Saturday, November 3, 2012

The foreign Connection

 Parvathy Nambidi

imageTerry Converse (Pic: Mithun Vinod)

Knowledge transfer and learning have no limits. This has been proved by academicians who have entered the country to teach Indians. Students are not only exposed to different styles of teaching, but get a global perspective. Edex spoke to the expat professor who is gung-ho about the Indian assignments

Terry Converse

Terry Converse, Emeritus professor of Theatre at Washington State University, USA, has been quietly imparting the nuances of contemporary world theatre to dramatists in Kerala. Converse, who came to Kerala in July to research on ‘Innovative mask characterisation exercises in plays’, is collaborating with Kochi-based Lokadharmi theatre group.

He describes his stint with the state as an ‘overwhelming experience’. “The actors are more naturally inclined here. With their rigorous movements, they can exert more physical force than the American actors, who stick to Kitchen Sink Dramas, which are more stylised,” he says.

Along with Chandradasan, artistic director of Lokadharmi, Converse is directing two plays — The World Renowned Nose (It is based on a short story of the same name by Malayalam writer Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer) and The Elephant Man (an adaptation of the famous play of John Merrick about a disfigured man).

Converse plans to use masquerading and gibberish language as major acting tools in these. “Acting with mask helps actors sustain their stylistic imagination because it enables them to shed away their original identity. It is a device with immense possibilities, which the actors in Kerala are yet to familiarise themselves with,” he says.

Converse, who read for his PhD in Theater Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles, feels Keralites genuinely appreciate art. “Watching plays is a high-price affair in the US and is usually enjoyed by the elite class. In Kerala, I got a chance to see a few excellent plays. More than the plays, it was the excitement of the audience, which comprises people from all walks of society that interested me. Here even common people have the aesthetic sensibility to understand art. The root cause of theatre is to bring together people of all class, which is happening here,” says Converse.

Converse graduated in MFA-direction from the University of Minnesota, USA, and has written several books on theatre.

The 66-year-old has produced notable plays like Tale of the Lost Formicans, Death and the King’s Horseman, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Dancing At Lugnasa.

Courtesy Indian Express 05th November 2012