Desi Theater in Chicago

Living in Chicago, I’m lucky enough that we have the talent, space, patrons, and interest to cultivate South Asian arts. One of the most special artistic outlets we have is Rasaka Theater Company, a Desi theater company that performs “South Asian stories” by “South Asian artists”.

Rasaka Theater Company Logo
Rasaka Theater Company Logo

I first learned about Rasaka back in 2011 when I went to watch their production of Gruesome Playground Injuries, a play by Rajiv Joseph, starring Mouzam Makkar (who later went on to act on such TV shows as The ExorcistVampire Diaries, and upcoming Chicago Justice). I was serving on the associate board of a local non-profit and helped sell tickets to the play as a fundraiser. Ever the one to celebrate South Asians making the American experience their own, I was so excited to see a medium that isn’t the most mainstream art, being showcased and accessible. Hence why I am choosing to write about them now.

Rasaka was founded in 2003 by a group of South Asian artists who were looking to put on a production and worked together to bring their gifts to the community. Check out their mission statement:

Rasaka Theatre Company is based in Chicago and is the Midwest’s first South Asian American ensemble. Our goal is to increase diversity among artists and audience by engaging and illuminating the South Asian American experience. We are particularly dedicated to providing a platform for the artistic expression of South Asian artists.

Our vision encompasses the production of theatrical projects – newly created, adapted and already established. We aim to broaden, strengthen and enrich the experience of the theatre going audience thereby enhancing the local, regional, national and international reputation of Chicago theatre.

“Rasa” means the essence or inspiration of a work of art, and adding “ka” behind a word makes it “of” that, as in “of the essence of art.”  Rasaka’s goal is to increase diversity among artists and audience by engaging and illuminating the South Asian American experience, with particular dedication to providing a platform for the artistic expression of South Asian artists.

If you’re interested in supporting their mission, I encourage you to check out some of their productions. They are currently running a play based on Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya adapted by Lavina Jadhwani. It’s playing at the Edge Theater in Uptown thru February 3rd and you can buy tickets here.

Vanya (or, 'That's Live!')
Vanya (or, ‘That’s Life!’) Pictured from L to R: Puja Mohindra, Richard Costes, Rom Barkhordar, & Tiffany Renee Johnson
“Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya continues to be one of the greatest and continually relevant of plays – concerned with family relationships, broken hearts, and the rampant disappointment of midlife crisis. In this hilarious and sharp reinvention, there is great providence in the shattering of a teacup, time moves backwards, and our bored, sad Chekhovian friends have a tendency to lapse into singing American Indie folk tunes. What could be more Russian? Or American?”
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