Now Serving, Peas & Carrots!

Iris C F Gomes

It is a special gift to be able to recognise your calling at a young age as happened with Kyla Grace Olivia D’Souza, founder and artistic director at The Peas & Carrots Theatre Company. Starting at the tender age of four, when Kyla took part in her first play, a musical called Angelina, she became completely enamoured with acting. The journey has been eventful thus far. Preferring an imaginary world to reality, Kyla has, through school, college and after her graduation with a degree in advertising, been immersed in the world of art; be it in any form – acting, music or dance. She says, ‘Being on stage is something that both challenges and comforts me. It's is all I've ever known and wanted to do.’

There is an endless list of plays and playwrights that Kyla holds in high esteem and that list includes the works of Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Harold Pinter, Sam Shepard, Eugene O'Neil, Edward Albee, Garcia Lorca and so on. But, she says, ‘If I absolutely had to though, I'd say my favourite play is I Am a Camera by John Van Druten, which is what the famous Broadway musical Cabaret is based on.’ Of all the theatre personalities in India and abroad, there are many she looks up to, but she confides that James Corden, who recently hosted the Tony Awards, is a current favourite.

This alumnus of The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute has added to her repertoire of learning with method acting, voice technique, Shakespeare, script analysis, singing, dance (jazz and ballet), movement and physical technique. She has even gained the martial art of tai chi as part of her training at the institute. ‘The two years that I spent at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute was the most challenging and rewarding time of my acting career that helped me grown both professionally and personally,’ says Kyla, who continues to be influenced and inspired by the faculty and students from all over the globe that she encountered at the institute.

There are some mentors who have impacted Kyla’s artistic journey more than others to leave a lasting impression and lessons that she adheres to, to this day. Ashley Lobo, the artistic director of The Danceworx Performing Arts Academy, taught her the value of discipline and dedication, while Ted Zurkowski, a faculty member at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, trained Kyla not just to be a method actor but a smart actor, making the right choices for the characters she plays. The artistic director of The Frog & Peach Theatre Company, Lynnea Benson, directed Kyla in off-Broadway productions and in doing so cultivated Kyla’s love of Shakespeare. Then there is Glenn Hayden, who is presently at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) in Australia and associate director at The Peas & Carrots Theatre Company. Since Kyla’s first meeting with him in 2009, he has been everything from a mentor to a friend to her.

On her return from New York, Kyla found that theatre companies in India had a different approach to performing world renowned plays. The plays were tailored to fit an Indian audience. It departed from Kyla’s concept of theatre, which is that the plays should remain just as they were originally written and meant to be performed. She says, ‘I believe that most of the great plays we see or hear of today have a global appeal and that they can be enjoyed by anyone…anywhere. It isn't necessary to be American or live in America to understand Sam Shepard, or to be British to appreciate Oscar Wilde. There is always a story that needs to be told. And the only thing you need to be to experience that story, is a human being.’

So came into being The Peas & Carrots Theatre Company, which is Kyla’s medium of presenting her idea of theatre as it should be. The name is derived from the phrase used by actors when they are supposed to be whispering on stage. The theatre company was also founded to share the training and professional experience Kyla had gained in her years abroad with those in India who were not so fortunate as to be able to travel to another country for the same. This is the reason the company has workshops for both emerging and established artists and schools, colleges, and corporates that are keen to invest in experiential learning through theatre.

The Peas & Carrots Theatre Company debuted in Mumbai in 2013 with Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love. The year 2014 saw a production of Polish writer Slawomir Mrozek's Out at Sea. This year (2016) The Peas & Carrots Theatre Company premiered in Goa with two short plays: A No Play and Sure Thing. ‘Each of our productions have enjoyed success in different ways. Audiences in Mumbai and Goa like the same play for different reasons. That's one of the reasons I love doing what we do. You never know how you are going to reach people,’ says Kyla.

Kyla is a visiting faculty member at the Goa Institute of Management. Here, MBA students are trained in developing self-awareness, creative thinking, confidence, leadership, communication and team building skills. She teaches children (10-14 years of age) as part of the theatre programme ‘In Stages’ headed by Arundhati Chattopadhyaya at Sunaparanta, Panjim. She conducts regular theatre workshops for both children and adults at MOG-Museum of Goa in Pilerne, The International Centre Goa, Miramar, and Casa dos Gamas in South Goa.

Kyla believes that theatre in Goa permeates beyond the educated elite and thrives in the welcoming atmosphere of a State that sees its staple theatre in the form of the ‘tiatr’. But there is a need and desire for more English theatre in Goa. ‘I have never nor will I ever believe that theatre is restricted to anybody,’ she says. This was one of the reasons Kyla moved from Mumbai to Goa; she sought to escape the big city commercialism and politics. She says, ‘Goa has certainly shown me that at the end of the day it's not about who you are or where you come from, but rather about what you do and why you're doing it.’

‘Theatre, or any kind of art, has a wonderful way of touching people's lives and getting them to listen without dictating or lecturing them. It's that old cliché of 'holding up a mirror to society'.’ Though theatre need not always carry a social message or relay a moral standard for the audience to live up to, it has the definitive ability to present themes that the people can relate to…themes that they might otherwise be unaware of or would be unlikely to give much attention to.

The company is now working on a new production to be staged in September and has added to its strength Tavish Bhattacharyya, who has recently moved to Goa from Bangalore. Kyla says, ‘He is a terrific actor, director, musician and voice over artist and his coming on board is a huge asset to the company. We also have Glenn Hayden coming down from Australia in August to direct our show and teach workshops at various institutes and venues so stay tuned!’