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Directors to showcase Onwueme's plays in India

RELEASED: Sept. 16, 2010

Dr. Tess Onwueme
Dr. Tess Onwueme

EAU CLAIRE — A play written by a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire English professor will open Sept. 18 in New Delhi, India.

The Hindi translation of Dr. Tess Onwueme's play "Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen" already was showcased in New Delhi in August as a Khatakali, a traditional form of narrative theatre that emerged in southern India more than 300 years ago.

The International Centre for Kathakali in India now plans to take the English version of Onwueme's play on tour throughout India, beginning with the performance in New Delhi this weekend. This is the center's first production of a foreign author. In the letter announcing the production plans to Onwueme, Sanal Edamaruku, president of the International Centre for Kathakali, called her "one of the greatest living authors."

"The international acclaim is simply exhilarating and humbling, all at once," said Onwueme, who recently returned from India. "Somehow it makes me feel like a 'grown up girl,' and yet with a lot more room to grow bigger and taller."

The International Centre for Kathakali, the India National School of Drama and Jawalharal Nehru University have collaborated to perform "Shakara, Dance-Hall Queen" as a "modern play" in Onwueme's original English form.

The production is being directed by three people: Professor Shiva Prakash, dean of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU; Dr. Rajenderan, associate professor at the India National School of Drama; and Dr. Kumaran, a Tamil director trained in France.

"I've seen an excerpt from this production and it is a fascinating, intense form of dance, mime and music joined together," said Dr. Jack Bushnell, chair of the UW-Eau Claire English department.

Onwueme said plans also are under way to translate three more of her plays — "Riot in Heaven," Legacies" and "The Missing Face" — into Hindi and have them produced on stage in Kerala in south India, Mumbai in west India and New Delhi in north India.

Another director, also a professor at the Indian National School of Drama, is arranging to produce Onwueme's award-winning "What Mama Said" on stage in New Delhi.

One of the best known and most prolific women playwrights of African descent, Onwueme has received many international awards, including the African Literature Association's prestigious Fonlon-Nichols award. The award is given annually to a black writer whose works have demonstrated a commitment to democratic ideals, humanistic values and literary excellence in writing.

An international conference focusing on Onwueme's work was held in 2009 in Nigeria, Onwueme's native country. The high-profile event attracted participants from throughout the world.

Onwueme's works explore a range of social, political, historical, cultural and environmental concerns of the masses, women, and youth being left behind in the geopolitics of today's global market culture, the people of African descent — particularly those in Africa, the inner cities of America, the Nigerian Niger-Delta and other impoverished communities around the world.

Onwueme has been a distinguished professor of English at UW-Eau Claire since 1994.

For more information, contact Dr. Tess Onwueme at 715-836-4041 or onwuemto@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB/DW

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