Dipika Guha: Women Authoring Change

By Hedgebrook Staff

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Categories: Women Authoring Change,

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Dipika Guha is a playwright and an alumna of the Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival. We asked her about her work and about being a Woman Authoring Change.

 

Tell us about your work as a writer—do you write in multiple genres/forms?

I write predominantly about otherness; the experience of feeling like you don’t belong in your skin, in your personality, in your sex, in your century, in your country and sometimes all of that all together. I write to connect my small life with larger political and historical forces. I’m interested in how the microcosm of our domestic experiences relate to the macrocosm of world news and national events. I think that these connections are often sly and mysterious and I find myself writing to discover them.

I’m interested in pushing the theatrical form forward and particularly in the ways in which female subjectivity shatters conventional form. I love the fact that writing plays offers an opportunity to begin the world anew both on the page and with collaborators in the room.

I have not written much in other genres…yet. I’d love one day to write a musical and perhaps a film. I constantly marvel at what is possible in other art forms; I love the expansiveness of the Victorian novel and how pure color provokes profound emotion in visual art …but always find myself asking how to steal what works in other forms and use them theatrically.

 

Do you consider yourself an activist?

I think the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The effort of my writing is always to bring something to light both in myself and in the world. I think of my writing as an archeological exercise where I am unearthing my own complicity in relationship to the thing that plagues me. I always try to place myself in the conversation I’m seeking to have. As a writer I dread didacticism. I would never want to feel that any of my characters was purely standing in for a point of view.

That said, I’m drawn to voices marginalised in our culture. I am attracted to thinking about blind spots in our culture and what and who is missing from the conversation. I’m interested in creating new forms for the stories I write because I think narrative structure is very vocal; it reveals point of view without needing to state it. My writing is trying to create a space that doesn’t always exist in the world. In this sense, it is rebellious, it is pushing against what is there.

 

 

Would you characterize your writing as activist? Why or why not?

I think, again, I would and wouldn’t.

I do believe in the power of speaking in a voice that is truly yours.

I believe that when as writers we commit to doing this, it can and does liberate others.

In that sense, I suppose all writing that comes from this commitment is activist…it inherently possesses the potential to change the world.

However, I’m aware that just because I live in a democracy it doesn’t mean that I don’t experience censorship. The terrorizing buzz of the media has created a climate where each of us can, if we wish, ignore the facts and tell ourselves the story we most want to hear.

My newest play, UNRELIABLE, tells the story of a woman, her adoptive mother and a man imprisoned somewhere much like Guantanamo. All three are deeply committed to their truth, what emerges is that all three are deeply invested in preserving their story, their version. I’m interested in creating a piece where the audience chooses a story as the play unfolds. And that we experience the cost to holding on to the story we choose. The play is perhaps the most explicitly political of my plays and might be characterised as activist. I hope, however, that the humanity of the characters holds a far greater weight than any argument the play is making.

I’m also about to begin a commission with the Yale School of Law on a play about human rights. I have the amazing opportunity of bringing in pages from the work in progress to students at the Law School who can respond from a legal point of view. I think this project may synthesise many of my interests but the hope is, as ever, to create a work that speaks more broadly than to any singular cause.

 

What impact do you hope your writing will have in the world?

My hope for my work is that it opens up, both on the page and in performance a space for conversation and dissent. I don’t believe in characterising female experience in any homogenous way but I do hope that women in particular and people who dis-identify with gender norms will find a place in the work that feels authentic. I think of the mind and of intelligence as being androgynous. I think this filters through into my work and I hope it creates a space that is inclusive.

 

What’s the best feedback you’ve received from a reader/audience member?

My mentor Paula Vogel says ‘write the next play’. Yes. And the next. And the next!

 

About Dipika Guha:

Dipika Guha was born in Calcutta and raised in tea drinking countries. Her plays include I ENTER the VALLEY (Weissberger nom ’14), MECHANICS of LOVE (Upcoming Roundabout Underground Reading Series), BLOWN YOUTH (New Georges/Barnard) and THE RULES (Upcoming: San Francisco Playhouse production, SuperLab Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb, Joust Theatre). She is the inaugural Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship recipient, a current Playwrights Foundation Resident, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, Time Warner Fellow at the Women’s Project Lab, Ars Nova Playgroup and Young Writers Program at the Royal Court Theatre alum. Her work has been developed at OSF, Old Vic New Voices, Fault Line Theatre, Naked Angels, Cutting Ball Theatre, the Flea, Hedgebrook Women’s Playwriting Festival, One Coast Collaboration and the Tobacco Factory (UK) amongst others. She has been awarded residencies at the Ucross Foundation, SPACE at Ryder Farm, the Rasmuson Foundation and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program. BA: English Literature (UCL) MFA Playwriting (Yale School of Drama) under Paula Vogel. Current work in progress: UNRELIABLE through the Soho Rep Writer Director Lab and LIFTED with Sarah Krohn. Despite a long run in the north east of the United States she still drinks tea. Learn more on her website: www.dipikaguha.com

 


 

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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

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