Starting in January 2016, a group of Ithaca-based actors began a 7,837 mile collaboration with artists in Kolkata, India, to create a play about borders and migration entitled “Root Map”. This collaborative piece will culminate this Thursday, March 2, at 8pm with a performance at Barnes Hall at Cornell University. The performance is free and open to the public and includes live musical accompaniment including guest musical performances by Colleen Kattau and Mijail Martínez. The event is suitable for all audiences.
About the “Root Map” Creative Team
The core creative team includes several members of Cornell University including Professor Debra Castillo, Performance and Media Arts PhD students Rosalie Purvis and Elaigwu Ameh, recent Cornell graduate and dancer Alejandra Rodriguez, as well as Ithaca-based theater artist and director Carolina Osorio Gil, who is also the founder and director of CULTURA Ithaca. Rounding out the core “Root Map” team are Kolkata-based artists Debasish Sen Sharma, renowned filmmaker and theater artist, and Debaroti Chakraborty, a dancer trained in classical Indian dance and PhD candidate from Jadavpur University. Sen Sharma and Chakraborty are also co-founders of Chaepani, a multi-disciplinary artist collective based in Kolkata.
About the Project
In order to create “Root Map”, core members “met” via Skype sessions during the course of a year to develop a unique creation process, which began with sharing their own migration stories and then reacting artistically to these stories. These stories were eventually developed into dialogue by Purvis and Sen Sharma, who are both experienced playwrights. Rocio Anica, Cornell PhD student in Creative Writing and original team member, also wrote one of the scenes. Initial rehearsals were also held via Skype sessions.
In January 2017, the Ithaca artists traveled to Kolkata to finish the rehearsal process and to stage the global premier of the play. Additionally, musicians from Chaepani created an original musical soundtrack for the piece, which they performed live at the two performances in Kolkata. Aside from performing “Root Map,” the team led a theater workshop at Jadavpur University and attended an academic seminar in the department of Comparative Literature.
Migration, Immigration, Indigeneity
The play is a living art piece, meaning that as it travels to a new performance location, the themes explored embody issues and individuals who become involved in that new location. In Ithaca, the “Root Map” welcomes Abraham Francis, Cornell graduate student in Natural Resources who is Mohawk from Akwesasne, a community that straddles, and precedes, the political border between the United States and Canada. Francis adds his experience of being indigenous to this land, where currently a national, and global, conversation around migration and immigration tends to overlook the existence of First Peoples.
Ithaca Performance and Beyond
The Ithaca performance also integrates musical accompaniment by local musicians, who have created their own long-distance collaboration with Kolkata counterparts by re-interpreting the original soundtrack in their own style. Musicians include Carlos Gutiérrez, local labor activist and classical guitarist; Mijail Martínez, guitarist and songwriter; Samuel Bosco, Cornell PhD student in Horticulture and multi-instrumentalist; and Colleen Kattau, professor, activist, and singer-songwriter. The Ithaca production is rounded out by cast members and Cornell undergraduate students Aditya Shukla and Elise Smith.
The Ithaca performance will be followed by a brief community conversation. The morning after, on March 3, the core “Root Map” team members will travel to El Paso, Texas, for a performance at University of Texas at El Paso, which is located in close proximity to the US-Mexico border. That performance will include El Paso-based artist Gabriela Tellez, singer-songwriter, as well as other local talent.
Debasish Sen Sharma Screens Aranyadeb Film
This evening, Tuesday February 28 at 7pm, Sen Sharma will present the world premier screening of his new feature-length film Aranyadeb at Cinemapolis. The film, in Bengali with English subtitles, deals with the subject matter of the India-Bangladesh border.
“Root Map” is presented by Teatrotaller, Chaepani, and CULTURA Ithaca and is co-sponsored by Engaged Cornell, Society for the Humanities, Einaudi Center, South Asia Program, Latina/o Studies Program, Dept. of Comparative Literature, and Jadavpur University. Facebook event for the “Root Map” performance can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/1859096184373802/ and for the “Aranyadeb” film screening at https://www.facebook.com/events/1473600566008230/.