The festival runs for eight days, from Aug. 6 to 13, at venues in Vancouver and Surrey, with Malavika, a classical Hindi dance drama presented by the Nrityenakatha troupe, hitting the stage at Surrey Arts Centre on the festival’s closing day.
The inaugural festival in 2016 was organized to echo similar events in India, where festivals celebrate the arrival of the wet-and-windy season with dance, music, theatre, film and other performing arts.
This summer, organizers of the fledgling fest in Metro Vancouver are putting a “deliberate spotlight” on South Asian theatre.
“South Asian Canadians are the largest visible minority group in Canada, yet a simple scan of Vancouver’s performing arts community suggests that there are very few South Asian theatre professionals currently working in our industry,” states a message on the festival’s website, monsoonartsfest.ca.
The festival is unique, organizers say, “given that no other broadly-focused South Asian performing arts festival exists in Canada.”
In Surrey, Malavika is an adaptation of Indian poet Kalidasa’s first play, which was called Malavikagnimitram.
“Never before witnessed by the Greater Vancouver area, this mesmerizing love story shall transpire in a grand Hindi dance-theatre production through a unique combination of Kuchipudi and Garba/Raas dance forms,” festival producers say.
“Captivating Hindi dialogues are intertwined with grand dances, sets and costumes to transport the audience to an ancient mythological Indian kingdom, which is the setting for the story of King Agnimitra’s love for Malavika, who is an unheard of maid in the royal palace. It is said that Malavika was proficient in dance and music. The diverse plot is carried forward through intense battles, sorrow, comedy, and thrilling dance sequences set to a beautiful classical Hindi soundtrack, creating a movie on stage.”
The show is performed by Donna Abraham, Chandni Datta, Sherry Duggal, Manju Ganti, Vaibhav Kumar, Prakruti Lodhia, Alex Parappilly, Geordie Parappilly, Ashvini Sundaram, Aarathi Sunthoram, Hemang Shah, Vanita Srinivasa and Savita Srinivasa, with voice actors Vaibhav Kumar, Aaushi Rawat, Nishant Sharma, Hemang Shah, Sandeep Singh, Reeti Soni, Sobhana Srinivasa, Savita Srinivasa, Amit Srivastava, Nahid Sultana and Mansi Tandon.
Show tickets are available at tickets.surrey.ca and 604-501-5566, or visit Kamal’s Video Palace (#103 8268 120th St., Surrey).
Also during the festival, Vancouver’s York Theatre will be a stage for Burq Off!, an autobiographical coming-of-age comedy about a British Pakistani girl trying to find herself in two madly opposing worlds. The show stars Nadia P. Manzoor and runs on Aug. 11 and 12.
Also part of the festival are community-engagement events, including development workshops focusing on dramaturgy, playwriting, directing, acting, dancing and music.
“In future years,” festival organizers say, “audiences can look forward to a multidisciplinary arts festival inclusive of dance, music, visual, experimental and interdisciplinary arts, showcasing Canadian South Asian artists and talents, along with a few handpicked international productions.”