Experiences 8: My incredible India - Julia Hesse, Dramaturgy and PR at Schnawwl talks about her first trip to Bangalore

My Incredible India

“You say you’ve seen seven wonders and your bird is green – but you can’t see me.”

Before going to India for the first time someone told me: „India is absolute. Either you will hate it or you will love it. There’s nothing in between.” She was right.
Before getting into anything in detail I tell you straight ahead: I love it. I loved from the very first moment I arrived at the airport in Bangalore. Although it was almost 2 a.m. the air was soft and warm and had a special perfume, I can’t describe, but it smelled different from home, excitingly different.

During our instrument-shopping-tour I didn’t know where to look first. The coloured buildings, the beautiful ladies with their magnificent saris of different styles, the shops with all these statues of Hindu gods and goddesses, the old woman that sold flowers to put in your hair (Kirtana once offered me such flowers for my hair. Jasmine and tiny orange flowers that smelled so unbelievably sweet and divine, that you wish to have them as your everyday perfume). The music shops were great and very different from our way of storaging instruments as drums, sitars, weeners etc. looked kind of stuffed in every free space and it was not what you would call clean or tidied up in a German way, but it was rather like a big tresurehold, where you could get lost. We bought a kanjera (but with goat, not lizard skin) and a cachon so that Coordt would have some instruments to play on during his session with the musicians we were meeting to find a cast for “Boy with the suitcase”.
For lunch we met Arundhati, the founder and artistic head of Ranga Shankara, at her theatre. She welcomed us very warmly although she was in big stress as the next day the big folk festival for traditional Indian theatre was going to be opened at Ranga Shankara and she had to leave for one day to Delhi to receive her latest price for best supporting actress, some kind of Indian Oscar…
Thanks to the excellently programmed festival at Ranga Shankara, Andrea, Coordt and I enjoyed several traditional Indian plays from all over India you normally never would get to see as a tourist and even as an Indian you would have to travel all over the country to see these kinds of different performances. As a matter of fact we didn’t understand a single word of the plays in Kannada, Tamil or Urdu, but the way of performing, the wonderful all-over present music and the impressing way of using the body to express feelings made us totally get the atmosphere and the mood of every play. Plus we were lucky enough to see big myths as the Ramayana we just produced in Schnawwl also and the story of Draupadi, this brave Indian heroic woman that fights again her fate of being pushed around and humiliated by men and is rescued by Krishna (?) who sends her a never ending sari so she can’t be seen naked.

Mission Musician

The following days we kept meeting with all kinds of musicians that were masters in handling their exotic and beautiful instruments and as I am rather good with words than scripted music, which means I’m no musician and can’t even keep a rhythm I just attended the jam-session of Coordt and the musicians enjoying the great sounds and rhythm they created without even knowing each other more than a couple of minutes. After some days we found our musicians for “Boy with the suitcase” while being in paradise on earth in form of Kirtana’s and Cookie’s farm out of Bangalore.  Sitting in the open air rehearsal space with a overwhelming view on the amazing countryside with its banana trees and round shaped stones and hills, Andrea and I got lost in the soundscapes the six musicians including brilliant and famous Pallavi, who will sing and act in “Boy” created and made us shiver with their heartbreaking improvisation of a Lullaby. Together with Shrunga, who will also act in the play, the musicians improvised on scenes in the play and invented sounds for a scene in the mountains or expressed an emotional sound setting for the children’s’ work in a sewing factory.


For “Boy with the suitcase” as a co production of Ranga Shankara and Schnawwl on all levels we want to collaborate not only on stage, but also have a common poster and production design in both cities. So on Monday Gayathri and Arundhati set us up with Sonya from “Idiom” a top agency for design and advertising, who does the design for Ranga Shankara. We agreed on having several suggestions for the design from Idiom and from our designer Tanja in Mannheim. The best ideas we will melt in one single design for our poster. I’m already very excited about the proposals and ideas of the designers and I hope we will make up something really excellent and extraordinary but fitting at the same time for both theatres and countries. Big challenge, I like that!

Cyber Classes

On Tuesday and Wednesday we went to two schools Kirtana had gotten in touch with for our outreach project “Cyber Classes&Virtual Pen friends”. This project wants to connect classes from Mannheim with classes from Bangalore so not only our theatres will benefit from our artistic exchange but also our young audience can get the most out of this interaction. The Cyber Classes give students the opportunity to exchange via internet, by blogging on one hand and by writing emails on the other hand. Additionally to an personal exchange about the different ways of life in Mannheim and Bangalore the students can ask each other about, they will get to know a lot about theatre in both countries as all classes taking part in the project will meet our ensemble of “Boy with the suitcase” during the rehearsals in Bangalore and Mannheim and they will also see the show and discuss about it. The project will be from January till July and it will end with a meeting of everybody on the internet during a skype conference with cameras, so the students can talk and see each other for one time “for real”.

The rock
My most amazing experience was our very early morning walk upon a hill near Kirtana’s and Cookie’s farm. After having wandered through high grass, banana trees, having jumped over a small creek and fought against bushes with bamboo sticks we reached the steep rock. As my shoes had no grip I was forced to leave them at its foot. First I was not comfortable with the idea of climbing the huge rock with bare feet, still having in mind the stories about snakes and spiders Vindi, a wild camp guide, was happy to tell me in the evening before (and by that arrived easily to freak me out for the rest of the night and for the big amusement of the rest of the others). But against all my fears and expectations my skin on the stone wasn’t hurt at all, but the moment I touched the solid and at the same time soft ground, I felt an enormous energy floating my whole body which I never felt before. I don’t want to sound like that Elizabeth Gilbert woman and talk about spiritual stuff, but being on that rock in the silent and still air of morning, facing a landscape so unknown and beautiful touched and marked me in a way I surely shall never forget in my life. Thank you so much, Kirtana!