March 30, 2013

Waiting for Spring: Diptych

Waiting for Spring, Alessandro Andreuccetti     


Bird-song wakes me up today: the sky is clear, sun-washed blue and the sunlight strong and honeyed. It streams down, tiger-striping my balcony with its warmth. The air smells of packages waiting to be opened, newness and surprises nested inside each other. Below, poking their heads above the dark, coarse earth, yellow-hearted purple and white and pink flowers bloom. Their names are still unknown to me but their colors are not. I drink it in all, the gray already relegated to a distant planet of memory. 

The wait is over: spring, my friends, is here.

Waiting for Spring image courtesy Saatchi Online

March 27, 2013

Silent Shakespeare: Seeing Sea in 'The Tempest'

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and by way of celebration, my husband surprised me with tickets to a Silent Shakespeare production of The Tempest at Synetic Theatre, Washington DC. Yes, you read right: Silent Shakespeare!

I love the theatre although I must admit that I much prefer watching, rather than reading plays; when I am reading plays, I inevitably spend more time visualising and 'directing' the play in my head, rather than focusing on the language/overall text. Shakespeare is a rare exception though and that too only recently. Despite being an English Literature student during my undergraduate years, I have somehow only now begun to fully appreciate Shakespeare's extraordinary word-play, how he mines multiple meanings from words or wields them as functional tools or musical instruments or weapons, depending on the situation at hand. These are flesh and blood words, which possess distinct lives and personalities of their own - while remembering literary quotations have never been a great forte of mine, Shakespeare has always been an exception.

So, I was very curious to see how a Shakespeare production in absence of words would turn out to be -  'see' is certainly the operative word as it would have to largely rely on the visual presentation and to further extend the word play, what with The Tempest being set upon an island, the sea and water play elemental roles in the production.

Still from 'The Tempest'

On being seated inside the theatre, the first thing that one heard was the lulling sound of waves pounding the shore; having been greatly missing the sea lately, it was a much loved and welcome sound and peering down upon the stage, I saw a large expanse of water which would literally become the theatre of all the actions and events occuring in the play. As an usher chuckled, those sitting in the front-row were often severely drenched and as the play inched towards its conclusion, I realised what she meant! It nevertheless made for an intriguing prologue to the show.

The Tempest is the ninth production of Silent Shakespeare and as Director, Paata Tsisurishvili remarks in the Director's Notes that accompanied the play, "Since our first production in 2002, I have often been asked, without the language, is what we do really Shakespeare? I believe it is. Since Shakespeare has been translated into multiple languages, his words having found multiple expressions and becoming a truly universal institution in the process, we believe that language of movement is no less valid method of exploring his work than any other. As Shakespeare himself painted with words, we attempt to paint his words with our images...'"

And paint they certainly did...

The play celebrated the beauty of movement: light turning the sea a peaceful jade or a furious red, Prospero's flowing robes soaring and swooping during a dramatic encounter and as in one of my favorite scenes above, rivulets of water streaming down from the piano keys visually embodying music. The absence of language does initially challenge you but as you become immersed in the play, the body's physicality and the sheer flexibility of it, universe of facial expressions, and the undulating surface of the water all become alphabets to contribute to the vocabulary of this language of movement. Yes, there is a determinedly exaggerated grandness to the emotions, expressions, and even, the costumes but that becomes the production's signature touch, its unique approach to interpreting and translating Shakespeare's text. Towards the end, as the players happily dance away in unison, creating an arresting sight of dance, music, sound, light, and movement merging together into a visual symphony, you realise that not a word has been uttered - and has not mattered, after all. 

Do you like watching Shakespeare, whether in film or theatre? What has been your most favorite experience??

Photographs taken by Johnny Shyrock and courtesy Synetic Theatre

March 20, 2013

My Life, One Instagram at a Time

Ladies and gents, I have a new toy and it's called a smart phone. Fine, I am many (many!) years late to the party but it's gleefully novel to me anyway - and Instagram tops the many delights that this new toy has afforded me. In my pre-smart phone days, whenever I saw or heard about Instagram, I secretly used to wonder people's dedicated commitment towards documenting the nitty-gritty of their lives through it, whether it was photographing their lunch or most recent shoe-purchase or dusk waves on a beach. Now, since I have joined the club (but of course;) I see it as a visual scrap-book, memorialising the random and elevating the mundane moments that constitute my days. It's bit akin to the manner in which I make notes in my journal; they can function as inspiration for a poem or a short story...or simply add shape and color to a day, rendering it memorable when it was otherwise destined to be forgotten. 

Here are the randoms and mundanes from my Instagram diary:


I dabble in oil-painting every now and then and here is a glimpse of the work while it was in progress; while I *think* it is now complete, I find myself suddenly subjecting it to an intense scrutiny and mentally re-painting it in entirely different set of strokes and colors. Sigh. If I take even half as long as I usually do when revising my writing, for instance, this painting will have undergone several more avatars by the time it can be called complete.


The first thing that pierced my mind upon seeing this piece of mineral art (it is no less than art, right?) was a phantom sea-urchin. While I enjoy seeing and wearing gems in their polished, soignee forms, their natural states are equally splendorous. I spotted this subterranean/submarine beauty at the Carnegie Natural History Museum's Gems and Minerals section.


Food-grammers particularly bemused me: weren't you concerned about the dish getting cold or - disintegrating - or deflavoring in your quest to perfectly photograph its prettiness? Well, here I am with my maiden food-gram:) I had intense waffle cravings last week and just before I was about to indulge, I instinctively reached for my phone and captured its deliciousness. How could I not? The butter-ball is begging to be photographed!


Many, many summers ago, during a trip to Germany, I discovered a baby, green pine-cone nestled at the foot of its parent tree; I secreted it away in my jacket pocket and carried it back with me to Oman, following which it proudly occupied a spot on my dressing table along with other bits and pieces that had caught my fancy at the time. Seeing this pine-cone made that baby green one come alive once again:)


Sometimes, you idly look up and then, without looking down even once, whip out your phone and take a picture of whatever you are seeing, afraid that the moment will pass or that thing might just suddenly embrace gravity and avalanche down upon you, a ballistic blur of yellow-green-turquoise glass spaghetti. And then, you walk away, without looking back - or up.

Are you a regular Instagrammer or has the excitement long worn off?

PS This will be my last Instagram-related post (for a while!)