Introducing Indian Theater

Welcome to the variety of Indian performing arts, which combine dance, drama, and music to tell stories old and new, to address current social issues, and to entertain a wide range of audiences.
This comprehensive yet delightfully accessible digital anthology introduces India’s distinctive, influential, and continuously developing traditions.
Using a treasure trove of videos, images, music, and newly conducted interviews, combined with well-informed lectures, demonstrations, and exercises, “Introducing Indian Theater” provides an unparalleled overview of the wonders of Sanskrit Drama, Traditional Performance, and Modern Theater.
Indian scholars and practitioners discuss and demonstrate their own work, while lectures are supplemented with helpful glossaries, bibliographies, and discussion questions.

Sanskrit Drama

Students will learn about Sanskrit plays, study the dramaturgical structure of kutiyattam – a particular way of performing Sanskrit drama in which a single play can take 41 nights to perform - go behind-the-scenes to see how performers train, and even do practical exercises of their own. Students will also see excerpts of two modern productions of Sanskrit Drama.

Traditional Performance

The traditional performing arts in India can be loosely divided into several categories: classical, popular, devotional, and ritualistic. This section introduces the 8 officially-recognized classical dances of India (bharatanatyam, kathak, kuchipudi, odissi, kathakali, mohiniyattam, sattriya, and “Manipuri”) alongside yakshagana and chhau; covers popular entertainments such as nautanki, jatra, qissebaazi, sumang lila, and chavittunatakam; highlights devotional performances such as raslila, ramlila, and natasankirthana; covers ritual performances such as theyyattam, mudiyettu, padayani, and lai haraoba; and ends by giving an overview of the martial arts thang-tha and kalarippayattu and three genres of shadow puppetry.

Modern Theater

In this section we dive into the unique Sangeet Natak (or musical theater), chart the rise of naturalism, focus on the Indian People’s Theater Association, the Theater of Roots, Women’s Theater, Dalit Theater, English-language theater, street theater, and end with a survey of some of the great multi-media and digital theater being produced.


Erin B. Mee

Editor-in-Chief and Keynote Lecturer

Erin B. Mee is the author of Theatre of Roots: Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage, editor of DramaContemporary: India, and co-editor of both Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage, and Modern Asian Theatre and Performance 1900-2000. She has written numerous articles on Indian performance for TDR, Theatre Journal, Performance Research, and other journals and books. She has directed with Sopanam, one of India’s leading theatre companies, as well as at the Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, SoHo Rep, HERE, The Magic Theatre, and The Guthrie Theater in the United States. She is the Founding Artistic Director of This Is Not A Theatre Company, with whom she has conceived and directed Pool Play, A Serious Banquet, Readymade Cabaret, Ferry Play, Subway Plays, Festival de la Vie for the Avignon Festival, Versailles 2015/2016, Pool Play 2.0 for the International Theatre Festival of Kerala, Theatre In The Dark: Carpe Diem, Play!, Readymade Cabaret 2.0, Play In Your Bathtub (also translated into Russian and performed by WOWWOWWOW in Moscow), Guru of Touch for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Tree Confessions for the Edinburgh, Brighton, Melbourne, and Philadelphia Fringe festivals, and Una Obra En Tu Bañera for Timbre 4 in Buenos Aires.

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