27 Feb-5 Mar 2015 #747

Intolerance for hate

One World Theatre produces a play to raise questions about intolerance
Stéphane Huët

Kurchi Dasgupta at a rehearsal of The Laramie Project
The Laramie Project tells the true story of 21-year-old gay student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998.

The One World Theatre (OWT) group will stage the play at the Theatre Village in Kathmandu from 28 February to 15 March. The docudrama raises questions about intolerance and hatred.

“It’s not reserved to the gay issue,” says Deborah Merola, who co-directs the play with Divya Dev, “hatred can be related to caste, class and nationality.”

The text of The Laramie Project comes from 200 interviews conducted over 18 months by the Tectonic Theater Project with the locals of Laramie. The play tells the story of how the company collected information to create it.

The Laramie Project doesn’t push a single point of view. The docudrama format is powerful as it calls out to the audience who become an engaged part of the reflexion.

This reflexion started among the OWT during rehearsals. Some actors admitted they had preconceived notions about homosexuality due to ignorance. But most of them strongly believe the play can change the mindset of the Nepali society.

Amrit Dahal is proud to be part of The Laramie Project. “This play has the power to break prejudices on homosexuality in Nepal,” he says with determination. Indian actress Kurchi Dasgupta (pic) says her presence on stage is her small contribution as an attempt to make advancement on social rights in the region.

The Laramie Project has received an unprecedented support from local and foreign organisations in Nepal. UNAIDS brought together UNDP, delegation of the European Union, British Council, embassies of Norway, France, USA and the Blue Diamond Society for the play.

“It’s fantastic to see broad support on The Laramie Project,” says Marissa Polnerow, Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy. “It has a role in contemporary discussions around the importance of education and social justice in Nepal.”

Lena Hasle, counsellor at the Embassy of Norway says that Norway works internationally on the protection of LGBTI rights. “The Laramie Project can contribute to start ongoing discussions about what the 2007 Supreme Court verdict, establishing the right to non-discrimination, means in practice,” says Hasle.

Manisha Dhakal of Blue Diamond Society points out the importance of The Laramie Project in Nepal as the Ministry of Law and Justice has proposed a new civil and criminal code containing discriminatory clause against LGBTI people.

“We invite policy makers at the special performance on 2 March for the ‘Zero Discrimination Day’,” says Dhakal. “We hope they will understand the intolerance that LGBTI people face from their own family and even from the state.”

Because The Laramie Project is in English, questions have been raised about the limited audience targeted. The OWT responded that this production gives an opportunity to explore how statements could be written into docudramas related to Nepal.

“Our next step is to stage plays about issues relevant in Nepal that reach deep in Nepali societies,” says Divya Dev.

The Laramie Project

The Theatre Village, Lajimpat

28 February to 15 March at 5pm; except on Mondays and on 5 March: Rs 500 per adult, Rs 200 per student

7 and 14 March at 1pm: Rs 200 per adult, Rs 100 per student

2 March at 5pm: special Zero Discrimination Day performance (invitations only) followed by a discussion with the audience.

9808041124, oneworldtheatreinnepal@gmail.com

Read also:

Hidden in plain view, Ayesha Shakya

Nothing about us, without us, Sunil Babu Pant

A downright drama, Marcus Benigno

Equality in paper at least, Basil Edward Teo

Queering the pitch, Mallika Aryal

Out of the closet and proud of it, Sita Mademba