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In the News:
"Mahabharata" - A New Vision

by Barbara Kowal
Westnews

Posted March 29, 2005

The following interview with director Wallace Dorian (WD) took place recently with Westnews Publisher Barbara Kowal (BK) in anticipation of the upcoming premiere of "Mahabharata" in May 2005 in Kansas City, Missouri.

BK: Could you tell us a little about this particular "Mahabharata" and what makes it different from previous adaptations?

WD: Unlike Peter Brook's 10-hour opus that appeared on PBS in 1986, this adaptation took 1 year to adapt by two friends of mine who also played all 8 roles. In other words, it was a 2-man play. How I came to it was through a video tape of the actual 1987 performance done in New York City which was sent to me. Very rare to have a taping of a play. When I saw it I was totally blown away by how these 2 actors were able to bring this off with just minor costume changes and facial hair etc. It was totally mesmerizing and seamlessly executed. After I saw it I said to myself that this should not be collecting dust and so I took it upon myself to revive it with a bold new vision in terms of light and sound design.

BK: Have you met the original adapters yet?

WD: Unfortunately, one of the adapters passed away several years ago, very untimely I understand. The remaining adapter lives in West Virginia, whom I met, but he could not get involved because of serious heart problems but gave me his blessings. You have to remember that while the original production was very austere, they only had a throne and a few live musicians, it took over a year to adapt and to coordinate the changes necessary to make the play plausible.

BK: What is your vision now?

WD: Again, keeping it simple. I have added an additional scene with the adapters permission but may use more than 2 actors. The set design while not elaborate would convey the atmosphere of the play which takes place in India 5,000 years ago.

BK: Can you tell us a bit about the "Mahabharata?"

WD: It was compiled by the great sage, Srila Vyasadeva, who, as the story goes, compiled the events leading up to and after the great war with the help of his scribe, Ganesha, the demigod with the head of an elephant. The heart and soul of this great epic is the "Bhagavad-gita" which is basically a dialogue that takes place on a battlefield. The battle itself is a fratricidal one and only lasted 18 days but as inconceivably as it sounds, 640 million soldiers were slain. The unique thing about this adaptation that makes it so exciting is that it moves fast, there is action and it is easily understood and accessible to general audiences of varying ages.

BK: Where do you hope to go with this show?

WD: My real desire is to take the play on the road but right now I'm just concentrating on the premiere in Lawrence, Kansas end of May. I'm also developing a one-man play about Srila Vyasadeva himself who compiled the "Mahabharata" 5,000 years ago called, "Srila Vyasadeva's Story" which I hope to premiere in August 2005. It's a one-man play. Much simpler. Our websites are: www.playsthething.homestead.com/krishna.html and www.playsthething.homestead.com/vyasa.html

BK: We look forward to seeing it.

WD: Thank you.