Interview with Fulbright U.S. Student Peter Seifarth
What is ‘Witch’ about? What socio-political messages were you trying to promote?
‘Witch’ is an entirely non-verbal show conceptualized, devised, and performed by the ensemble under my direction. Without the use of spoken language, ‘Witch’ uses Physical Theatre to explore superstitions surrounding Witchcraft and its subsequent oppression of women as well as other women's issues in Nepal such as suicide. At the start of rehearsals, I had the team discuss what issues they thought needed to be addressed in their country, and all of the issues were overwhelmingly related to women. The show was devised by the actors, meaning, the shows plot, scenes, and issues were all created together as a team. My role as a director was to steer the ship so to speak -- dealing more with the show’s form rather than content.
The story follows a love triangle between two close male friends and a female lover. As the story progresses, the two friends are turned against each other when the woman picks one friend over the other, marrying him. Soon we find out that the woman cannot bear children, and her new husband dies in an unfortunate bike accident. The friend that was rejected by the woman calls her a Witch, using this superstition as a means to seek revenge. The play ends with the female protagonist outcasted by her society. Struggling with depression and shame, she commits suicide to escape her situation.
After every show we had an open forum to discuss the issues at hand. We asked the audience ‘if you were in the shoes of one these characters, what could you have done differently to change the outcome of the story?’ This led to many fruitful post-show discussions.
How does that tie with your Fulbright research project?
My research as a Student Fulbright Scholar deals with the use of non-verbal communication as a tool to create shows that can engage more diverse audiences. ‘Witch’ is a completely non-verbal show that relies fully on physical movement and visuals. The show uses little to no props or set, relying only on holiday lights and the actors’ bodies to craft the show’s landscape. By using this abstraction and physical storytelling, the show can be enjoyed and understood by many people despite cultural or lingual differences. To test this theory, we invited diverse audience members to see the show, including students from the Higher Secondary School of the Deaf in Naxal who saw our final dress rehearsal on the 2nd of February. With ‘Witch’ we hope to craft an engaging theatrical event that can be enjoyed by all, as well as shed light on current social issues. Due to Nepal’s lingual/cultural diversity and it’s thriving theatre scene, it is the perfect place to experiment with Physical Theatre as a means to express complex issues.
Where is the project heading in the future?
As of now, we are hoping to open the show in Pokhara this coming year. A brand new theatre just opened in Pokhara called ‘Pokhara Theatre.’ We are working with the company and their local actors in hopes of opening ‘Witch’ soon. We would also like to tour the show internationally -- so this coming year we will be looking for opportunities in this area as well.