SAN LEANDRO, CALIFORNIA: After traveling to Atlanta, Georgia; Arlington, Virginia; Chicago and Los Angeles, Indian-American playwright Madhuri Shekar’s award-winning play, “In Love and Warcraft,” is set to make its Bay Area premiere at the Custom Made Theater in San Francisco November 12.
The play, which will run until December 12, follows college senior and gamer girl Evie Malone, who commands a top-ranked guild in “World of Warcraft” and earns cash selling love letters to her friends in screwed up relationships. But when Evie falls for one of her clients, she realizes she can’t use her gaming strategies to navigate the world of relationships and intimacy.
Shekar, 28, said the play, which won the “2013-14 Kendeda Graduate Playwrighting Contest,” was a response to the culture shock she experienced about the world of dating, sex, love and intimacy when moving back to the US at age 21 — she was born in San Jose, California, but moved to Chennai, India with her family when she was nine.
“There are a lot of weird constraints and expectations upon your sexuality and dating in India,” Shekar told India-West by phone from Los Angeles. “I find the same things here but only in very different ways. When you’re a college senior, you’re not supposed to be a virgin; you are supposed to have had these many relationships, but only in these sorts of ways.”
The Los Angeles-based playwright said she explored similar themes in her other most recent play, “A Nice Indian Boy,” which was the second place winner of the 2012 East West Players’ “Face of the Future” playwriting award and will be coming to EnActe Theatre in Mountain View, California, in 2016.
“It’s specifically about gay marriage in an Indian family,” Shekar said. “I used it as a lens to look at the trickiness of expectations for getting married in first- and second-generation Indian American households. Our attitudes and our mindsets have evolved past what our parents grew up with, but we are still trying to understand the legitimacy of their point of view.”
Shekar is now working on a play for infants and toddlers for the Alliance Theater in Atlanta and a script about professional women in their early 30s and female friendship.
“That also has an Indian female character who struggles with ideas and expectations of love and marriage when she’s focusing on her career,” she explained to India-West.
The 28-year-old is also working on a Shakespearean Web series with her theater production company, Better Than Shakespeare, titled “Titus and Dronicus,” a play on the title “Titus Andronicus.”
Each season of the series, currently in post-production, Titus and Dronicus will get involved in a mystery, which Shekar explained will unfold as an adaptation of a classic Shakespeare play.
“In Episode 1, we see Ophelia coming to Titus and Dronicus and hiring them because her boyfriend is acting weird,” the playwright explained. “So Titus and Dronicus get involved and they basically make things worse.”
Shekar said she and her company wanted to create their own TV show, but didn’t want to have to go through the traditional process, launching a Kickstarter campaign instead.
“We’re hoping to have it released in a few months,” she said. “I’m very excited about bringing theater and the classics to the Web in this really fun way.”
Besides being a playwright, Shekar is an assistant instructor at her alma mater USC and consults in social media, content creation and arts marketing.
She graduated from the London School of Economics and the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in global media and communications before receiving her MFA in dramatic writing from USC.