NNPN Festival Spotlight Part 4: Minita Gandhi

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BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAY 10, 2019

Florida Studio Theatre teams up with the National New Play Network (NNPN) this year to host the NNPN Women in Playwriting Festival right here in Sarasota, inviting four women playwrights from around the country to bring their latest work for a series of staged readings from April 24 through May 10. The featured artists each receive a week of development sessions with FST, followed by the reading and a talkback session to receive feedback from the audience. In this four-part series, SRQ goes backstage with the playwrights.

Born in Mumbai but now based in Los Angeles, Minita Gandhi concludes the NNPN Women in Playwriting Festival with MUTHALAND, a dark comedy about a young woman returning to India for her brother’s arranged marriage, uncovering family secrets, encountering prophets and finding her voice along the way. The reading will be tonight at FST.

With MUTHALAND, why use comedy to explore these topics? In my own life experience, I have learned that humans are equally capable of beautiful and terrible things. So I find naturally there is tragedy in comedy and comedy in tragedy. The advantage is that both myself and the audience can have a truly full experience and go on a journey together. We get to be with fully fleshed out characters with rich and complex motivations.

Why are festivals like this important today? Our theater should represent the nuance and complexity of our world. Yet, for years we have been attending theater written and produced by straight, white men. We have watched women written and directed by men. And when you have women write powerful women and stories from their own rich experience we all benefit. We change the lens and do what theater was meant to do.

How can the theatrical community support women playwrights year-round? Go see plays written by women. Don't give your money to theaters that build seasons around straight white men. In the end, it's a business. You can define the art you want to see by where you put, and don't put, your support. 

How does playwriting give you a voice? I use my art as activism. Art is powerful. Our stories are powerful. And playwriting has allowed me to share my story and find my voice as a woman, an artist and an activist in this world. I can say things through my characters that I myself could not. The audience and I have a conversation that cannot be had in any other medium.

Pictured: Minita Gandhi.

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