13th of September the mono-performance «Introducing Living Smile Vidya» will be played in Tojo Theater in Bern. Lucify.ch talked with the actress and trans-activist Living Smiley Vidya.
Living Smile Vidia is a full official name of the queer refugee artist from India. Smile, as friends call her, belong to the “dalit” minority, one the most oppressed casts of the Indian subcontinent. It is a highly patriacrchal society with the clear social and economic imbalance gender-caste discrimination, violence and denigration of a woman. All this make it twice surprising and admirable for Smile to take courage and transgress all possible limits making a decision to follow the own path of freedom. In fact, she was the first Indian to officially change her name.
I was honored to attend the rehearsal and the premiere of Smile’s solo-performance on the invitation by “Treibstoff Theatertage Basel” as a “Komplistin”. In this sense I had a possibility to observe work-in-progress, sneak behind the curtains, follow the evolving of the artistic work and participate in the after-premiere discussion. Despite the fact that the actress uses stand up form as a tool to tell her story, my first impression from it was laugh through the tears: so sensitive were the issues that were tackled, so clear was the pain and suffering of the main character and so naked was her beautiful wounded soul as presented in the theatre play. However the second encounter during the premiere in “Roxy” theater Basel was more charged with humor, provocation, self-irony and positivity.
“Introducing Living Smile Vidya” is the play that introduces not only talented actress, columnist and social activist to the Swiss artist community, it also introduces India with its controversies related to gender, especially to queer people. Furthermore, it reveals private drama of a person not accepted by her family and going through the series of violent and aggressive events also here in Switzerland, being threatened by fascists, traditionalists and other groups.
“Introducing Living Smile Vidya” is an artist work in collaboration with Julia Stöckli (Basel) who facilitated the body representation on the stage through the creation of meaningful costumes, Moritz Flachsmann (Basel, Luzern) who provided an impressive audio-visual support and Marcel Schwald (Basel) who accompanied Smile as a mentor. Together with Marcel Smile already worked on the gender topic in 2018 being involved in the production of the artistic piece called “Ef-femininity”. Contextual framing and initial research for “Introducing Living Smile Vidya” was undertaken by Dominique Grisard, head of Swiss Center for Social Research.
The performance of Vidya can be seen 12.09, 15.09 and 16.09 in Tojo Theater Bern.