Monday, June 18, 2007

Acting With a Swami

If you unfocus your eyes, you'll see we were wearing military fatigues

Maharaj shows us his definition of serious

Mahraj shows Gopinath how to "feel it!"

Gopinath "feels it!"

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts..."
-Jaques- As You Like It Act II, sc. vii-William Shakespeare

The week before the recent International ISKCON GBC meetings here at New Vrindaban, I visited Haridas Prabhu hard at work tilling the land, where he informed me that his Guru Maharaja His Holiness Bhakti-Marg Swami would be running a theater workshop/producton during his stay.

Haridas told me that I would have to shave stomach, and put on a sari for my role. I blanched. He laughed, and vaguely told me he was just kidding. In any case, after some very fruitful theater experiences during the winter here at the New V, the first ones of my life, I was down for much more of the real thing.

Bhakti-Marg Swami is not your average member of the renounced order. Canadian by birth, he has been practicing the monastic order for the past thirty years.He can be found in these modern times visiting Radha-Krsna temples worldwide and engaging all and everyone daring enough to put on unique and powerful productions of ancient Vedic tales and truths.

I was drawn to Maharaj right away. He is the kind of personality with an immense and even ferocious amount of creative energy, yet he doesn't put up any pretensions and all he wants to do is share his passion of devotional theater with you and bring out your own unique talents, no matter how hidden.

As another rag-tag group of New Vrindaban Players assembled before Maharaj, we were all a little uncertain of ourselves and if we can hold up to the professional standards that Maharaj was very well-known for. We began by displaying our emotions of anger. I looked more peeved than furious, and Maharaj graciously said "we'll work on that."

And work it was....every night for two hours we had to try and lose ourselves, to abandon our heavy egos, and to fine-tune so many subtle details. If you were paying enough attention, there were many a lesson to be kept and saved for everyday devotional life as well, which is an entirely different kind of performance theater, but nevertheless...

I was thrust into one of the lead roles, as Vasudeva, father of Krsna, as we performed the pastimes of Krsna's birth up to his smashing of the demon Kamsa from the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

What got smashed was my poor temporary body, as the role of Vasudeva required me to be thrown and kicked across the hard temple floor numerous times a night during rehearsal, and I also had to stand-in in the role of Krsna a few times during the climactic pro-wrestling scene of the show.

I'm pretty sure I mildly sprained my ankle at one point during the rehearsal, of which I'm still recovering from. But I've never had more blissful bruises.

Maharaj was expert and gracious and demanding and a real saint to be with and work with as we got closer to showtime. With more time, we would've no doubt been able to rise up to a fully professional standard, but the real magic was seeing how a bunch of inexperienced thespians were shaped and molded into a real group of Players, ready to dazzle and enlighten.

The performance of "Tenth Canto", complete with the compositions of the grand Igor Stravinsky, closed out GBC Week at the New V in smashing form, wowing sannyasis and simple souls alike. With hope and pleasure, Maharaj asked us to keep the show alive and make it a regular feature of the ever-growing New Vrindaban Players. We plan to perform it next for Janmastami in September.

P.S Check out for updates on Bhakti-Marg Swami's third walk all the way across his home-turf of Canada.

P.P.S I have suspicions I might be able to find a video of our production of "Tenth Canto", so stay tuned here, as I will post it as soon as possible

No comments: