Prepare For The Uniquely 'Joyous Fun' of MRS. KRISHNAN'S PARTY

Kalyani Nagarajan and Justin Rogers Star in Indian Ink Theatre's International and Immersive PARTY Playing Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center March 6-9

By: Mar. 06, 2024
Prepare For The Uniquely 'Joyous Fun' of MRS. KRISHNAN'S PARTY
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Indian Ink Theatre Company’s Justin Lewis promises that Mrs. Krishnan’s Party – which will be celebrated over four days at Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Johnson Theatre March 6-9 – will lift your spirits and help you feel connected to a community of new friends who may have been actual strangers when you first arrived for the joyous festivities.

Clearly, Lewis knows whereof he speaks: as the co-writer (with his partner of some 26 years Jacob Rajan) of the immersive evening of theater and as its director, he’s been intimately involved in the creation of the world of Mrs. Krishnan, her “dairy,” her character, and her theatrical “life” since the very beginning.

Prepare For The Uniquely 'Joyous Fun' of MRS. KRISHNAN'S PARTY
Justin Rogers and Kalyani Nagarajan

From the very first moments of Mrs. Krishnan’s Party, audience members will find themselves transported to Mrs. Krishnan’s corner shop in New Zealand where there’s food simmering on the stove, garlands decorate punctuate the festive atmosphere, and music entices you to immerse yourself in a party that’s quite unlike any other you’ve ever attended. Greeted by Mrs. Krishnan’s student boarder (played by Justin Rogers), audiences immediately become part of the freewheeling festivities – even before they meet their eponymous hostess (portrayed by Kalyani Nagarajan, who inspired Lewis and Rajan to create the show).

As Lewis explains, he and Rajan were among the audience for a drama school showcase that featured Nagarajan in a solo presentation that so inspired them, they instantly realized she deserved a show of her own.

“We saw immediately that Kalyani was a real talent and that we need to make a show that spotlight those talents. She has this great facility to play directly to an audience and that was part of the genesis of the character of Mrs. Krishnan and the show,” he says during a recent telephone interview from his home in New Zealand. “We wanted to make a show that was interactive – an acknowledgement that our characters are in the same room as our audience, but doesn’t require the audience to interact, but allows them to get involved as they want, so we came up with the idea of making it a party.”

Audience members can choose their own level of participation, “just like you would when you go to a party,” Lewis suggests. As a result, people who tend to gather around the kitchen island and help with the food, can give Mrs. Krishnan a hand opening cans for the recipes she is preparing, or if they prefer to hang out in the hallway listening to the music and chatter, then they have that option as well, or they can just sit back and watch everything happen around them.

The “party” in Mrs. Krishnan’s Party centers on the celebration of Onam, a Hindu festival of birth and rebirth that Lewis describes as “joyous” and, perhaps more consequentially, a “coming of age” story in which Mrs. Krishnan and her “slightly useless” student boarder consider their life’s options while deciding how to navigate their future.

It's 20 years since the events of Krishnan’s Dairy, the first show to feature Nagarajan’s character, she’s considering selling the shop that has provided her and her late husband a living since their emigration to New Zealand and to possibly lead to her return to their native India.

As audiences respond to the immersive nature of Mrs. Krishnan’s Party and, more importantly, get to know the characters and their stories, “it’s been heartwarming for us as performers to see the joy it brings to our audience,” Lewis says, “it’s a joyous celebration and enormous fun.”

Yet what Lewis and Rajan find most gratifying about the engagement of audiences in the play is “the building a sense of community among people – so that at the end of the show they get to eat the food that’s being prepared throughout the show. We ask audiences to stay after the show to eat, talk, laugh and get to know one another.”

Usually, about 80 percent of the audience chooses to stay for the post-show eat-and-greet, to get to know one another, to form connections and to experience the feeling of an authentic Indian celebration.

“There is a fundamental humanity that makes it all special,” Lewis contends.

For more details about Mrs. Krishnan’s Party, go to www.tpac.org for tickets and an explanation of what an evening includes.



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