Photo Flash: California Shakespeare Theater Presents HOUSE OF JOY
California Shakespeare Theater continues its 2019 summer season with the world premiere of House of Joy by Madhuri Shekar as part of their New Classics Initiative; playing now through September 8, 2019 at the Bruns Amphitheater. A Pay What You Can performance will be held on Wednesday, August 14.
A darling of the 2018 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, House of Joy-directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian-is an action-adventure romance set in a harem at the beginning of the end of the Mughal Empire. Once upon a time and place, in something like 17th century Delhi, an imperial bodyguard risks her life to fight for what's right, turning against everything she's been raised to believe.
"The title of the play is to be taken literally. There is a lot of joy in it, there is a lot of acceleration, surprise, and delight," adds Sandberg-Zakian, saying that it's exciting to be in a "muscular, fast world that is also a world of brown people, a world of women and gender non-conforming folks, and a world that reminds us that other empires besides ours haven risen and fallen."
To prepare for the immense amount of combat in the show, the actors playing bodyguards have been working with Resident Fight Choreographer, Dave Maier since May, drawing upon traditional Indian styles of martial arts, which are among the oldest in the world.
Sandberg-Zakian and Shekar are collaborating on their second project together having just finished Evil Eye-the first audio play to be commissioned by Audible. Shekar has been workshoping the House of Joy since 2017 at various theaters across the country including a staged reading at Julliard.
"I'm thrilled that House of Joy is getting its world premiere at Cal Shakes," says Shekar. "I couldn't imagine a more beautiful setting for this epic, larger-than-life adventure story, and I'm very excited to be in conversation with Cal Shakes' passionate community of artists, company members and theatre goers. I'm so looking forward to our process with our brilliant creative team, and I can't wait for the Bay Area to come and see our show."
House of Joy is part of Cal Shakes' New Classics Initiative-funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, and the MCJ Amelier Foundation-which develops new works by playwrights who, while diverse in perspective and experience, share Shakespeare's vision of the power of story. New Classics productions reimagine timeless dramas from across cultures, expanding our classical canon and, by extension, broadening our understanding of who we are.
For Artistic Director Eric Ting, the play's connection to the Bay Area makes it all the more exciting. "Cal Shakes first encountered Madhuri's mighty play at last summer's Bay Area Playwright's Festival, so we're excited to announce the Bay Area Playwright's Foundation as our community partner for House of Joy," says Ting, "The work of the Foundation and the Festival has been a vital and essential resource to the Bay Area theater community and the national field, holding space for the chroniclers of our time."
Starring as Hamida, the most skilled bodyguard in the harem, Emma Van Lare (she/her) makes her Cal Shakes debut. Van Lare is a current graduate student in acting at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco. Other credits include: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Everybody, Fuente Ovejuna for ACT's MFA program; Lend Me a Tenor and A Midsummer Night's Dream for Stageworks Theatre to name a few.
Joining Van Lare are Rotimi Agbabiaka as Salima (he/him; A Raisin in the Sun at Cal Shakes; Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2, & 3 at ACT and the Yale Repertory Theatre, Black Rider for Shotgun Players, Caesar Maximus at We Players, among others) and a number of artists making their Cal Shakes debuts including-Sango Tajima as Roshni (she/her; Metamorphoses at Berkeley Rep, The Wolves, Shakespeare in Love, and The Jungle Book at Marin Theater Company, The Mineola Twins and Life is a Dream, We Are Pussy Riot at Theatre Battery in Seattle, WA), Rinabeth Apostol as Mariyam (she/her; King of Yees at SF Playhouse; peerless and Othello at Marin Theater Company, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hard Problem, and Monstress at ACT; Dogeaters at Magic Theatre), Nandita Shenoy as Gulal (she/her; Mercy at New Jersey Repertory Company; Much Ado About Nothing and Moonlight & Magnolias at Alabama Shakespeare, 1st National Tour of The King & I; Trouble Cometh at SF Playhouse), Lipica Shah as Noorah (she/her; India Pale Ale and Cost of Living, U.S. at Manhattan Theatre Club; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Orange, and The Chronicles of Kalki & Shiv at Mixed Blood Theatre), and Raji Ahsan as Thermometer (he/him; My Heart is the East at LaMaMa; Disgraced at Cape Fear Theater and Shadowland Stages; The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Asolo Rep Theatre and Miami New Drama).
House of Joy's creative team includes Scenic Designer Lawrence Moten (he/him; A Human Being, Of A Sort at Williamstown Theatre Festival; Shakespeare in Love and The Royale at Capital Repertory Theatre; American Prom and A Raisin in the Sun at Theatreworks Colorado Springs), Costume Designer Oana Botez (she/her; designed in New York, regionally and internationally including at BAM, Next Wave, La MaMa, The Kitchen, PS122, HERE Arts Center, The Joyce Theater, BRIC Arts Media, The Classic Stage Company, The Public Theater, The Wilma Theater, Hartford Stage Company, Berkeley Rep), Lighting Designer Wen-Ling Liao (she/her; Quixote Nuevo at Cal Shakes; Oedipus El Rey and Resting Place at The Magic Theatre; Barbecue and King of Yees at SF Playhouse; among others across the Bay and regionally), Sound Designer and Composer Arshan Gailus (he/him; As You Like It and The Tempest at Shakespeare & Company; The Royale at Capital Repertory Theatre; Becoming Cuba at Huntington Theatre Company), and Fight Director Dave Maier (he/him; 14th season with Cal Shakes, won 2018 TBA award for outstanding fight director for Quixote Nuevo; choreographs at theaters all over the Bay).
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne
Emma Van Lare
Emma Van Lare and Sang Tajima
Emma Van Lare and Nandita Shenoy
Sango Tajima and Emma Van Lare
Emma Van Lare, Rotimi Agbabiaka, Sango Tajima, and Raji Ahsan