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A Grand Introduction to: Parlour, or it all started with hair

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2017-01-26-photo-00000094Presented in Collaboration with TIFA Working Studios

 

The first beauty salon started in the 1800’s – one of the first businesses owned by, run by and catering to women. Even today, the beauty parlour is a space we keep going back to – to look better, to feel better, to fit in. But, who are the people who work in parlours’? What do they think of beauty? What do they think of the work they do? What do they think of us?

 

These questions inspired OQ to put together a team of dancers, theatre actors, writers and a photographer. Together we began to reconstruct the myth of beauty in the performance space. Our work was informed by days spent working at and observing parlours from within, interviewing people who work there and seeking out input from hajam dukkans, beauticians, hair-stylists and high-end salons.

 

We are looking at the concept of beauty, labour and ritual – starting with the space of the beauty parlour. The experiment hopes to expand then to space of the ‘home’ and then on to ‘spiritual’ services.

  • Process Duration: January 2017 – August 2017
  • First Showcase: 8:30 PM, M C Ghia 11th February, 2017 at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, 2017

 

We are looking at doing at least 10-15 shows across Pune, Mumbai as well as Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata in this year.

 

Note on Performance:

Imagine a space of healing, of secret rituals and whispered voices, of smiles and warm eyes. You dip your feet in warm water as someone washes away your sins. You can talk if you want to – about anything under the sun or of nothing at all. Or listen, there are stories a plenty in this sacred circle.

That mirror there? What do you see in it? Are those your empty eyes that stare back? Is that your heart unburdening itself? Stand there for as long as you want, this time is your time and the secret is safe between the mirror and you.

All those things you see – lotions, unguents, potions, poultices – products all to make you look better, feel better and win all those hearts you’ve been chasing for so long. But who is that who sits there, pulling on one colour and then the next. Will anything ever look good on her? Those red lips and rosy cheeks she so desperately paints on, those eyebrows she plucks and the hair she hides, that blemish she is covering – will it save her? Why is she so desperate? Will you hear her story? Will you help her paint a new face?

See those two? Trapped by their mistakes? Their hair pulls and stretches. You can hear them shriek in pain. Do you want to set them free? It’d be so easy! But be careful. They may not be as helpless as you believe.

And who is that man who sits in a hair. Commanding, crying, caressing – what does he want? Snip! Snip! Snip! That pair of scissors is in practiced hands, yet his bawling never stops! His lost loves, his burning desires. Who can hear them over a chopping sound?

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An Introduction to: Parlour, or it all started with hair

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parlour-1

The first beauty salon started in the 1800’s – one of the first businesses owned by, run by and catering to women. This performance examines intersections between the evolution of beauty, the work of women and gossip in a beauty parlour. And we might just end up giving the audience a haircut while we’re at it.

Parlour goes on to the rehearsal floor on the 28th of December 2016 at TIFA Working Studios. The work has about 8 dance and theatre artists involved from Mumbai and Pune. Over the next month we will explore various layers of labour and beauty through movement, text, music and processes. Since the beauty the parlour is the site of our work, a lot of the process involves research into and observations of the salon space and the people who work there.

We are currently looking for a writer-in-residence who can attend all rehearsals, conduct interviews and independent research in order to document the process and produce one or more pieces of written work as an outcome of it. This is a long-term process since labour and beauty is the first series of explorations.

Ideally we’d like someone who can write in at least one of the two languages – English and Marathi. To express an interest, please do send in your writing samples to hinaqui@gmail.com with the subject: Parlour Writers

 

 

Project Beard: alternative narratives from the Queer and Mainstream

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UPDATES:

Project Beard is now 7 months old. In these few months we successfully launched our first performance Coming Out in Pune and Mumbai. The show has completed 5 shows, generated dialogue in several spaces and was even mentioned as one of the most memorable performances of 2016 in the Pune Times.

‘Coming Out’ deals with true life experiences told through a performance moving through space. It is a theatre experience which uses multiple mediums to express, question, criticize and ideate on ‘what is, can be and is possible’ to talk about. It weaves together ensemble-theatre, art installation, music, poetry, story-telling and conversations to speak of what has come out from conversations with people from different spheres of life- the queer community, artists, theatre-makers and activists. Art installations have been guided by Ruve Narang.

Project Beard has also gone on to conducting workshops on sex, gender and sexuality in schools and develop Community Theatre as an active practice in the city. This year is going to look at more creative work through the process and collaborating with more artists, queer and mainstream, as we continue to understand what those words mean. If you’d like to support Project Beard or contribute to it, please do write into hinaqui@gmail.com.

Our supporters:

The Cultural Centre

Lost the Plot

TIFA

Expressions Unlimited!

 

Media Coverage for Coming Out

The Indian Express                                         The Times of India-article

The Times of India-review                              Sakaal Times

The Golden Sparrow                                       Theatre Potato (a blog)

The play not only questions existing structures but also advocates for an expansion of the inclusions of the term ‘queer’ and all that this umbrella term could mean. ‘Coming out’ finally is about breaking the silence, saying no to shame and guilt due to the desires, wants and experiences that individuals have felt and lived through. While walking through space, we welcome you to explore different identities, experiences, stories and the politics of what each of them embody.

 

The experience also advocates for having ‘safe spaces’ for all people to be able to come, express and experience freely and without any fear. It also looks for processes of Community Theatre and what emerges from these engagements while looking at it as processes and not just the performance as the end.

The Need:

The LGBTQI movement in India faces massive socio-politico-legal hurdles. Beyond that, there is repression that various levels in Indian society around sexuality as a whole. As allies and people with various sexual identities, we at OQ acknowledge and respect the struggle. As storytellers, we feel the need to understand and share alternative narratives around sexuality. As theatremakers, we want to create performative material that an audience can relate to.

The Objectives:

We have come together to:

  1. Create a performance by including individuals who identify as Queer in creating content for a performance
  2. Stage this performance professionally to provoke an audience’s attention and response
  3. Use that attention to foster conversation
  4. Ultimately create alternative narratives around sexuality, especially in the Indian context

The Process:

Beard is our first attempt at creating such a performance.

A basic idea: Three Characters

Two women in a relationship and the man they use as a heterosexual cover (beard) in society.

The People:

  1. We have taken the first step and assembled a team of actors.
  2. We have also begun reaching out to our networks to bring in people who identify as queer. This will be done with complete discretion and a non-disclosure policy to ensure that all queer individuals involved feel safe.
  3. The next step is to reach out to Queer Networks and organizations & activists working intersectionally in the field of sex & sexuality, gender issues, women’s issues, LGBT issues etc.

The Content:

 This simple idea is converted it into a public performance through:

  • Sessions on sex & sexuality
  • Lectures and story-sharing
  • One-on-one interviews
  • Devising drama & improvisation etc

Largely, plot-points and theatrical devices come from the actors and theatremakers.

Back-stories, character-sketches, coming-out stories, notes on culture etc come from queer individuals

Historical anecdotes, statistics, socio-economic truths etc come from the organizations

The Outcome:

 Short-term:

A play to be staged before an audience, giving them a relatable story that stars a same-sex couple and promotes the visibility of queer women

  • An immersive theatre experience, where the audience gets to explore the lives of individual characters in the story at their own leisure
  • An exhibition of visual and performance art provoked by the discussions and dialogue
  • Interactions & dialogues post each event

Long-term:

Beard is the first such performative experiment we are undertaking. Our intention is to make it a process that evolves alternative narratives through theatre-based processes. In the long-term, we want to use the intimate, experiential impact of live performance to:

  • Generate empathy
  • Provide a point of inclusion for queer individuals and allies
  • Create an anti-point to the popular depiction of same-sex relations in Indian and Western media
  • Bring conversations and stories around sexuality as a whole in to the mainstream

We also hope that in the long run, we will be able

  • To kickstart performance festivals for queer individuals and allies
  • Provide platforms for LGBTQI performance artists
  • Mentor and support similar projects, festivals and a lot more