Some love tales conclude with the couple getting married and living happily ever after. Some are filled with twists and turn. A few become well-known enough to be remembered for ages and chosen up by theatre production houses.
While most people know about Romeo and Juliet, this time it’s a story coming to Langley from across the oceans.
The heartbreaking love story of Mirza, the mightiest archer and Sahiban, a beautiful young maiden, is one of the most popular folk tales of Punjab, India.
The two who grew up together sharing millions of romantic moments later discover that their relationship is frowned upon by their family. Defying societal norms, Mirza challenges fate and rides straight to Sahiba’s house, and the couple decides to flee the village.
When death comes near, Mirza feels betrayed by Sahiban.
A reinterpretation of the popular tale will be presented on stage as part of the seventh annual Monsoon Festival of the Performing Arts, being presented by the South Asian Arts Society. It’s offered at various Lower Mainland venues, including Langley.
The production, titled Dooja Ghar [The Other House] – A Mirza Sahiban Story, has a majority of its dialogues in English and the rest in Punjabi. But playwrights Paneet Singh and Andy Kalirai said the context would be understandable to audiences.
Actor Arkie Kandola, who plays the role of Hans the narrator, said his role is like that of an owl in the story. He watches and observes Mirza and Sahiba, and interacts with the audience in depth.
During rehearsals, Kandola realized some similarities between his personality and his role.
“I feel like we all are storytellers, and this is a beautiful story to tell,” said Kandola, who is also part of a soon-to-be-released movie, Easter Sunday, starring Jo Koy.
For Gurpreet Sian, South Asian Arts Society executive director and Monsoon Festival producer, the return of live theatre post-COVID is special.
“Our upcoming festival marks a return to live events, after what feels like an eternity. We’re sticking to our roots and presenting the premiere of a locally developed theatre piece,” he said.
With the festival kicking off with the play, the festival will also feature free workshops, such as a Zoom writing session Aug. 10 and a session on art and business Aug. 17 in Vancouver, as well as dance lessons in Richmond on Aug. 7, 14 and 21. The festival will wrap with an outdoor celebration in Vancouver’s historic Punjabi Market Aug. 28.
“The festival celebrates South Asian art in the world, offering a diversity of great programming options. Festival attendees will experience theatre, music and dance, a marketplace of visual art, dance classes, fascinating development workshops and more,” explained Sian.
There are six performances scheduled at Langley’s Campbell Valley Red Barn, 1065 224th St. with opening night on Aug. 5. Tickets cost $20 plus taxes. For more information, people can visit monsoonartsfest.ca.
“The audience can expect to be entertained with love, drama, action, deceit and full commitment. We’ve been rehearsing for five weeks so we really have been dedicated to putting on the best show for our audiences,” Kandola concluded.
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