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The Theatre of Roots

Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage

By Erin B. Mee

After Independence in 1947, in their efforts to create an 'Indian' theatre that would be aesthetically different from the Westernized theatre established during the colonial era and prevalent in urban areas at the time, Indian theatre practitioners 'returned' to their 'roots' in classical dance, religious ritual, martial arts, popular entertainment and Sanskrit aesthetic theory. The Theatre of Roots-as this movement was known- was the first conscious effort to create a body of work for urban audiences combining modern European theatre with traditional Indian performance while maintaining its distinction from both. By addressing the politics of aesthetics, and by challenging the visual practices, performer/spectator relationships, dramaturgical structures and aesthetic goals of colonial performance, the movement offered a strategy for reassessing colonial ideology and culture and for articulating and defining a newly emerging 'India'. Theatre of Roots presents an in-depth analysis of this movement: its innovations, theories, goals, accomplishments, problems and legacies.

Based on invaluable primary research, this book takes an in-depth look at the work of three major Indian directors, all practitioners of Theatre of Roots: K. N. Panikkar of Kerala; the Kannada playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad; and Ratan Thiyam of Manipur in the extreme northeast of India. Erin Mee also undertakes a study of how national cultural bodies like the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the National School of Drama played a significant role in inflecting the nature of a movement that began with individual artists but soon came to be identified with the formation of a 'national' identity. This work of scholarship benefits tremendously from the fact that Mee brings her own theatre experience both within and outside India to bear on her research and analysis.

Erin B. Mee's articles on modern Indian theatre have appeared in TDR, Theater Journal, Performing Arts Journal, Seagull Theatre Quarterly, and American Theatre Magazine; two of her articles have been included in books on Girish Karnad and Mahesh Dattani; and she edited DramaContemporary: India, a collection of modern Indian plays published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Ms. Mee is a theatre director who has worked at some of the most important theatres in the United States, including New York Theatre Workshop, The Public Theatre, The Guthrie Theater, and The Magic Theatre. In India she has directed two of Kavalam Narayana Panikkar's plays in Malayalam with his company Sopanam. She is an assistant professor of theatre at Swarthmore College.

Part of the series Enactments, edited by Richard Schechner.

Published by Seagull Books, Kolkata. Available from June 2008.

To order: (when ordering from UK, USA and the rest of the world) and (when ordering from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka).

224 pp, 24 halftones

160 mm x 240 mm

HB, ISBN 978 1 9054 2 275 3

£ 50 / $ 94.95

PB, ISBN 978 1 9054 2 276 0

£ 16.99 / $ 29.95