A great swath of time has passed since the project first began. A lot of time. Yet as Kaivalya and his sons and a troop of male actors prepared for the 3rd installment of the Sri Aurobindo play the goal was now almost in sight. Though at best current estimates the final piece of the puzzle would not be in place place until August of 2018.
Kaivalya was in the midst of some last minute costume preparation as he once again recounted the story of how it all began. For certain episode 3 of the play was minutes from being performed. He believes the whole great project was first was set in motion in 1998 when Sri Chinmoy called him and said, “I would like you to do my whole, Descent of the Blue. (his play dedicated to Sri Aurobindo). Take as long as you like, use as many disciples as you like, and spend as much money as you like and make it a big job. So I said fine and started working on it.”
Unfortunately an unforeseen set of circumstances came up and the project was put on hold. “As you know when something is intended to happen and then it doesn’t happen it never reoccurs for a long long time.” It was only after many years when he was performing in a small scene from the play that the spark was once again reignited. “Then it came back to me what Sri Chinmoy had first asked me many many years ago.”
The trajectory of the play from then until now has seen the project influenced by a number of inspirations. Not the least of course were the crucial contributions of his 2 sons Devashishu and Sahadeva. They felt that breaking the play into instalments would heighten the overall experience and tell the story better than in just one long 4 hour performance. Devashishu volunteered to write the scripts and Sahadeva offered to provide musical accompaniment.
Ultimately the first section took place in August 2014 and was followed by part 2 the next year. After a gap of of one year in 2016 part 3 followed this past August which will hopefully see the 4th and final installment performed in August of 2018.
“We felt the first 2 performances worked well, then last year didn’t happen and we were all quite happy to wait a year.” Kaivalya then mentioned all the bits of the actual story that will have to be concluded in order for the story to at last be complete.
Kaivalya’s role during the play is to act as the narrator and performs in character as the elder Sri Aurobindo. “I have a very strong feeling of the play. I feel really strongly connected. In the play what I do is recall my whole life through all the other actors. It will be quite nice next year when the 2 Aurobindos meet in heaven. (younger played by Abhinabha)
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Speaking with Abhinabha as he gets into costume in the final minutes before the performance starts it seems almost incomprensible to imagine that earlier in the day he was running a very fast marathon up at Rockland State park. He says his race plan didn’t work out but he is being incredibly modest about his time for the race. He was 3rd in a time of 2:39. “I was hoping to do a couple of minutes faster.”
He says that he was not in the least distracted by his role in the play which would follow fast on the heels of his marathon. “Totally separate chapter. The marathon was just a marathon and then when I came back this thing started.” Abhinabha confesses that he had to learn a long and complicated script but that the blocking of the play and in a sense the one and only rehearsal took place only in the afternoon. “It was the first real rehearsal.” Interestingly he suggests that running a fast marathon is a harder challenge for him then performing in a play.
“The marathon is a good reality check. You can’t cheat it.”
This is now the 3rd time he has taken on the challenge of performing as the young Aurobindo. “Every time I play the part something special happens, especially the first time. It is not so much a mental or learning experience it is a spiritual experience I feel. You are embodying a spiritual master of a very high caliber. That does something to your consciousness. The first time I felt tremendous peace, both after and during the performance. I always feel so comfortable in that role. It is a very very special experience.”
“I have always had an affinity for Sri Aurobindo both for his writings and his poetry. So it was a huge honor for me and so it was a dream come true that I could play the part.” He also appreciates greatly how Devashishu was able to mold the original play into 4 self contained and meaningful portions. “He knows how to draw a story into it while at the same time doing justice to the original play.”
Despite there being a gap of one year between parts 2 and now part 3 Abhinabha says, “I always had confidence. I knew Devashsishu was planning for this year. I was confident that it was going to happen. I am looking forward to the last part because that is where Sri Chinmoy moves to the ashram with his family. That is going to be very sweet for us. ”
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“People need humor, especially after running 26 miles.” Devashishu was speaking just after completing his own theatrical marathon. One in which he had to overcome a different set of obstacles. Namely writing a hour plus script and then having a minimal amount of time to rehearse.
A few days earlier he had at least expressed some doubts about the project all coming together but now after a flawless performance he can happily confirm, “yes it has worked.”
He confesses that one of the reasons there had been some doubts was that he had gotten sick shortly after arriving in New York for celebrations. “I was just a little under the weather.” Having written and directed and performed in many plays over the years he describes the enormous amount of energy needed to make it all happen. During celebrations in particular many are involved in many different activities. “Some of these guys are in 2,3, or 4 singing groups.”
When I mention how his lead actor had run a very fast marathon just earlier he says, “I can’t imagine. A 2:39 marathon, rehearsing for a concert that is tomorrow night, and he is in a singing group that is performing every day. So to do this is something. But part of the aspect that makes this all so fun is that people are so busy that they are in a mode that is just all giving. You just have to give as much as you can when you can.”
“There is something about the dynamism that you pour into each of the events. But you get on a role here during celebrations. You are doing this and you are doing that. I think it makes you lighter, I think it makes you brighter. It makes your mind clearer and it gives you tremendous joy.”
When the play is happening he says the most important thing for him to do is to maintain the feeling “What I am really concerned about is that Sri Chinmoy’s play the Descent of the Blue has such depth and profundity in it, and how it captures Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness that you want to somehow bring that consciousness over. That is the main thing.” From both the audience’s point of view and his own he feels that play on this Warm August evening managed to do that.
“There were moments where you really felt who Sri Aurobindo is and what he gave to the world. Sri Chinmoy captures that so beautifully in his play.” As for if the final installment will take place next August he is not yet certain. “When I sit down to write the play sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t happen straight away. It can take a while and usually at some point some fire pushes it through. Some ideas come and it all starts coming together.
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