World Premiere (Cancelled due to… our world right now?) at Victory Gardens Theater, April 2020.
Dhaba Canteen has been a Devon Avenue institution since the 80s, with their delicious Sindhi food transporting you back to the halcyon days of undivided India. Now, the Chicago restaurant is on the verge of foreclosure. And the family that owns it is ready to go to war over its fate. It’s King Lear meets The Cherry Orchard in this heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, legacy, and survival at all costs.
NEW YORK CITY: The Dramatists Guild of America has announced that the recipient of the 2020 Lanford Wilson Award is Madhuri Shekar. The playwright will be honored at the Guild’s annual awards ceremony on Monday, July 27, at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
The Lanford Wilson Award is named after the Pulitzer-winning, Tony-nominated playwright—and longtime Dramatists Guild Council member—who died in 2011. Established by a generous contribution from Wilson’s estate, and matched by a contribution from the Guild, the award is presented annually by the Dramatists Guild Council to a dramatist, based primarily on their work as an early-career playwright. Previous recipients are Francine Volpe, Mike Lew, Chisa Hutchinson, Lauren Gunderson, Christopher Chen, Martyna Majok, Isaac Gomez, R. Eric Thomas, Abe Koogler, and Charly Evon Simpson.
Madhuri Shekar’s plays include In Love and Warcraft, A Nice Indian Boy, Queen, House of Joy, and Dhaba on Devon Avenue. Her audio play Evil Eye was named one of the top 10 Audible titles of 2019. She is a graduate of the Juilliard playwriting program and a fellow at New Dramatists.
The awards ceremony will now be a virtual event, as most things are. So grateful to the Dramatists Guild for this boost, so happy that they enjoyed my plays and thought me worthy of this honor. I submitted Queen and Evil Eye for consideration, and there are a litany of amazing mentors and institutions behind both of those plays – Center Theatre Group, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Victory Gardens which gave Queen it’s final developmental push and world premiere. The amazing team at Audible Theatre for Evil Eye. Joanie Schultz and Chay Yew for Queen, Megan Sandberg-Zakian and Emilia LaPenta for Evil Eye.
Our beloved play Dhaba on Devon Avenue, was shut down two weeks before its world premiere, a proactive and courageous step by Victory Gardens to protect the health of our team and our audiences. It was a major blow. But our director Chay Yew penned this incredibly moving missive in American Theatre Magazine, one that I will treasure forever.
In the last weeks, Dhaba gave us the rare opportunity to honor our families and communities. Table work was deeply moving and personal as we all shared the tremendous sacrifices our immigrant families made to make this country their second home. Madhuri’s powerful play is a tribute to anyone who has braved oceans and deserts to reach these United States. I wouldn’t trade the time we spent in the rehearsal room for anything in the world. We’d love to have shared Dhaba with our South Asian community in Chicago, as it’s a valentine and testament to all of them. I know we will celebrate them another time and soon.
My other two March productions were also shut down, but got brief rebirths virtually.
House of Joy at San Diego Rep enjoyed a virtual run, as a recording of the invited dress rehearsal was made available to watch for a limited time. I got to experience the recording in the most joyful way possible – the cast and creative team of the CalShakes world premiere of House of Joy convened on Zoom, and we watched the stream together, chatting and sharing our enthusiasm the whole time.
And the cast of Antigone, presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s at Sacred Fools got to show off their chops in a Zoom excerpt of the play, shared to the Instagram page Theatre Without Theatre. You can watch it here!
It is a devastating time for everyone around the world. Unprecedented in our sorrow and loss. But the epicenters of New York and New Jersey, where I live, are hurting so terribly. If you are reading this, I hope you and yours are as safe and well as possible right now.
[N]othing hit harder than Evil Eye, Madhuri Shekar’s riveting play that turned everything we thought we knew about meddlesome mothers—and frankly, what an audio thriller can be—on its head. In less than two hours, it took us for a wild ride via long distance phone calls, a brilliant ensemble cast, and a refreshing Indian American narrative. Along the way, Shekar whispered deep truths about generational and cultural divides, female intuition, and a mother’s love. For me, that was the ultimate thrill.” —Kat, Audible Editor
Two very cool things happened in the same night, and I got to be at one of them!
Last night, QUEEN won for Outstanding Original Full Length Script at the 2019 New York Innovative Theatre Awards!
This was in recognition of the beautiful production earlier this year by the Astoria Performing Arts Center, directed by J. Mehr Kaur. So grateful to Mehr and her team, and to APAC directors Dev Bondarin and Jesse Marchese for giving this play its New York premiere (and my first New York production!). And especially thankful to our lead actor Mahima Saigal for accepting the award for me in a smashing sari…
and giving a wonderful acceptance speech. 🐝 👸🏽
And the reason I couldn’t be there was due to a very wonderful occasion happening the same evening… I got inducted into New Dramatists!
More to come, but so very happy to be part of this epic institution and in the company of so many playwrights that I’ve only known through reputation and their work so far – and now I get to share a clubhouse with them. It’s wonderful.
And best of all, my parents happened to be in town all the way from Chennai, and they got to be there and share this experience with me and Seamus.
Directed by: Megan Sandberg-Zakian Starring: Emma Van Lare, Raji Ahsan, Nandita Shenoy, Sango Tajima, Rinabeth Apostol, Rotimi Agbabiaka and Lipica Shah Fight Director: Dave Maier Dramaturgy: Vidhu Singh Sets: Lawrence E Moten Lights: Wen Ling Liao Costumes: Oana Botez Original music and sound: Arshan Gailus Stage Manager: Leslie Radin Dialect and vocal coach: Cherie Corinne Rice Artistic Director: Eric Ting
It’s Mother’s Day, and EVIL EYE is an Audible best-seller!
This play is a commission from the Audible Emerging Playwrights Fund, and my first attempt in the audio/radio play format. Inspired by my daily phone calls with my mother, and the darkest, weirdest parts of my brain, this play was one of the most psychologically agonizing things I’ve ever written, AND the most fun. At the same time.
Usha is convinced that the Evil Eye, a curse that brings continuous misfortune, was cast upon her daughter, Pallavi, in the womb. What else could have possibly left her driven, career-oriented daughter edging closer and closer to 30 without a prospective husband? Determined to set Pallavi on the right path, Usha arranges date after date with potential suitors—but after yet another setup fails, it seems her efforts are proving fruitless. But in an unexpected turn of events, Pallavi becomes her own matchmaker when she meets—and quickly falls for—Sandeep, a young Indian-American entrepreneur. And though she expects her mother will be elated with her finally finding a man, Pallavi is distraught and confused to find her mother growing increasingly suspicious of Sandeep’s motives…and his true identity.
Told through a series of phone calls and voicemails, this Audible Original penned by award-winning rising star playwright Madhuri Shekar transitions seamlessly from a light-hearted family dramedy to an unexpectedly supernatural thriller. With an endearing cast of well-rounded characters, sharp, natural dialogue, and a shocking edge-of-your-seat climax, Evil Eye is a can’t-miss tale about cultural miscommunications, family secrets, and the lingering echoes of trauma.
Evil Eye is an Audible Theater Emerging Playwrights Commission.
Thrilled to return to Victory Gardens in Chicago for their 2019/2020 season, with my brand new commission DHABA ON DEVON AVENUE, directed by Chay Yew.
World Premiere • Dhaba Canteen has been a Devon Avenue institution since the 60s, with their delicious Sindhi food transporting you back to the halcyon days of undivided India. Now it’s on the verge of bankruptcy. And the family that has run it for generations is ready to go to war over its fate. Written by Madhuri Shekar, (Queen) and directed by Victory Gardens Artistic Director Chay Yew, it’s King Lear meets The CherryOrchard in this Chicago story of fathers and daughters, of legacy, and of survival at all costs.
HOUSE OF JOY is getting ready for its world premiere at beautiful CalShakes in August 2019, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian. The script has grown tremendously in just the past month, and a team full of astounding artists are on board to help realize this swashbuckling epic fantasy.
The play: House of Joy is an action-adventure romance set in a harem at the beginning of the end of the Mughal Empire. Once upon a time and place, in something like 17th century Delhi, an imperial bodyguard risks her life to fight for what’s right, turning against everything she’s been raised to believe.
HOUSE OF JOY is scheduled for its second production at San Diego Rep in March 2020, co-directed by Artistic Director Sam Woodhouse & Arpita Mukherjee!
And coming up next…
ANTIGONE, PRESENTED BY THE GIRLS OF ST CATHERINE‘S will have a reading on April 29, at WP Theatre. Co-produced by Movement Theatre and Hypokrit Theatre, and directed by the marvelous Taylor Reynolds. RSVP here.
And a project 2 years in the making, something I couldn’t be more excited for…
My audio play EVIL EYE will release on May 3 on the Audible Platform, free for all subscribers. A dynamite cast and creative team led by director Megan Sandberg-Zakian helped me make this a story I’m truly proud of. Sign up for your free trial or keep an eye out the first Friday of May for the play to drop!