Some love tales conclude with the couple getting married and living happily ever after. Some are filled with twists and turn. A few become well-known enough to be remembered for ages and chosen up by theatre production houses.
While most people know about Romeo and Juliet, this time it’s a love story coming from across the oceans – and involving the creativity of a Pitt Meadows woman.
The heartbreaking story of Mirza the mightiest archer and Sahiban, a beautiful young maiden, is one of the most popular folk tales of Punjab, India.
The two who grew up together and shared millions of romantic moments, find their love earns disapproval from their families. Rejecting the societal norms, Mirza challenges fate and rides straight to Sahiba’s house, and the couple decides to flee the village.
When death comes near, Mirza feels betrayed by Sahiban. But was that her intention for real?
A reinterpretation of the popular tale will be presented on stage as part of the seventh annual Monsoon Festival of the Performing Arts, being presented by the South Asian Arts Society. It’s offered at various Lower Mainland venues, including the closest in Langley.
The production, titled Dooja Ghar [The Other House]: A Mirza Sahiban Story, has a majority of its dialogues in English and the rest in Punjabi. But playwrights Paneet Singh and Andy Kalirai said the context will be understandable to audiences.
Choreographing multiple contemporary dance performances, Nasif Kaur Sall, a Pitt-Meadows-born dancer, said the heartbreaking love story includes a lot of goofy and intimate dancing.
Though a South-Asian herself, it is Sall’s first time working within her community.
Coming from a family of blueberry farmers, she grew up on a farm in a big family.
Sall was just three-year-old when she started dancing. After finishing high school and post-secondary program at Arts Umbrella dance school, Sall started working in and around Metro Vancouver. Even during her time at the school, she was doing multiple film and television projects.
With experience working in Vancouver and Montreal, the 23-year-old now helps local artists as a choreographer.
When her old friend and one of the playwrights, Andy Kalirai, approached her to be part of this play, Sall quickly agreed.
Joining the crew as a professional choreographer, she started building and working on ideas.
Sall said it was a little bit of a challenge finding the suitable material to give to the performers but added that working with a “talented and thoughtful” cast was a gift.
Describing her choreography as an art “based heavily in contemporary dance,” Sall said she works a lot with face and imagery.
For Gurpreet Sian, South Asian Arts Society executive director and Monsoon Festival producer, the return of live theatre post-COVID is special.
“Our upcoming festival marks a return to live events, after what feels like an eternity. We’re sticking to our roots and presenting the premiere of a locally developed theatre piece,” he said.
With the festival kicking off with the play, the festival will also feature free workshops, such as a Zoom writing session on Aug. 10 and a session about art and business on Aug. 17 in Vancouver, as well as dance lessons in Richmond on Aug. 7, 14, and 21. The festival will wrap with an outdoor celebration in Vancouver’s historic Punjabi Market on Aug. 28.
“The festival celebrates South Asian art in the world, offering a diversity of great programming options. Festival attendees will experience theatre, music and dance, a marketplace of visual art, dance classes, fascinating development workshops and more,” explained Sian.
There are six performances scheduled at Langley’s Campbell Valley Red Barn, 1065 224th St. with opening night on Friday, Aug. 5. Tickets cost $20 plus taxes. For more information, people can visit the website monsoonartsfest.ca.