South Asian Theater Festival 2015, Columbus
4:30 PM - Inauguration.
5:00 PM - Basbhumi - The Hearthstone. (With English Supertitle)
7:00 PM - Break.
7:30 PM - Sitaraha - The Stars. (English)
8:30 PM - Panel Discussion - Topic: Theater as the Voice of Repressed Woman


Sitaraha – The Stars Written by Monirah Hashemi, translated to English by Anna Zastrow and directed by Leif Persson, Sitarah premiered at Riksteatern’s Teaterdagar in Sweden. It depicts the stories of three Afghan women from three different areas of Afghanistan. Afghan women are a kind of hostage in the game for power in their country. Halima is to be stoned for being raped by her stepson in the 2000s, Gul Begum has lost her family in the war in 1992 and Sara lives in the 1980s civil war. Using some simple props: a sheet, a colorful scarf, a golden bowl and piles of books and papers, Monirah Hashemi fills the stage and lets these three stories of three different women intertwine—sexual assault on the sheet, but a loving wink behind a beautiful shawl, and then war, sorrow and loss when the shawl becomes a dead bundle. One could call this a kind of Witness Theater. The title’s “stars” are these women’s stories that nonetheless can light up the dark sky—the dark history of Afghanistan. And Hashemi combines in an incredibly beautiful and expressive way the play’s various levels: songs of traditional life, dances and gestures, with the need, indeed, the duty to write down and fill all these papers and books taking up the stage—to document the history of women. Hashemi also unites something joyful and vibrant. Her Pishpo-dance is absolutely magnificent; everything is not just pain and oppression, and the show’s beauty and strength says something about the Afghan woman’s identity.
Bashbhumi – “The past is never dead, it’s not even past”- it is this realization that brings back Haimanti, one of the daughters of Anandamohan Chakraborty, from the human-jungle of Bombay, to her native place in a suburban town of Bengal. Six years ago, she was ostracized from this township and banished by her parents to her uncle’s residence in Bombay, in order to hush up a scandal, nay, the ravishing of her woman-hood by notorious gangster.
Has she come back for vengeance? Well, that is a different issue altogether. That she is allowed to put up in one of the rooms of this palatial house for a day or two, is due to mercy of her father who has softened a great deal over the years. But Haimanti is in no need of mercy or pity anymore. She is bitter. She is strong and she is rich. The six hellish years in Bombay have taught her to walk steadily on way of the world. She has not come here to reconcile with those who have robbed her of the virginity of her “Soul“. It is the questioning Haimanti who shocks the complacency of those who had taken her for granted. Her questions lay bare her very root….her one time abode. The rootless woman comes back to her “Roots”. Just this, could have been the subject matter of our play. It isn’t the story of Haimanti alone. It is the story of woman’s plight in man’s world. It is the story of man in a world dominated by those who, out of sheer habit and accidentally gained power, call themselves “Men”. It is the story of being “Human” and learning to be “Human”.


Meghnad Bhattacharyya

Bengali theatre director and actor

MEGHNAD BHATTACHARYA: India During the ceaseless journey of 36 years, Meghnad did never retreat to court the challenge of making productions of various original plays as well as translated or adapted version of the creations of great playwrights which carries a clear evidence of his reputation and popularity. Meghnad Bhattacharya is not only one of the founder members but also the greatest friend, philosopher and guide of Sayak – the theatre group which has become a household word in the world of Bengali Theatre in course of his long and eventful journey of 40 years. The superb efficiency in directorial maneuver as well as stupendous acting skill of Meghnad in 21 Full length & 07 Short play productions helped Sayak to reach the pinnacle of progress. Meghnad is nothing but a spontaneous marvel when he makes original plays especially for two playwright’s viz. Chandan Sen and Indrasis lahiri and an equally competent creator of translated as well adapted plays of the great masters like Tolstoy, Brecht, Schedrin, Dode, Somerset Maughm. His miraculous and endeavoring willingness in organization, unflinching devotion to theatre helped Sayak in rousing a place of honour and admiration in the heart of theatre lovers. He is the main mastermind behind the continuous full house shows of Sayak for the last 36 years not only in the different states of West Bengal but also in different corners of the country and in U.S.A. Canada Bangladesh and Kuwait too. It is under his able leadership, Sayak with its larger involvement in multifarious theatrical activities built up a theatre hall named BIJON THEATRE at North Kolkata in 1979in the name of the legendry late Bijon Bhattacharya – the father of Bengali Progressive Theatre. Besides Sayak, Meghnad has acted in important roles in Shakespeare’s play directed by Utpal Dutta and Giris Ghosh’s play directed by Bibhas Chakraborty., produced by the Govt. of west Bengal and Bijoy Tendulkar’s Kanyadan by Bratya Basu. He has also directed ‘Charduar’ produced by Gandhar another leading theatre group of Bengal. Meghnad has also directed three plays produced by Bangiya Natya Parishad & Prabasi at Canada in 2006 , 2008, 2013 and a play in 2013 by Epic Actors’ Workshop at North America. Apart from theatre Meghnad directed several TV plays in different channels and has also acted in at least 50 TV serials and films.


Playwright and theater director

MANIRAH HASHEMI: Afghanistan/Sweden: Monirah Hashemi is a playwright and theater director. Her family migrated to Iran 30 years ago and she was born there in 1985 and she came back with her family to Afghanistan in 2003 and settled in Herat. To live in migration gives her less but taught her a lot. She experienced social injustices from childhood to adulthood in Mashhad, Iran until she moved to Herat, Afghanistan in 2003. That was when she could see a different face and aspect of prejudice, injustice, discrimination, inequality and etc. Monirah Hashemi is a founder of Simorgh Film Association of Culture and Art (SFACA). She has been leading the theater department for years and she is also the director of women department in Simorgh. She started working as an actress in 2004 and one year later established SFACA. She started with acting and then screen writing and later on directing short movies. To experience new things and to know what she is looking for, she participated in the first educational theater festival in Herat in 2006. She wrote “Cry of History” and directed it and together with her all her students rehearsed it. The festival was the first theater festival invite boys and girls from high schools to compete each other. 21 high schools, 10 boys and 11 girl’s high schools joint to the festival. “Cry of History” performed at the opening of the festival which welcomed audience from both men and women. The rest of the festival divided into girls’ and boys’ performances and of course the male audience was not allowed to see the girl’s performances. The play won the first prize of the festival and opened its way to the national and international festivals in Kabul and India as the first play produced all by girls and women in Afghanistan. Since then she has been working professionally as actor, playwright and director in Afghanistan and abroad. She wrote and directed “Letter of Suffering, Salsaal and Shamaama, Stones and Mirrors, Flute Sonance, Masks under Burka, Sitaraha – The Stars” which performed in Kabul, India, Germany, Turkey and Sweden. She has been working with Helena Waldmann as Afghan Coach on her play “Burka Bondage” in Berlin in 2009 and she has been a panelist member of South Asia Theater Festival in New Jersey, USA in 2010. Simorgh and Monirah has been working with Bond Street Theater on “Theater for Social Development Projects” as co – director and writer in Herat, Kabul and Jalalabad since 2011. Monirah moved to Sweden end of 2013 and she wrote her new play “Sitaraha – The Stars” while she was giving speeches about “Exchange instead of charity – Culture and art as a tool for citizenship and democracy” and the play directed by Leif Persson, actor and director from Sweden. She also worked with Helena Waldmann from Germany on play by the name of “Burka Bondage” as Afghan Coach. Also she has been a panelist member in the South Asia Theater Festival in New Jersey, USA in 2010. Recently she and a group of volunteers organized a theater festival by the name of “A Night with Buddha” in Bamiyan on 11th of March 2013. The day the statues of Bamiyan exploded by Taliban.


Director and Actor

Director, actor and regional coordinator of theatre at the Riksteatern Värmland (Sweden), Leif has a long experience in theatre and has been active in a large variety of the country’s independent theatre and institutions. Until the late 1990s, he was the chairman of the theatre centre for independent theaters nationally. In recent years he has been actively contributing to stage artists of other ethnicities so they get the opportunity to establish themselves in the country. Sitarah is such a project.

Panel Discussion Details

"Theater as the Voice of Repressed Woman"
Distinguished Panelists:
Dr. Dipan Ray: Founder- Epic Actors Workshop.
Dr. Elizabeth Wellman: Ohio State University.
Jessie Glover: Otterbein University.
Leif Persson: Manager, Riksteatern Värmland, Sweden./Director.
Manirah Hashemi: Theater activist and performer.

Prabir Das: All Shades Theater.