Meena’s Dream, a play by Anu Yadav—set to a live, original score by three musicians combining South Indian classical traditions, contemporary jazz, and indie rock—premieres January 8 through 19 in a Forum Theatre production at Round House Theatre Silver Spring. Yadav, an 11-time recipient of a DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities grant, is best known for her 2004 one-woman show, ’Capers, in which she played residents protesting the demolition of a DC public-housing project. Writer Ann Blackman talked with her.
What’s Meena’s Dream about?
It’s the coming-of-age tale of a nine-year-old Indian-American girl whose mother is severely ill and cannot afford the medicine she needs. Frightened that her mother will die, Meena imagines that Hindu God Lord Krishna comes to her to ask for help in fighting a mysterious force known as the Worry Machine, which is threatening to destroy her world. Meena’s powerful actions remind her mother that she doesn’t have to face her health struggles alone.
What prompted you to write it?
My dad passed away when I was 12, and things weren’t easy for my family. My mother had to take several jobs while going to night school, and I worried she would die, too. I had a recurrent dream that Krishna was sitting on my bookcase, but when I woke up, nothing was there. My imagination became a way to escape and cope. I decided to use this as inspiration.
The issues of poverty, trauma, and faith run through your work. What do you want an audience to take away from this play?
We are at a point in our society where wealth inequality is ever-widening. Reality shows are mostly about absurdly wealthy people, when in reality so many are losing jobs and homes and going without. It’s like a sweater unraveling, and right now these stories are not being shared. If, as a child, I had known that other people struggled, I might have coped better, but these were not things we talked about. Even now, we don’t know how to talk about them. So I want to share stories about people’s lives from the perspective of the people themselves. I’m hoping this play can provoke a dialogue about these contradictions. We need community. I want to remind people of that.
Tickets $20 in advance at forum-theatre.com; by donation at the door.
This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Washingtonian.