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my 2 cents

Theatre Review: "Woogie Boogie", Ranga Shankara, 180719
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Superb special effects.

I am often asked why I go to watch children's theatre shows. People usually associate children's theatre, or puppet theatre, with a "fit only for children" narrative, too simple to hold an adult's attention.

But plays, or to be accurate, performances, like "Woogie Boogie", by Brush Theatre of South Korea, staged on 18th July 2019 at Ranga Shankara as part of the "AHA!" children's international puppet theatre festival, show how any adult can be as entranced as a child. On the child's level, the clowning and the brisk narrative are very entertaining; but on an adult level, one can see the precision of the production, with all the technical aspects of the performance blending seamlessly into a whole.

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Raindrops fall from the cloud that has been drawn.

"Woogie Boogie" was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in UK in 2018 and has been travelling ever since. In Seoul, South Korea, the cast and crew end up performing Woogie Boogie every Saturday, at different venues, mainly for young audiences.The storyline is about the story of two friends, (Woogie and Boogie) who go on their first adventure to the sea with their tiny friend, the turtle. The show was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in UK in 2018 and has been travelling ever since. In Seoul, the cast and crew give performances of Woogie Boogie every Saturday.

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Performers, showing the costumes and the laptops used.


Even as the audience entered the theatre, they found the cast and crew on and off the stage, casually waltzing, playing the piano and thumping on an empty cardboard box. The central, large white screen or board was flanked by two performers ; electronic organist Sung San Hee on one, and another, operating a lot of highly technical software and hardware, on the other.

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The whole theme of the set and costume design was black and white; the performers wore white shirts, black trousers and suspenders, and paper crowns or cones. The two performers who acted as Woogie and Boogie, drew black pictures on the huge white board, erasing them or transforming them as the play progressed.

As the play began, their cheerful "Hello"s were reciproated by a full-throated response from the children. The two came out with white boards with an "O" outline drawn on them, held in front of their faces. They then ran into the audience, allowing some of the eager children to draw eyes, nose and mouth in the outlines. Back on stage, a body was drawn, and the narrative began to take shape, with Woogie and Boogie first playing with the "on-off/black-white" scenario, with superb and precise lighting being switched on and off.

The two began doodling various things (the children and adults both had great fun guessing what each doodle would turn out to be).But to our amazement, the doodles took on a life of their own! A fish that was drawn started swimming in the sea that the board represented, and a little turtle turned from a drawing into a small puppet. And so it went as the action progressed; a delightful melange of drawing, puppetry, mime, and computer-generated moving images, laced with music and audio side-effects kept the audience enthralled.Soon enough, the actors are out on the stage again — amid squealing children, whiteboards in hand. The children excitedly dart up from the seats to scribble on them — this is precisely what the performance draws focus to. Doodles and scribbles are a child’s favourite companions, especially when a blank space is involved. And most often, stories take form through these careless strokes.

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A brain, and the thoughts from that brain.

“It is a multimedia drawing show. We combine hand drawings and projection to make these doodles come alive on this big white board,” says Kim Jae Woong, the video technician in the crew. This was one thing I could appreciate as an adult--the perfect synchronization between the computer graphics and the performer's actions, so that there was no glitch at all in the story. This was truly amazing, as no matter how much they have practised together, it still needs excellent timing to succeed.



Apart from the music, the strange noises the various creatures make when conjured up. were also produced by various instruments or through the voice of the cast. I was able to get only a few names of the crew members from the net: Kim Dong Hyu, Yeom Yonggyun, Lee Seungeun, Song Eyunjae...I was not sure who played what role in the production that evening; I think all six of the crew can do any of the roles if needed.Unfortunately, there was no brochure provided,nor were the cast and crew introduced at the end of the play.

Innumerable creatures and doodles later, a puffer fish slowly grew into an evil creature which wanted to eat up Woogie and Boogie. Finally, the little turtle returned to the sea and swims off to deafening applause from the audience.

The final few moments of the play also transformed the stage from a monochrome black and white to colour, as Woogie and Boogie performed lithe calisthenics against the board.

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. And, instead of going off to wipe their faces streaming with perspiration from the exertion in the humid weather, they all came to the foyer to interact with the delighted audience once again.

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The cast taking a bow, with the electronic organ and the head of the turtle visible.

Such an evening of a performance that delights young and old alike, and has enough for any age group to marvel at and enjoy, is a real treat, and our grateful thanks to Ranga Shankara's AHA! for giving us such an opportunity to enjoy this creativity.

"Woogie Boogie" by Brush Theatre, South Korea
Duration: 50 min.
Cast and crew of 6, I could not get all the names.
Multimedia presentation.
Tickets:Rs.200
July 18, 2019, Ranga Shankara

Nature Feature, July '19: A doomed romance
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This is butterfly season; you must have noticed these beautiful creatures fluttering past you, in the gardens and even on the roads, everywhere in the city. If you observe them carefully, you will find many moments of drama and tension!

One lesser-known fact about butterflies is that they hatch out of the pupa (it's called eclosing) as fully mature adults; something I had to think about and accept, being only used to a progression of living beings from infanthood onwards to adulthood.

Because of this fact, sometimes, male butterflies try to mate with a female as soon as she's emerged from her cocoon; but if the emergence is not complete, or faulty, the romance is doomed. I saw one instance of this at Hoskote Lake, recently.

Three-spot Grass Yellow : Feeding . . .

The butterfly I am featuring here is the Three-spot Grass Yellow, a very common butterfly in our gardens and fields. You can see a perfect speciman in the image above, nectaring on a common wildflower called the Devil's Coach Whip (Stachytarpeta species)

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You can see the mating of the large butterfly with a much smaller one here. All butterflies need a period of rest after eclosing, to allow them to dry out their wings carefully, and then fly off to lead their lives.

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The female, to begin with, was rather small. The male did not, I think, allow her time to let her dry her wings; so they fluttered around, in obvious discomfort, for a bit. Then they separated, and the female, unable to fly with the wings that dried crookedly, fell to the ground.


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I carefully lifted her on to a leaf; I could not do any more, but had to leave her to her fate. I think her life in the wild would be very short without the ability to fly. This is the ruthless law of the survival of the fittest; if the butterfly is not healthy, it cannot survive and thus produce less than healthy offspring.

It reminded me, sadly, of the many young girls in our cruel world, who are attacked and abused; their wings, too, are broken, and they bear the scars of such incidents forever. Nature is not always kind or beautiful; it takes some effort to accept how relentless life, and death, can be.

Theatre Review: Squirrel Stole My Underpants, Ranga Shankara, 150719
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Do adults go to watch children's plays? Or to be more precise, do adults go to watch children's puppet theatre...without children accompanying them? The answer, for me, was a resounding yes. I had been hoping to take my grandchildren to at least some of the puppet theatre festival be at Ranga Shankara, under the AHA! banner.


The "Same-Same" theme of the festival. Pic: Deepa Mohan

Language and music classes in the evenings prevented my grandchildren from coming along with me, but when a friend, Harini Srinivasa Rao, told me that she could not utilize her three tickets, I jumped at the chance, and converted my evening walk into an evening, watching "Squirrel Stole My Underpants", staged by

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a Boston-based ensemble. It was a show for "children above 4 years", and since I counted myself in, I settled in amongst the full house of children, parents, grandparents and family.


The queue (it was a full house). Pic: Deepa Mohan

The 45-minute performance was carried by Bonnie Duncan, with auburn curls, a printed frock with a gingham apron, with preppy socks and shoes. Two musicians, Brendan Burns & Tony Leva , kept up the tempo and mood of the show on the electronic cello and guitar. These instruments, which were very slim, shaved-down versions of the traditional ones, were as interesting to me as the rest of the show.


The musicians on the left of the stage.

Though the stage setting was very simple -- a clothes stand of two poles with lines! What "Sylive", the main character, brought to the narrative was, like Baa Baa Black Sheep's wool, three bags full of props. She started with putting out a large bedsheet, which served later as the screen for the hand puppets. She then added the laundry, and showed especial happiness when putting out the pink underpants to dry. Almost immediately, the squirrel turned up, and off he went, after several hilarious attempts, with that article of underclothing. As Sylvie chased him, out came a smorgasbord of articles and clothing f from those three bags...including a blue-curtain sea, a bag that she could step into and create a boat out of, a sun, a cloud to hide the sun, and so on....in sunny weather and rain, she chased the naughty squirrel.


Sylvie and her clothesline.

It was delightful to see that both the performer and the squirrel had smaller-size puppets to represent them; reality and fantasy flowed into one another with great ease, in just the way it does in childhood. Several times, the audience applauded spontaneously, cheering on the performer and her narrative.


Some papiermaiche puppets in the foyer.

The two musicians, producing a variety of sounds, evoked different moods and enhanced the production very well. The cello was tuned frequently; I did not know whether it just fell out of tune or the accompanying music required the re-tuning. But it was obvious that the musicians, too, were enjoying the spectacle playing out in front of them! At several points, the audience joined in the rhythm of the music, clapping along.

Three-quarters of an hour slipped by fast, and once the show was done and the performers had taken their bows, Bonnie gave a delightful Mime 101, inviting the entire audience to mime taking a cupful of "the most yucky thing" imaginable, trying to drink it, and spitting it out. The audience, even the adults, followed the instructions gleefully. This involvement caused another round of applause at the end.

The innovative use of props (I never knew that a pair of brown trousers and several green underpants could become a tree!) was a highlight of the show.

Speaking of highlights, the light design also added considerably to the visual appeal of the show. Now bright, now dimmed, they followed Sylvie on her adventure of search. Alas, we were not told who handled the lights!


It was a delightful show, simple without being cloying, and it was very obvious that the children and the children-at-heart enjoyed it very much. I am sure many in the audience would follow Bonnie's suggestion and try their hands at puppetry or mime.



The

AHA! Children's Puppet Theatre Festival

continues until 20th July,2019.

Squirrel Stole My Underpants
July 15, 2019, at Ranga Shankara
45 min.
No language; puppetry and mime.
Created and performed by Bonnie Duncan
Music by Brendan Burns & Tony Leva
Directed by Dan Milstein
Costumes by Penney Pinette
Set by Hamideh Rezaei-Kamalabad
Tickets: Rs.200

As an aside: Ranga Shankara needs to either update or close down its FaceBook page, which only gives details of the AHA! Festival from 2017.



Small workshops and performances by and for the children also taking place in the foyer area.

Glory Lily, Bhootanahalli, 130719
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I got the bud, the bloom, and the fading flower.
I got the childhood, the prime of youth, and the departing hour.

Kitchen musings
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On Monday, I was chopping the spinach the workers in the field gave us on Sunday. They gave us a big bunch and wouldn't take money for it, so we divided up the bunch between ourselves.


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As I chop, I muse on the fact that all this respectable-looking amount will boil down to just a few teaspoonfuls. So, too, it is with ambitions and desires....the overwhelming, dominating aims and longings of today will melt down into tiny, insignificant things, in the entirety of life. And like the spinach, other wants and needs and must-haves will take their place!

Tax....
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A poem for Union Budget 2019

Tax his land, tax his wage,
Tax his bed in which he lays.
Tax his tractor, tax his mule,
Teach him taxes is the rule.

Tax his cow, tax his goat,
Tax his pants, tax his coat.
Tax his ties, tax his shirts,
Tax his work, tax his dirt.
Tax his chew, tax his smoke,
Teach him taxes are no joke.
Tax his car, tax his grass,
Tax the roads he must pass.

Tax his food, tax his drink,
Tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his sodas, tax his beers,
If he cries, tax his tears.

Tax his bills, tax his gas,
Tax his notes, tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.

If he hollers, tax him more,
Tax him until he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.

Put these words upon his tomb,
"Taxes drove me to my doom!"
And when he’s gone, we won’t relax,
We’ll still be after the inheritance tax....
~ Author Unknown

The butterfly dirge
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Rounded Pierrot

When I started looking
At lovely butterflies,
I felt that very soon I'd be
Lepidopterally wise.

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Pointed Ciliate Blue

From Albatross to Zebra Blue
I thought it was a cinch
But the butterfly alphabet
Is killing me, inch by inch.

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Dark Grass Blue

First came the Blues, and blues were what
These Lycaenids cast me into.
Even Grass Blues are Lesser and Tiny...
Pale and Dark forms, too!

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Anomalous Nawab


Another colour, the Yellow, this time,
Cast my life in further doubt.
Three-spotted, Spotless, Common, more....
I knew not what I was about.

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Spot Swordtail


The Rings put all my mathematics
And basic numbers to shame.
Alas, a Common Four-ring
And a Five-ring often look the same!

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Danaid Eggfly


Brown was a colour I felt at ease with...
Until it was preceded by "Bush".
Trying to find out which one it was
Reduced my brain to mush.

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Golden Angle

Then came the procession
Of the scientific names;
The dry and wet-season forms,
The gentlemen, and the dames.

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Yellow Orange-tip

Under all this profusion
Of names and facts, I groan
The only butter fly I am sure of
Is when Amul or Vijaya is thrown!

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Lilac Silverline

The Homework Bird, Blr, 210619
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Both K1 and K2 often use the board on the refrigerator for their artistic efforts, and clicking these is much easier than trying to save pieces of paper (though I do that, too.)

Here's K1's depiction of her wish..." I wish I could tell the teacher that the homework...flew away!"

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I wish I also had a homework bird!

Theatre Review: "Robi's Garden" by Bangalore Little Theatre, RS, 140619
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It is always interesting to revisit a play I have watched before, and see how the production has evolved. This was the spirit in which I went to watch "Robi's Garden" by Bangalore Little Theatre, which I had reviewed in 2011.

(You can read the review

here )

But I was in for a major surprise! The earlier play was definitely one for children, with many children and BLT volunteers participating, with both the cast and the audience having a merry time, rollicking through a selection of Rabindranath Tagore's short stories. It was an occasion to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Association for the Mentally Challenged (AMC) as well as the 150th year of Tagore.

This time, the occasion was equally memorable. BLT is celebrating the fact that

Vijay Padaki

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turned 80 a few days ago, and BLT is putting up a series of events to celebrate this landmark of the doyen of theatre in Bangalore. So the focus was now Vijay Padaki, and the play took on an entirely new look.

Instead of the big cast of characters, we had just two on the stage: Minty Jain and Vijay Padaki himself; a table and two chairs, with some images being projected on a screen at the back of the stage, where all the props, the stage design being minimal in the extreme. The table was creatively used; it was, by turns, an operation table, and a deathbed!

The theatre experience was also completely different. Instead of a hall full of families and children, it was intimate story-telling theatre, in the small auditorium of Alliance Francaise, with a small audience sitting close to the stage ( I sat further back in order to be able to take photographs). The children who went to Jorasanko and met Robi da were now created in our imagination, as Minty and Vijay took the audience, once again, through a selection of Rabindranath's work.

The experience of watching Vijay on stage is very different from seeing Vijay's work as a director, or reading his work. His mastery of stagecraft was immediately apparent. He garnered the audience's minds effortlessly and took them off to Robi's Garden, populated by so many different people (not always human...for example, there is the tiger who wants to wash his black stripes off!). A clap of the hands brought on a new vignette, a look into another story, and the audience went on this roller coaster ride with the two actors on stage. Touches of humour, of satire, or gentle poking at blind customs and rituals...all of Tagore's view points were well elicited in the smorgasbord of tableaus.

The costumes were simple: pyjamas and kurtas, with colourful waistcoats, that added bright dashes of colour to the stage, and brought the audience's visual focus to the actors.The narrative was interactive in that at one point, two children were called up to the stage and included in the performace.

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The lighting and the sound contributed well to the effects of the play, but it was definitely the cast who carried the burden of the performance on their shoulders. A few lines were fluffed, but the action quickly carried on. A ten-minute interval was declared.

It was at this point that I clearly understood how an external factor can affect the playgoers' experience. My friends and I had left south Bangalore before 5 pm to battle the traffic and reach Alliance Francaise; when the interval was announced, we realized the there was no canteen and that we could not get anything to eat. We waited through the interval, and enjoyed Vijay's reading of the play, "Anklet", where he single-handedly brought the story of Malati, Damodar, and Devi alive.

But when, at 8.45pm, he asked the audience if he could do another reading and then a short piece from Tagore, we just could not wait any longer, as we also had a long drive back home through the traffic. We had to walk out, a piece of disrespect to the theatre and the artiste that we regret deeply. I personally wish Vijay had done the short piece first and the long story afterwards, at least we could have watched that. But those in the front rows opted for the long story and we had no say in the matter. As it was, it took us more than an hour to get home.

I think that every theatre venue should defintely ensure that there is some food available for theatregoers who come spending a lot of time and effort in the evening traffic, as otherwise, the evening is compromised. I have written before on the pathetic food situation at Chowdiah, with a few samosas and chai getting over too fast...it was one of the many reasons I stopped attending theatre events there.

I also wish that BLT had made the sequence of events clear to us earlier.There was no brochure available, and we had no idea how long the play, or the performance, would go on.

Another point which all theatre groups must observe is that of punctuality. The play started 15 minutes late; I find that all theatre venues except Ranga Shankara are not punctual at all, and seem to penalize the punctual members of the audience. Let me take this opportunity to thank Ranga Shankara for sticking staunchly to punctuality, in spite of often being reviled for it.

The net result was that we could not watch the evening of theatre (which we all came so far to enjoy) beyond a certain time, in spite of the excellent acting and production values, and the chance of watching a noted thespian performing. And if felt very bad indeed, to have to leave a performance before it was over, but we had no other option.

But we liked what we watched, and I am hoping that the rest of the celebration, "VP80" will have much more in store for theatre-going audiences of Bangalore.

"Robi's Garden" by Bangalore Little Theatre
A play followed by severa readings, with a 10 min interval.
2 hours approx.

Cast: Vijay Padaki and Minty Jain
Crew: Unknown
Tickets: Rs.200
Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, Fri, June 14, 2019

The religious singer, Bhutanahalli, 170619
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I clicked this photo of an itinerant religious singer, with my young friend Prem, while we were watching the Baya Weavers at Bhutanahalli koLA (pond):


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Since he was singing about the maleficient god Shaniswara (the planet Saturn), I clicked him in front of the shrine:

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I was intrigued by his loud and (rather unintelligible) singing, so I took a video of part of his song (you can see my friends concentrating on the birding in the background!)



I also saw Krishnaveni's husband and her son Punith (they run Ravisutha Hotel, where we generally have chai and brefus when we are birding in the area) give alms to the singer:



I posted on FB and asked if such a singer would have a specific name, and got a very detailed reply from Rajpal Navalkar:

"This one is Kamsale. Most of them can be found in North Karnataka. In Maharashtra, too, we have these semi classical and even classical Buas (called Bauls in Bengal) who go around singing Bhajans and Bhavageet."

He went on to add, in detail:

Religious singers are of five groups: (1) Kamsale (2) Neelagaru (3) Chowdike
(4) Gorava (5) Gane.

Professional religious singers sing only those songs which concern their chosen gods, pilgrim centres and temples. Their main purpose is to propagate the supremacy and philosophy of their particular religion to inculcate values and norms in the community. Professional singers are characterised by traditional colourful costumes and conspicuous musical instruments. They command great respect and take active participation in all the religious celebrations of their community.

(1) Kamsale

Kamsale: 'Kamsale', popularly known as 'Devadraguddas' are the disciples of Lord Madayya. 'Kamsale Mela' is a popular folk song which deals with the history of 'Mahadeshwara' (the presiding deity of Malai Mahadeshwara or MM Hills, a renowned pilgrim centre, situated in Mysore district).

The name 'Kamsale' is derived from the traditional musical instrument. It is a unique musical instrument consisting of two bronze plates. The bronze cymbal is in the form of a cup with a broad base. The other plate is a flat structure with a tassel tied in the centre. The cup is held in the left hand and with the help of the tassel the flat plate is held in the right hand and the singer clashes both of them rhythmically during the performances.

'Kamsale' singers sing either individually or in a group. when in group, this form becomes a mela and consists of three members. The main performer plays the 'Kamsale' instrument, supported by two artistes in the background playing an instrument-the 'Dammadi' and the 'Yekatari'-single-stringed musical instrument. The performance consists of narration by the chief singer, who pauses in between to interpret the story. The Kamsale artists do not wear any traditional costumes.

Their dressing is simple, they wear 'Rudraksha' beads, which is their religious emblem, and carry a satchel. They are illiterates and have no printed literature. They learn those songs orally. They participate in fairs, which are held in Mahadeshwara hills during 'Diwali', 'Shivaratri' and 'Ugadi' festivals and are found extensively in Mysore, Mandya and Bangalore districts of the state.

Thank you for all the information, Rajpal. Just a few minutes of that song had so much of a story behind it! Here is a video showing some more of KamsaLe, this time in dance: