Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Playwrights in Profile: Ravi Jain

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Asha and Ravi Jain

Ravi Jain and Asha Jain are the son and mother team and creative minds behind A Brimful of Asha (Playwrights Canada Press). The witty, tender and irreverent play features Ravi and Asha clashing over cultural expectations and hopes for the future — including a sequence where Asha ambushes Ravi with a series of potential wives during a trip to India.

Today Ravi speaks with Open Book about his organic method of theatre creation, the play that changed his life and getting a play on its feet.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a playwright?

Ravi Jain:

I wouldn’t consider myself a playwright in the traditional sense, i.e. someone who sits alone writing words for other people to perform. I am more of a theatre creator, which by default made me a playwright. For example, Brimful of Asha, my first published play, is a play that was created through improvisation — the final printed publication is a transcription of a performance we created (in essence it is quite similar to how Moliere or Shakespeare worked!). The play (published) is a snapshot of what it would be like to see the play… but the play lives on, it grows, it changes, it evolves. That is important to me, the play must stay relevant and immediate for the audience, and so, it changes with them.

So for me it has been a journey of collaborating with artists to tell stories that we are passionate about and find unique ways of doing that. It's been a lot of fun, and I’ve found people really respond to innovation.


What is the first play you remember being affected by?


As an audience member, hands down the play that changed my life was called Mnemonic by Theatre De Complicite. I saw it while I was living in London, England in 1999. The play was about memory and I had never in my life seen anything like it. It changed my life forever, in terms of the kind of storytelling I became interested in and eventually ended me up at the Lecoq School in Paris (a highly specialized physical theatre school), which that company was born out of.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


I often come back to a quote by Picasso, “We must never forget to see the world through the eyes of a child”.


What do you do with a play in progress or a scene that just isn't working?


I show it to as many people as possible. I get it on its feet in front of an audience, it’s the best way to know; to test the material is the only way to know.


What was the last play that you saw that really knocked your socks off?


Ismat Apa Ke Naam is a play from India, it was 3 monologues that were adaptations of a short story writer named Ismat Chugtai. All 3 were wonderful actors, one in particular was a man named Naseeruddin Shah — he is a living legend of stage and screen in India. I’d never seen acting like that. Even though I didn’t follow all of the text, I understood everything he did, it was an incredible night of storytelling!


What is the best thing about being a playwright, and what is the worst?


Creating work allows me the opportunity to inspire people to engage with the world in a new way. I like encouraging people to be creative and imagine other possibilities in their lives.

Ravi Jain is an award-winning actor, director, producer, and educator, and the artistic director of Why Not Theatre. He is engaged in many different arts organizations and creations across Toronto and the globe, including the programming committee for the Regent Park Arts and Culture Centre and the artist advisory committee for ArtReach Toronto.

For more information about Brimful of Asha please visit the Playwrights Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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