Brave women who defied tradition in the 17th century

The world premiere reading of Divya Mangwani’s Rise of the River is coming to our Week of Extraordinary Risk on Saturday, June 30, 2PM. In advance of the reading, we learned more from Divya about the Sindhi folklore that inspired this play about women defying tradition in the 17th century.

Learn more in our interview below and reserve your seat now for Rise of the River, June 30, 3PM, Jefferson Market Library (425 6th Ave, NYC).

Pipeline Theatre Company: What do you want us to know about your play?
Divya Mangwani: The play is loosely based on Sindhi folklore. The Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai immortalized seven heroines in his poetry Shah Jo Risalo in the 17th Century. The stories celebrated women choosing love and freedom over societal tradition and oppression.

Set in Sindh (then in India, now in Pakistan), the play is about religious freedom and the God Jhulelal who was said to have united the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in Sindh. It is about the river Indus (Sindhu) and the civilizations that have been formed on its banks. It is about being forgotten, being lost, having to conform to the past, being afraid of the future and having the courage to make a choice.

PTC: When and where did you decide to start writing this play?
DM: I’ve been thinking of writing a play about Sindh for quite some time. My grandparents are all from Sindh and these are the stories of my childhood. It always amazed me to hear these folktales of strong, brave women who defied tradition in the 17th century. I pitched the story to Playlab and have spent the year challenging myself to understand more about this world and try connecting with it. I would like to spend more time discovering stories about the history so this play will be a part of a three play cycle about Sindh.

PTC: What excites you most about this project?
DM: I’m excited about discovering how life can be centered around a force – a person or a God or the river. Through Sohni, I’m questioning my own ideas about opposition, about freedom, about choice, about what battles you choose to fight and if letting go or giving in is a loss or gain of power and control. The idea of using language and rhythm for the different elements of this world was an exciting prospect about writing the play.

PTC: In one sentence, tell us something strange that happens in your play.
DM: The river Indus disappears.

PTC: Are you working on anything else?
DM: I’m working on a play about djinns and desire that will have a reading at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater next month as part of Tamasha, Hypokrit Theatre’s festival.

PTC: What’s next for you?
DM: I’ll be starting the NYTW 2050 Artistic Fellowship this year and also working on a project for UNICEF Climate Change week with Hypokrit Theatre and other collaborators.

About Rise of the River

Saturday, June 30, 3PM
by Divya Mangwani | directed by Rebecca Martinez
Jefferson Market Library
425 6th Ave, NYC
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The river Indus, the heartbeat of civilization in Sindh, disappears. Sohni, the daughter of the river, falls in love on the eve of her wedding – with another man. The God Jhulelal desperately tries to keep the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs united. As Sindh erupts in chaos, the lowly Hilsa fish may be the only one who can save them all.