House of Joy, Inspired by Indian Legends, up Next at Cal Shakes

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(Niyantha Shekar, Photographer)
Playwright Madhuri Shekar has had previous works developed or staged at the Kennedy Center, Center Theatre Group and the Old Globe Theater.

    After two years of development at top theaters including the Atlantic Theatre, Juilliard, New York Stage and Film, Pratidhwani Theatre, South Coast Repertory and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the world premiere of Madhuri Shekar’s House of Joy comes to the Bruns Amphitheater.
    The California Shakespeare Theater presentation, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, runs Aug. 14-Sept. 1.
    “I’m thrilled that House of Joy is getting its world premiere at Cal Shakes,” says Shekar. “I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful setting for this epic, larger-than-life adventure story.”
    The playwright describes House of Joy as an action-adventure romance inspired by the legends of Indian history. It is set in a harem at the beginning of the end of the Mughal Empire and tells the story of Hamida, an elite female bodyguard in the Emperor’s Imperial Harem.
    Faced with an impossible ethical quandary, Hamida tries to help an abused Queen escape the heavily guarded harem, risking her life and going against everything she was raised to believe.
    “The title of the play is to be taken literally. There is a lot of joy in it, there is a lot of acceleration, surprise and delight,” says Sandberg-Zakian, adding that it’s exciting to be in a “muscular, fast world that is also a world of brown people, a world of women and gender non-conforming folks, and a world that reminds us that other empires besides ours have risen and fallen.”
    According to Artistic Director Eric Ting, House of Joy is part of Cal Shakes’ New Classics Initiative. New Classics productions are timeless dramas from across cultures.
    Single tickets for House of Joy are $20 to $94 with discounts available for seniors, youth, students, military families, persons age 30 and under, and groups. All shows are at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda. Patrons can order food from an on-site cafe, or bring a picnic basket and enjoy the scenery of the Orinda hills’ fragrant eucalyptus groves with splendid views. 
    A free shuttle is available from the Orinda BART station to the theater, starting two hours prior to curtain. Additional information and tickets are available at www.calshakes.org or by calling the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510-548-9666.

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