From the Folks at SALAAM
SALAAM was created during the summer of 2000 to empower and sustain the careers of dedicated artists who wish to further develop their craft in a nurturing and supportive environment, while promoting South Asian American artistic excellence. We accept and acknowledge our responsibility as a vital community resource that is firmly committed to sharing the riches of South Asian culture with all theatre audiences while maintaining a pledge to support a wide variety of causes fighting for social justice. This commitment stems from the belief that the answer to breaking down stereotypes and the walls of prejudice and ignorance lies in understanding our similarities and differences. Ultimately, SALAAM intends to follow the advice of Bertolt Brecht, "Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it."
Headed by unrelenting perseverance and abundant creativity embodied in its active founder Geeta Citygirl , SALAAM is a space for ALL creative spirits. We are one, in this community, in this city, in this country and in this world. The desire is to break the boundaries and lines that divide us. We have to link up all people and all creative disciplines.
The public birth of SALAAM was celebrated on October 6th, 2000 with an evening of performances emceed by NYC's famed drag queen, Cristal Snow, followed by a night of drinks, food and good conversation at the East Village's Karma Restaurant. Our official launch event took place on Friday the 13th of October, where we presented a reading of Manjula Padmanabhan's Harvest. Due to the success of our first reading, we began SALAAM 3rd Mondays (S3M), a monthly salon/showcase series that includes original and published pieces of work, to be shared the third Monday evening of each month at the Asian American Writers' Workshop in Midtown Manhattan. We accept both published and unpublished works including one-act and full-length plays, screenplays, monologues, and any other performance pieces dealing with the South Asian experience as well as films, music, dance and visual art.
Since October 2000, our readings have included Bina Sharif's My Ancestor's House, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's Behsharam, Minal Hajratwala's Avatars, Mrinalini Kamath's Boom, Anuvab Pal's Chaos Theory, Out of Fashion and Life. Love and EBITDA, Mikael Meskanen's Valium, Julio-Alexi Genao's The Happiness Proxy, Debargo Sanyal's Drowning in Fisher's Pond, Deepa Purohit's Exiled, Vijai Nathan's Push and Good Girls Don't But Indian Girls Do, Betty Shamieh's The Black Eyed, Nibras ArabDrama Collective's Sajjil, Deborah Grimberg's The Honey Makers. Due to the devastating January 2001 earthquake in India, we donated ALL the proceeds of our February reading (Manjula Padmanabhan's The Artist's Model) to the Janvikas Agency in Gujarat through the India Relief and Education Fund to help with the survivors of the catastrophe in India. We are thrilled to announce we collected $2001 at that event. In June 2001, we held a reading of and had the great opportunity of bringing Delhi playwright, Manjula Padmanabhan to the NYC theatre scene where we featured two pieces from The Sextet proceeded by an excerpt from the 'fictitious memoir' or 'semi-fictional memoir' Getting There which was then followed by our traditional SALAAM Q&A and reception with food from Minar Indian Restaurant. And in August 2001, our reading featured Thirty Days in September with India's award-winning playwright, actor and director, Mahesh Dattani.
Soon after our over-capacity sold out 2001 Spring Benefit Bash at Bose Pacia Modern in Chelsea, we were determined to use the money raised for our first production and I'm pleased to announce we held our first off-Broadway theatre production, A Cry to Resist Injustice with Aparna Sindhoor's Navarasa Dance Theater, at The Mint Theater in Manhattan's theater district (dedicated to the memory of Phoolan Devi and political prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal).
And after 9/11/01, we, like many folks, had to rethink our role. As most of us experienced the tragedy, weeks later we began to reflect on how truly uncertain life is. And as artists, how do we matter? Are the arts important? Questions in those days when we all felt so helpless. After reading the NY Times Arts and Leisure cover story about how other artists were having the same dilemmas, reading stories from folks like Paula Vogel and Bill T. Jones, made me realize that art does have a place and task.
A month later, we organized a fundraiser for Local 100's HERE (Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employees) NY Assistance Fund to help assist the undocumented workers and hotel/restaurant victims and families affected by the World Trade Center attack with, Share, Heal and Celebrate Life with performances from Palestinian-Brooklyn sista, Suheir Hammad, the wonderful sounds of Alms for Shanti, Nimo representing the hip-hop group Karmacy , the urdu poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz by Raza Mir, the revolutionary words of Sunera Thobani as passionately delivered by Mona Chopra, the comedy of both Aladdin and Vijai and a host of others.
The Joseph Papp Public Theater hosted our 2001 Thanksgiving Benefit Bash which was emceed by the amazing D'Lo and Atul Singh featuring performers such as Sunita S. Mukhi, Rizwan Mirza, Priya Ayyar, Vijai Nathan, Zeina al Qamar, Vidur Kapur and the music of Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa. And we were so pleased to join forces with The Artists Network of Refuse and Resist to present Imagine: Iraq-- an evening of readings held at Cooper Union's Great Hall in November 2001.
Since then, we have been as busy as ever with SALAAM Theatre taking on new ventures and joining hands with many organizations including The American Museum of Natural History, WBAI's Asia Pacific Forum, Epic Theatre Center, MAHINA MOVEMENT, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, Sundance Channel, Fox Searchlight, Theater for the New City. SAMAR Magazine, INSAF, internationally renowned Indian theatre director Habib Tanvir, Immigrants' Theatre Project, Lower East Side Tenement Museum and many more plus Nimo from Karmacy helped kick-off our new musical segment, TUNEFULNESS - where we direct the spotlight on bands, musicians who have the opportunity to perform in a theatrical setting.
We also enjoy sharing our young voice at CAPA's Asian Heritage Festival at Union Square Park where our own, Geeta Citygirl served as co-Master of Ceremonies at the 2003 festival and started our annual TRIBUTE TO RABINDRANATH TAGORE.
In addition, as a social and political theatre group, we continue to endorse and help with various political actions including a National Day of Solidarity with Muslim, Arab and South Asian Immigrants, March for a Free Palestine - Protest the Israeli Siege of Palestine, War without End? -Not In Our Name March and Pledge of Resistance, National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation , The White Ribbon Campaign for Peace and many more. We also linked forces with Prina-NY to help with the monthly Feed The Homeless community event.
Because of the amazing response since the start, we launched our monthly e-newsletter, THEY SEE DESI, where we help network and promote artists and have also created the SALAAM supporter listserve where folks can share events by email (the cheapest and coolest way to publicize). Be sure to join by clicking on the yahoogroups link on our website. For our future, in addition to continuing SALAAM 3rd Mondays, we are committed to bringing attention to our unique mission of linking up ALL THE ARTS and ALL CREATIVE PEOPLE. It's our universal stories that must be heard whether it's through theatre, dance, music, performance art or film.
As a final note, a little inspirational story -- After the 1st event in October 2000, I (Geeta Citygirl) had the delightful pleasure of briefly meeting Tony-Award winning director of Broadway's The Lion King, Julie Taymor at a Brooklyn Academy of Music event (Ratan Thiyam's Chorus of Manipur, India) and told her about SALAAM. A month later we got our FIRST donation check from none other than Ms. Taymor -- a wonderful blessing indeed!!! Remember, your support helps us raise the visibility of the South Asian American experience and share the voice of our community with an ever-increasing and diverse audience. This has been an amazingly exciting journey so far and we have many more ground-breaking ventures lined up!
Feel free to contact us with any ideas or suggestions you might have. SALAAM is your posse and your group so get involved and also remember, we do not receive money from anyone but you and live solely due to the generosity of private donations so muchas gracias and dhanyavaad to all our supporters!
In the service of bringing all people of all creative disciplines together,
|Copyright 2002, Roger W. Tang
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