Ankita Raturi

Ankita Raturi

Playwright, Teaching Artist

Classes 2008-2009, Camper 2009

After graduation with a BFA in Drama from Tisch, Ankita has been working as professional playwright and teaching artist in New York City.

What are you doing now?

I was just in a professional writer’s group with the New York Shakespeare Exchange for which I wrote a short play in heightened language that was performed at the Shakespeare for All Festival this month. I’m also devising/co-creating a play about ghosts that is going to have a workshop presentation at the Corkscrew Theater Festival in July. I also earn a living as a teaching artist, which I love. Currently, I am teaching a range of drama classes for students from pre-school through eighth grade: sometimes fairytales, sometimes writing original work, sometimes Shakespeare, always lots of fun.

NYSX started this cohort as a way to push Shakespeare off his pedestal a little, to say new writers have universal themes to talk about too and fancy language isn’t just for old, dead, white guys. So they asked the eight of us that they picked for the cohort to write new plays in heightened language (verse, poetry, anything that makes the language a little fancier than normal) and that was a really cool challenge. I ended up stealing verse from the most ancient Indian texts I could think of, the Vedas, and wrote a short play in English using ancient Sanskrit meter patterns about a South Asian-American girl struggling with assimilation and appropriation and grappling with her identity.

Ankita Raturi - playwright - NYSX diversity cohort 2018

What do you enjoy most about being a playwright?

I love working with new people as a playwright and having collaborators bring so many different and interesting ideas to the table. I love the sense of community that is so vital to creating new work; plays are not made in a vacuum and I could never work by myself anyways. I love writing work that is for this current moment and diving into lots of research to help build my work. I love playing with form and structure and trying new things. I love dramaturgy.

Does TPE impact your life today? If so, how?

Of course! And in so many ways.

1. Taking classes with Jeanne became very important to me very quickly and it’s when I started really insisting that I keep doing theater as much as possible as a kid. Which paved the way for insisting that I apply to college for theater later.

2. TPE was the first time Shakespeare looked even remotely fun to me.

3. Commedia Troupe was essentially the first time I took a classical form and made new work, the first time I devised theatre with a group of people, the first time I saw myself as a content creator as much as a performer. And that’s a lot of what I do now: devising and experimenting with form.

4. Deepal Doshi, who was a teaching artist the summer I did Commedia Troupe, was the very first South Asian drama teacher I’d ever met and the very first South Asian person making a career in theater I’d ever met. I would talk to him in Hindi during lunches and when I look back on it, I really think that’s the first time it entered my mind that I could really pursue theater as a career.

Did Commedia dell'Arte impact your writing?

The core ideas in Commedia: the tropes, the structure, the way the zanni’s create plot breaks for the audience, these are all such essential tools for a writer to understand. I play with form a lot, and I think it’s important to have a really good handle on different forms before you start messing with them. A lot of my work deals with very serious things, and I craft a lot of comic relief and breaks for the audience to kind of take care of them and keep them on board with the journey — in an unexpected way, that’s all commedia training.

What do you most miss about TPE?

Being outdoors. You miss out on a lot of great weather when you’re making theater in a small black box. I love being in a black box, but I also like the idea that the some of the most magical theatrical moments can happen without the soundproof and totally dark space. What a cool challenge for designers to build a show around the reality that natural elements are ultimately in control. I also miss the very specific communities that are created in a camp setting. At camp, we were together every day and that is a very intimate level of community building. I sometimes think the teams I’m working with nowadays should all go on a camping trip together halfway through the process and then start working on the project again.

What was your favorite TPE role?

Il Dottore! He (she) basically got to talk a lot and not make any sense, in fact it was a requirement to not make sense. How fun!