How a Writer's Journey From India to Orange County Inspired The Yoga Play

A still from the Yoga PlayEXPAND
A still from the Yoga Play
Courtesy of South Coast Repertory

Dipika Guha's route to Orange County, and her OC-infused play, The Yoga Play,  which runs this weekend at South Coast Repertory, was anything but orthodox. Born in Calcutta, India, her family moved to London when she was 2 and back to India when she was 6. Ten years later, they moved to Russia, but the ruble collapsed  and, at age 17, she was back in London. Then, she moved to the U.S. when she received a fellowship at Harvard University, before pursuing her MFA in playwrighting under acclaimed playwright Paula Vogel at Brown and Yale University.

Since then, she's worked with theaters across the country and, when SCR was looking for playwrights as part of its Crossroads Commission, which invites playwrights to come to Orange County and spend a 10-day residency working on a play, they asked her. The result of that residency is The Yoga Play, a comedy in which Joan is hired to stabilize a yoga apparel company after its CEO is brought down by a fat-shaming scandal, but finds there are more problems than that going on.

And here is Ms. Guha,who currently lives in Berkeely, to tell you all about it and some other interesting stuff:

OC Weekly (Joel Beers) : How has all your traveling shaped your writing?
Dipika Guha: I think moving around so much gave me the imperative to search for what we share in common. It also gave me a sense of our identities as fluid rather than fixed. It gave me a sense of interconnection with people who had very different upbringings and childhoods from me, and it meant that I continue to search for that interconnection through history. Moving away from both India and England gave me perspective about the baggage I was carrying. It alerted me to what I felt angry about and what I felt specifically about the tension of colonization. Living here in America introduced me to my voice as a writer.

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Did you know anything about OC before SCR offered you the commission?
I knew nothing about Orange County before the Crossroads program brought me here other than the program had been successful in birthing some wonderful plays which began their lives here.

And how did living for 10 days in OC influence what you were writing?
The Crossroads Commission provides resources for writers to come to Orange County and nose around researching topics that might interest us. I had a short list of subjects to explore but when I arrived and found the proliferation of yoga, wellness and meditation studios, I knew I’d found my subject. The last time I had done yoga with others was as an 11 year-old  in India. I had never been to a yoga class in the United States so it was a shock to the system-a good shock, one that felt productive and exciting as I tried to make sense of the juxtaposition of the often (high) cost of feeling spiritual or good with the true benefit it seems to do people. I started asking what was left out in this commercialization of yoga? And that question felt deep enough to ask in a play.

What else inspired the play?
I was was inspired to look deeper into the history of yoga in Hinduism. It led me to think about what is ancient and new, about eastern and western philosophy and about the multiplicity of our allegiences in the modern world. Many of us feel at home in places where we are not from. The ease of movement has meant that our eyes have been opened to the farthest reaches of the world and yet our desire to connect with each other is still as raw as ever.


South Coast Repertory's Nicholas Studio, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. $10-$27. www.scr.org.


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