Soho Rep; the organization encourages an unmediated connection between artists and audiences to create a springboard for transformation and rich civic life beyond the walls of its theater.

 

Critics continue to herald Soho Rep as a go-to theater destination for new and original works. New York Magazine says, “this indispensable theater offers more excitement per chair than any space in town,” Time Out New York says, “Soho Rep is the best theater in NYC,” and The New York Times describes Soho Rep as “form-twisting, boundary-breaking, and acclaimed” and says, “The downtown powerhouse… regularly outclasses the work done on many of the city's larger stages.” The Village Voice named Soho Rep the “Best Off-Broadway Theater Company,” and the company was listed in Travel Magazine's “10 Essential Off-Broadway Theaters.”

 

Soho Rep won the “Best Theater in NYC” award for the Time Out Best of the City Awards 2021. Time Out New York wrote, "Soho Rep isn't the last word in downtown experimental theater: Better than that, it's often one of the first words, championing major voices at key points in their careers…And Soho Rep's low ticket prices, including 99¢ Sundays, help keep some of the city's bravest, boldest and wildest theater within the reach of all New Yorkers. "

 

Soho Rep has also been honored with a Drama Desk Award for Sustained Achievement. Over the last decade, Soho Rep productions have garnered 21 OBIE Awards; the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical; 18 Drama Desk nominations; two Kesselring Awards; The New York Times Outstanding Playwriting Award for Dan LeFranc's Sixty Miles To Silverlake; and a special citation in The New York Drama Critics' Circle's 2012-13 awards. Jackie Sibblies Drury's Fairview, commissioned by Soho Rep and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In recent years, Soho Rep has presented plays by established and emerging theater artists such as David Adjmi, Annie Baker, Alice Birch, Debbie Tucker Green, Aleshea Harris, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Daniel Alexander Jones, Richard Maxwell, Sarah Kane, Young Jean Lee, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and Anne Washburn.

 

About NAATCO

The National Asian American Theatre Co., Inc. (NAATCO) was formed in 1989 to assert the presence and significance of Asian American theater in the United States, demonstrating its vital contributions to the fabric of American culture by presenting the following repertory:

  • European and American classics as written with all Asian American casts;
  • Adaptations of these classics by Asian American Playwrights;
  • New plays – preferably world premieres – written by non-Asian Americans, not for or about Asian Americans, realized by all-Asian American casts.
  • New plays by Asian American Playwrights that incorporate other performative arts and media.

NAATCO puts into service its total commitment to Asian American theater artists to more accurately represent onstage the multi- and intercultural dynamics of our society, demonstrating a rich tapestry of cultural difference bound by the American experience. The enrichment accrues to each different culture as well as to America as a whole.

NAATCO emphasizes Asian Americans' abilities to reach across ethnic boundaries to illuminate abiding characteristics of human nature, reflecting the kinship among disparate cultures, and affirming that timeless values and insights about old and new works can come from unexpected faces.

With the NAATCO National Partnership Project (NNPP), NAATCO will take our mission nationally, partnering with regional theaters around the country, as well as with other theaters in New York.

NAATCO and its performers have been the recipients of numerous awards, including the 2015 Ross Wetzsteon Award (an Obie given to theaters that nurture innovative new plays), the 2019 St. Clair Bayfield Award, the 2015 Lilly Award for Trailblazing, a 2014 performance Obie, and the 2006 Rosetta LeNoire award from Actors Equity Association recognizing NAATCO's contribution toward increasing diversity and non-traditional casting in American theater.

About Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
 
The Tony Award®-winning Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company creates badass theatre that highlights the stunning, challenging, and tremendous complexity of our world. For over 40 years, Woolly has maintained a high standard of artistic rigor while simultaneously daring to take risks, innovate, and push beyond perceived boundaries. One of the few remaining theatres in the country to maintain a company of artists, Woolly serves an essential research and development role within the American theatre. Plays premiered here have gone on to productions at hundreds of theatres all over the world and have had lasting impacts on the field. Currently co-led by Artistic Director Maria Manuela Goyanes and Managing Director Kimberly E. Douglas, Woolly is located in Washington, DC, equidistant from the Capitol and the White House. This unique location influences Woolly’s investment in actively working towards an equitable, participatory, and creative democracy.   

Woolly Mammoth stands upon occupied, unceded territory: the ancestral homeland of the Nacotchtank whose descendants belong to the Piscataway peoples. Furthermore, the foundation of this city, and most of the original buildings in Washington, DC, were funded by the sale of enslaved people of African descent and built by their hands.

About Under the Radar
 


Over the past two decades, the Under the Radar theater festival has connected New York audiences with the world’s most innovative playwrights and risk-taking work from international performers. Dozens of major creators and rising voices - including Elevator Repair Service, Reggie Watts, Taylor Mac, Lemon Andersen, Whitney White, Belarus Free Theatre, and Ryan J. Haddad - have found a champion in the Festival in a manner that The New York Times has said “made (artists) feel as if, after working at the margins, they finally belonged within a larger conversation.” In 2023, Under the Radar made headlines when their longtime sponsor, The Public Theater, was unable to maintain funding for the program. Many saw the untimely end of Under the Radar as indicative of an existential threat to the whole of accessible experimental theater. Now, in a show of necessary resilience, Under the Radar rises again in January 2024 with performances across the city.
 

About Theatre for a New Audience
 


Founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, and led by Horowitz and Managing Director, Dorothy Ryan, Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) is home for Shakespeare and other contemporary playwrights. It nurtures artists, culture, and community. Recognizing that each audience is new and different from the last one, TFANA is dedicated to forging an exchange between artist and playgoer that is immediate and direct, and to the ongoing search for a living, human theatre.
 
With Shakespeare as its supreme guide, TFANA explores the ever-changing forms of world theatre and builds a dialogue spanning centuries between the language and ideas of Shakespeare and diverse authors, past and present. TFANA is committed to building long-term associations with artists from around the world and supporting the development of plays, translations, and productions through residences, workshops, and commissions. TFANA performs for an audience of all ages and backgrounds; is devoted to economic access; and promotes a vibrant exchange of ideas through its humanities and education programs.
 
TFANA’s productions have played nationally, internationally and on Broadway. In 2001, it became the first American theatre company invited to bring a production of Shakespeare to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
 
TFANA created and runs the largest in-depth program to introduce Shakespeare and classic drama in New York City’s Public Schools. Since its inception in 1984, the program has served more than 140,000 students.
 
In 2013, TFANA opened its first permanent home, Polonsky Shakespeare Center (PSC), in the Brooklyn Cultural District. The heart of PSC is its performance space: the 299-seat Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage, a uniquely flexible space with extraordinary acoustics, capable of multiple configurations between stage and audience; as well as the 50-seat Theodore C. Rogers Studio.
 
In addition to productions, TFANA supports ongoing artistic development through the Merle Debuskey Studio Program, which provides artists with residencies and workshops to create and explore outside the pressures of full production.
 
TFANA honors the Lenape and Canarsie People, on whose ancestral homeland Polonsky Shakespeare Center is built. The organization is committed to rethinking the stories it tells about our history and our connection to each other.

Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes

 




Videos