A Brimful of Asha was a lovely piece to experience. Generosity and inclusion are the engines of the collective creation, between Ravi Jain and his mother Asha Jain. From the moment you enter the space Ravi and Asha sincerely offer food and conversation. After sitting, eating, and talking with Ravi and Asha the show fluidly dissolves into a spontaneous and lively performance. This is the magic of the show: the debate about arranged marriage in many cultures is so often seen as exclusive, Ravi Jain creates a love-driven opening to this debate by including the audience in these deep questions about life and love.
Ravi and Asha are equally evanescent on stage, demonstrating a sensitive love for one another. However, with this sensitivity comes the possibility for vulnerability, pain, and self doubt. Ravi Jain, a Toronto based actor sincerely and playfully experiments with the many emotionally charged conversations he had with his mother about arranged marriage in this piece. It was absolutely delightful to talk to him about his experiences, thoughts, and feelings about the whole endeavour. I am very grateful that he took the time to talk to me about this show. I strongly suggest you live this experience for yourself. A Brimful of Asha runs until February 26th at Tarragon Theatre.
Ravi Jain, Asha Jain. Photography by Erin Brubacher.
Describe why the process of creating this piece was different from all the others you have done.
I spent this process with my Mum which in itself is very different. Also for my normal process I am used to rehearsing a lot, but with my Mum I wasn’t able to do this. It wasn’t necessary for the improvised nature of the show. In order to preserve the spontaneous nature of the show I had to keep rehearsals to a minimum. So part of the strategy of the process was trying not to rehearse, which was different than what I normally like to do, which is to rehearse a lot.
What unexpected responses did you get from the audience?
People talk and are very vocal about their reactions, there was one night in particular, where a woman screamed at my mother a lot. I was about to reign it back, that was interesting, she really had an agenda, so it was interesting, since the vibe is meant to make you feel comfortable with contributing. At the same time we don’t have much time.
I found this interesting because what I really wanted to do with the show is to demonstrate how amazing my Mom’s intentions are. We both want the same thing, we just have different ways of getting there. That is something I really understand more is that her drive is pure, and I think that it has taken me a long time to really understand that. This is why I believe it is so great that people get to see that, there is stigma around arranged marriage, but, there is also a lot of positivity.
You were trying to make art of your own experience, and of course you wanted to make art of the audience’s experience. What kind of experiences did you want to give the audience that they don’t normally receive with other shows?
I went to a school where everything we did was in relation to the audience, the whole premise of the audience was there was no fourth wall. So a lot of what I do involves directly speaking to people. That is very important for the work that I do. This absence of the fourth wall was really important to make the audience feel as if they were coming over to my house. For example, if you came over to my house you’d have food, you’d want to tell your story, and you’d want to hear the stories of others.
By having your Mum as your only co-actor in the show with no theatre training did you find your perspective on acting and performance change? If not, then, why?
One of the things that actors try to do is to be in the moment, when I work with her I have to be. I have to be so focused I can never go on auto pilot. I always have to be in the moment with my Mum, not only for me, but, for her. I need to be there in case anything goes wrong. Fortunately she is so generous. Her ability to be open and available and spontaneous is so inspiring. You want to be around that energy, you love provoking that every night and playing with that. We aren’t coming out of the show to repeat something we are coming out to live it. That is what any actor wants to do, and it is an amazing opportunity to actually do that.
What part of the story do you find the most difficult and the most rewarding to perform?
The fights that I had with my Mum. It is not very nice to do that kind of thing in public. You feel vulnerable, you don’t want to tell the truth that you were an asshole to your Mom. We all are at some point, but I struggled with it. The reality is the whole thing, it is a whole piece. There are times that I doubted these moments, I wondered is this too much? Is this too real to put my Mom here? Those were risks that were scary but rewarding.
Describe the purpose of the videos you have going around.
I actually wanted to put them in the show, however, every time we tried to it broke the flow of the story. I really liked them. They were made to show people that this is a kind of conversation that everyone has at some point, or you could have at some point.
Food—explain the food you have included, and how including it enhances the story and suits the themes you are exploring.
It really surprised people, it makes the piece remind you it is about family. That is where I spent most of my time. It is amazing that through this experience we all had to eat, sit, and talk to my Mom. In my family we told stories about our days. Our guests would be involved in this exchange. So, food for me is about including that audience into our family. If you are a guest in my house I want you to feel very special. I thought it would be a great way to do that.
Describe this show in five words
Inviting, fun, honest, relaxed, and moving.
Ravi Jain, Asha Jain. Photography by Erin Brubacher.