Eastern Exposure: Pratidhwani

Thanks to an influx of Washington's East Indian population, Seattle is becoming a hotbed of Eastern

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Thanks to an influx of Washington's East Indian population, Seattle is becoming a hotbed of Eastern arts. As Indian expats share the dance, theater, film, music and literature traditions of their native country, our city reaps the rich cultural benefits

Pratidhwani {Performing Arts Organization}

If you like your theater all Hindi, all the time, there’s only one game in town and that’s Pratidhwani Theater Company (pratidhwani.org). Its production of Ek Tha Gadha Urf Aladad Khan (which translates to Once There Was an Ass Alias Aladad Khan), a 1979 play of mistaken identity between a character and a donkey, packed the house at the UW’s Ethnic Cultural Theatre last May. “The audience was overwhelming Indian,” says Agastya Kohli, director of Pratidhwani’s theater productions, “with a few non-Indian audience members, who came to support the people in the production.”

A native Indian who moved to Seattle in 1999 (after a stint in Chicago), Kohli is a computer engineer in the telecommunications industry. He was involved in theater in high school in India and rekindled his interest in 2004 after volunteering with Seattle’s ReAct Theatre. He ran the spotlights and learned how to produce a show in the Western style. “I noticed that people could do Irish dialects, all kinds of dialects,” he says. “I had the urge to do something Indian.”

This urge led to his leading the drama wing of Pratidhwani, the Eastside-based nonprofit collective that organizes and produces Indian performing arts events in the Seattle area. “The mission of Pratidhwani is to empower local South Asian artists,” says Kohli. Pratidhwani also offers productions in light music, classical music and dance—between five and 15 events per year, in various rented spaces.

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