The Hindu | It’s story time!
Australian playwright and theatre personality Lally Katz on telling true, personal stories on stage and her Indian connection.
We all love to listen to stories. And when we have acclaimed playwright and theatre personality Lally Katz narrating a real life experience, it is a fantastically-engaging experience and a great listen.
Brought to the city’s Jagriti Theatre recently by renowned Australian theatre company Belvoir, Lally dazzled a packed audience recently in the play Stories I Want to Tell You in Person. Directed by multi-award winning director Anne-Louise Sarks, the play was brought to India through the assistance of the Australia India Council and the Australian High Commission.
Excited about performing here, Lally says India is one of the most fascinating places she has ever been to.
“There is so much theatricality everywhere. On the streets, every corner you pass is like a scene full of great characters. I’d love to come back and spend more time here.” She adds that being her first performance in the country, she’s quite kicked about connecting and interacting with the audience here.
Stories I Want to Tell You in Person is the story of how Lally spent a grant provided by Belvoir (intended for to her to write a play about the global financial crisis) on consulting a fortune teller in New York. The play is part confessional, part travel documentary, and a fascinating examination of life and art. On what led her to a fortune teller in the first place, the playwright confesses that it was a mixture of things. “I was on the lookout for answers. I was researching a play on the global financial crisis and, at the same time, confused in life about where I was in my personal life and career. I was strolling down a street pondering over these issues when I chanced upon a store on psychic reading. One led to the other and here we are doing a play about the whole experience.”
A fortune teller in New York City. Isn’t that absurd? Lally, however, contends: “You know what? I never noticed them before. But they are literally on every street corner. You don’t see them unless you are looking for them. It’s funny. You wouldn’t think about it but they are all around.”
Pitching in, director Anne-Louise Sarks says the most important thing she’d like the audience to take away from the experience is the whole connection with Lally itself. “Just the courage she has in playing herself and telling this story while engaging the audience in an honest way, is itself a takeaway. This is a stripped back form of story-telling. And Lally takes on a lot of characters. There is plenty of theatricality and surprises to the show that we’ve added to take it that extra level.”
What inspired the name? Anne-Louise says quite literally, that’s what the play is. “We sort of wanted to play around the fact that it is just Lally telling stories.”
Brenna Hobson, executive director of Belvoir points out that they are looking at an Indian connection. “That’s the thing with Lally. The way she writes her stories is she lives her life and goes on an adventure. At some point we will wind up with an Indian play from Lally.”
Lally agrees and sums up: “There’s so much happening in India. I’m sure I’ll have rich experiences to take back home and, who knows, one of them may end up being my next story.”
Jagriti is a Performance Arts space dedicated to Theatre, Music, Dance and Comedy. Founded in 2011 by Arundhati and Jagdish Raja, the space has hosted several productions from India and around the world. A 200-seat theatre built around a full-thrust stage, it is fully equipped to cater to both artistes and audience. The main stage is designed for intimate performances, with adjoining spaces for informal lectures and gatherings, and an attached restaurant. Jagriti is owned and operated by the not-for profit ART Foundation, a registered charitable trust.
The Rooftop - above the main auditorium is an open-to-sky space with a stage area that can accommodate about 50 people. A raised and walled off platform can work as a perfect area for puppet theatre. The Rooftop has a restroom and a pantry.
The Terrace - alongside the auditorium can accommodate about 20 people as an informal gathering area.
Lumbini - extending out from the foyer, Lumbini has a stage and an open-to-sky terraced space for about 80 people.