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Prajwala Dixit brings ‘unspoken stories’ to stage at St. John’s Shorts Festival

“Log Kya Kahenge?” playwright Prajwala Dixit and her daughter sit with one of the lead actors, Reshma Amanat, and director Santiago Guzmán.
“Log Kya Kahenge?” playwright Prajwala Dixit and her daughter sit with one of the lead actors, Reshma Amanat, and director Santiago Guzmán. - Juanita Mercer

Short play not short on diversity

"Log Kya Kahenge?"

The Hindi title of Prajwala Dixit’s second foray into the theatrical world translates to, ‘What will people think?’

It’s a question upon which people sometimes base life-altering decisions. This idea is explored in Dixit’s multilingual story of a South Asian Muslim parent coming to terms with a child’s choice.

It’s one of 26 short plays on stage between Sept. 5-22 with the 4th Annual St. John’s Shorts Festival at the LSPU Hall.

Real-life daughter and mother, Nabila Qureshi and Reshma Amanat, play a daughter and mother on stage in “Log Kya Kahenge?”, one of the many short plays on stage next week with the St. John’s Shorts festival at the LSPU Hall from Sept.5-22.
Real-life daughter and mother, Nabila Qureshi and Reshma Amanat, play a daughter and mother on stage in “Log Kya Kahenge?”, one of the many short plays on stage next week with the St. John’s Shorts festival at the LSPU Hall from Sept.5-22.

Dixit offers a diverse production both on and off stage, starring Indian-Canadian Muslim women Reshma Amanat and Nabila Qureshi, directed by Santiago Guzmán, who is Mexican-Canadian, and produced and written by Dixit, an Indian-Canadian Hindu woman.

Guzmán – who also wrote and produced another play on stage during the second week of the festival, called "Altar" – recalls an early festival meeting attended by himself and Dixit.

“I realized that we were the only two people of colour in the room. And I was like, ‘Ouch’. I was like, ‘OK, this is pretty good. It’s not only one – it’s two,’” he laughed.

He said it was frustrating, but it also gave him hope.

“I am so excited to be here, and be a part of that movement of bringing more diversity on stage.”

Reshma Amanat plays the mother in the play.

She said the story is one that, in reality, is common for South Asian families in which a child living in a western country has life-altering choices to make, but her family is back home.

On stage opposite Amanat playing her daughter is her real-life daughter, Nabila Qureshi.

The 20-minute production is part one of a four-part play that Dixit hopes to bring to stage fully in the future if she can acquire funding. A GoFundMe fundraiser has already raised nearly $600 toward that goal.

Dixit said what prompted her to write "Log Kya Kahenge?" (other than meeting a requirement in Robert Chafe’s playwriting course at Memorial University) was the backlash and discrimination she’s faced, whether it be reaction to her columns about multiculturalism or simply walking down the street.

She said about a decade ago she faced “all sorts of stares” because she wrapped a scarf around her head while walking on a cold day when she didn’t have a toque.

“The backlash that I face – being told, you know, go celebrate Ramadan. Eat x, y, z because you’re Muslim. Go back to such-and-such a country, and do such-and-such a thing. … They judge me based on the colour of my skin, and say all those things assuming I am Muslim, and that’s not right.”

Dixit said it’s those “unheard, unseen, untold, unspoken stories” that she aims to bring to light through her work in an attempt to effect change.

Festival coordinator Sharon King-Campbell said Dixit's work is "a perfect example" of the kind of productions festival organizers want to see on stages in St. John's.

"Prajwala is an emerging playwright who is dedicating her work to telling stories from her perspective as an Indian-Canadian and a woman of colour. This festival is able to amplify her voice, and we are delighted to be doing that."

For festival tickets, visit lspuhall.ca.

Twitter: @juanitamercer_


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