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Why Not Theatre partners with Shaw Festival for epic production of the Mahabharata

Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON (October 31, 2017)Why Not Theatre, in partnership with the Shaw Festival, embarks on a new international collaboration adapting the ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata.

Premiering in 2019, this new adaptation of the Mahabharata is co-directed by Ravi Jain (Canada) and Jenny Koons (USA) and features a cast from the South Asian diaspora and a world-class creative team comprised of artists from Canada, USA and the United Kingdom.

“In 2014 we were commissioned by the Pan Am Games, and created a piece called Gimme Shelter, which looked at a small portion of the Mahabharata called the Bhagavad Gita. It was an incredible opportunity to play with international collaborators and engage with large questions, and portion of a massive epic,” says Ravi Jain, artistic and general director of Why Not Theatre. “Thanks to the Canada Council’s New Chapter Fund and the support of the Shaw Festival, we are now diving deeper into the full depths of the Mahabharata. It’s an incredible labyrinth – a gripping story steeped in deep philosophical and religious ideas. We’re thrilled to be assembling an international team to re-examine this seminal classic through a contemporary lens. In line with Why Not Theatre’s constant examination of who gets to tell what stories on our stages, this will be a rare western exploration of the text that will feature a cast composed entirely of members of the South Asian diaspora.”

“The Mahabharata is rooted in fundamental questions of action and inaction in the face of instability and conflict. I cannot think of a timelier epic to explore when each day’s headlines force us to face life and death decisions and consequences across nations and borders,” says co-director Jenny Koons.

“I called Ravi Jain to ask him if he would be interested in doing a version of the Mahabharata, only to find that he was already working on a plan! Talk about the stars aligning. Ravi is collecting a thrilling group of artists to do what The Shaw does best: breathe new life into an old masterpiece,” says Tim Carroll, artistic director of the Shaw Festival.

Often compared in significance to the Iliad or the Odyssey, the Mahabharata is one of the great works of world literature – a kaleidoscopic portrait of gods and humans living every passion to its fullest that has shaped Indian thought for over 4000 years. The scale and difficulty of the work has meant that it is rarely produced outside of India.

The Mahabharata is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada. This ambitious production will also receive support from the London-based partner Complicité.


About Why Not Theatre

Why Not Theatre is an agile, international theatre company based in Toronto, Canada, rooted in the values of innovation, community and collaboration. Our work is inventive, cross-cultural, and reflects our passion for the exploration of difference. We challenge the status quo by examining what stories are being told and who is telling them. More than just a theatre company, we develop creative strategies to build a healthier and stronger arts ecology. We MAKE and tour critically-acclaimed and award-winning new work, SHARE resources with other companies and artists to produce and tour their work, and PROVOKE change through new producing models and the presentation of work for new audiences. We are led by a core team of Founding Artistic Director Ravi Jain, Managing Director Owais Lightwala, Executive Producer Kelly Read and Associate Producer Sandra Henderson. www.theatrewhynot.org

About the Shaw Festival

Inspired by the spirit of George Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival creates unforgettable theatrical encounters in any way we want. The Shaw Festival, home to Two-Way Theatre, is a place where people who are curious about the world gather to share the unique experience of live theatre. For more information, please visit www.shawfest.com.

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Media Contacts:

Laura Hughes
Senior Communications Manager
Shaw Festival
905-468-2153 / 1-800-657-1106 ext. 2222
Owais Lightwala
Managing Director
Why Not Theatre
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