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Bay Area Drama Company Presents Social Justice Issues on Stage

Art is often a mirror held to the world and that thought is very true for a local drama company. From Aug. 17 to Aug. 25 at Foothill College’s Lohman Theatre the four-year-old Bay Area Drama Company will present the play “Sonata.”

Although the show runs for 70 minutes, the play itself is set at the beginning of the evening and it ends at 3 a.m. in the morning. In this character-driven story, written by Mahesh Elkunchwar, audiences get insights about three single women of Indian ancestry in their 40s as they witness the intimate conversations illuminating the women’s private lives. The absence of male characters empowers the female characters to be in the driver’s seat to tell this story.

The show is directed by Basab Pradhan, also the co-founder of the Bay Area Drama Company. The two other co-founders of the theater company are Sindu Singh, who is acting in “Sonata,” and Ravi Bhatnagar.

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“When we started out, what we saw was an opportunity for us to create another platform for theater; we thought about doing South Asian theater and we wanted to do meaningful theater,” Pradhan said. “What we mean by meaningful theater is we wanted to address some social justice themes, which includes gender issues, class conflict, inequality and the role of women.

“Some themes are universal, such as how the role of social media in today’s world can change lives completely,” continued Pradhan. “Our primary objective for the theater company is to tell stories in an entertaining way. If we get really preachy, nobody really likes that and we won’t have an audience. We don’t try to hammer a point a view in our storytelling.”

The theater company’s inaugural play was “Bhopal,” written by Rahul Varma and directed by Bhatnagar.

“The story was about a gas leak that was caused by corporate negligence in Bhopal, India,” Pradhan said. “25,000 people died. It took place in 1984. Our play ran in 2014, which was the 30th anniversary of this incident.”

According to Pradhan, the theater company does not put on musicals or Indian folk theater. Rather, realism is the defining style of the theater’s plays, which Pradhan regards as the American approach to theater. Still, the South Asian experience is present in the stories told on stage.

“In 2015, we ran a Pakistani American play called ‘The Domestic Crusaders,’” Pradhan said. “The play was directed by Ravi Bhatnagar and written by Wajahat Ali, who grew up in Fremont and went to U.C Berkeley. His story is about a Pakistani family living in the U.S. after 9/11. It was about how they’re like any American family trying to make it but how they were perceived changed after 9/11.”

Although the theater company started out featuring only South Asian talent, it has branched out to feature a multi-ethnic cast in at least one of its plays each year.

“Last year in July, we ran a play called ‘Counter Offence’ written by Rahul Varma,” Pradhan said. “The play is about the police treatment of minorities. This play was directed by Sindu Singh and featured a multi-ethnic cast.”

Pradhan wrote a play called “Greater Than,” which explores sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. This play will run in December.

“We’ve been a self-sustaining theater company with growing audiences every year,” Pradhan said. “We have a growing group of season ticket holders now who don’t want to miss any play that we put on. We have not raised any money other than from ticket sales.”

Actors come from all over the Bay Area to attend rehearsals in Belmont for the Bay Area Drama Company. Visit www.bayareadrama.company for more information about audition opportunities, future shows and ticket sales.

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