Ahead of its silver jubilee year, The Auroville Theatre Group’s production of The Elephant Man adds to a long list of classics staged over two decades

Article by Priyanka Chandani published in Indulge, The New Indian Express

In 1987 when the then 42-year-old Jill Navarre, artistic director of The Auroville Theatre Group came to India, it was a complete culture shock for her. But she had no apprehensions about exploring the ancient country and started by heading to Rajasthan. She fell in love with the country gazing at stars at night amidst the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer and riding a bicycle to Auroville from Puducherry to explore a new world of creative minds. The memories of India were etched in Jill’s heart and she tells us, “Something was changed in me and I became curious about what would happen if I stayed in India.”

Jill went back to the US and continued her life in Washington DC where she was working in a theatre group. Three years after her first trip to India, Jill came back in 1990 and kicked off her journey with her first play, Mommy, I’m Home in 1991. “My friends weren’t convinced because I was leaving my life where I had everything. But, I was sure that I wanted a place which would test me and I was ready to live somewhere else,” shares the 74-year-old director, as she along with one of the members of the group, Rupam Mishra welcome us in her creatively decorated two-story home in Auroville. “I felt a connection with India,” recalls Jill, who met Jeff Goodchild, a theatre director from Australia in Auroville. “Jeff was the first person I met here and we discussed theatre,” she recounts.

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A scene from The Elephant Man (Picture: Pattabi Raman)
Sneak peek into one of the rehearsal sessions (Picture: Pattabi Raman)