March 17, 2013
Arnab Banerji, a Ph.D. student in theater and performance studies, has received a handful of campus awards and been involved in several international student events. With the support he has received from his professors, he’s well on the way to his dream of starting his own theater company.
Ph.D. in theater and performance studies
University highlights, achievements and awards:
I was nominated by my department and awarded the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in spring 2011. The same year, I got the Foreign Travel Assistance Award administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Graduate School Travel Award and the Sylvia Pannell Graduate Student Travel Award from the Department of Theatre and Film Studies. I helped organize the GSA Interdisciplinary Research Conference last spring and was in charge of hospitality.
Being an active member of the international community on campus has been a major highlight of my time at UGA. As an officeholder of the Indian Student Association on campus I have been actively involved with the International Coffee Hour, International Street Festival and other ethnic-themed events organized by our organization. The opportunity to meet and engage with people from diverse nationalities and backgrounds in these events is very rewarding.
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Vivekananda Mission School, Kolkata, India
I am in Kolkata, India, right now conducting fieldwork for my dissertation research on contemporary Bengali theater. However, I thought that my time would be best spent if I could also hone my teaching skills further while researching. I am currently working part time as a theater instructor at a local private school and a guest lecturer of English at Vidyasagar Evening College, an affiliate of Calcutta University.
Apart from these teaching gigs I am also designing a series of rock concerts across the city for a leading Kolkata-based band. I will also be working as a technical assistant in an international theater project that is traveling across the country.
Family Ties to UGA:
I am the first member of my family to attend UGA.
I chose to attend UGA because...
… of my adviser, Farley Richmond. He is a leading name in Indian theater scholarship in the United States and I was really keen on working with him. The food and music scene in Athens was also a definite draw. Even before I was accepted into the program I was excited about Last Resort, Five Star Day and the Globe. I consider myself lucky that I got to savor all of these for quite a while.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
… reading on the grassy patch behind the Miller Learning Center. The Jittery Joe’s is within easy reach and keeps me caffeinated for a read-a-thon. I also love our library. My favorite spots are the tables adjoining the windows on the sixth and the seventh floors. In between pages I love staring out into the greens and processing the material that I just read. Walking from the science library to the Miller Plant Sciences Building using the walkway and pausing at the Creamery is another thing I enjoy doing on campus. The Tate Theatre is one of my favorite destinations. The French Film Festival there a couple of semesters ago will certainly be one of the highlights of my time at UGA.
When I have free time, I like...
… walking across North Campus. Reading fiction on the North Quad. Lazing around on the grass outside MLC. Exploring new dining options around town. Cooking for friends. Trying new beers.
The craziest thing I've done is...
… getting myself locked out of my office at 3 in the morning during winter. I did not have a car and the bus route to my apartment building had already closed for the day. Having no other way out, I curled up and caught a nap in the cramped graduate computer lab in the department. I met a homeless guy in the building and we questioned each other about our reason for being in the building that late. Apparently he had come in to have a drink. Frankly, it was all quite scary!
More recently, I tried taking a local train in Mumbai during peak hours. Although millions of people do this twice every day, I had never tried doing anything like this ever. You stand in front of the gate and people push and shove around you. Mysteriously, if you place yourself strategically in front of the gate, you will be carried forth by people inside the compartment. The same rule applies when disembarking. I am not sure if I want to try this ever again although at the time it was all very adrenaline rush-inducing and exciting.
My favorite place to study is...
I like my office after I have cleaned it out (happens once every semester), otherwise I love the study tables on the sixth and the seventh floors of the library, the tables next to Terrell Hall, the Creamery and the North Campus Quad.
My favorite professor is...
My dissertation adviser Farley Richmond will definitely top the list followed closely by Marla Carlson, who has helped me immensely with my academic writing. Dr. Richmond introduced me to a completely new way of thinking about Asian theater forms. He also opened multiple doors of opportunity for me. It was with his help that I went to Indonesia in the summer of 2010 to hunt for Balinese topeng masks. It was one of my first experiences of working in the field and having him with me was a definite plus and added to the experience a lot.
Prior to a writing workshop with Dr. Carlson, I struggled to organize my thoughts and present a cohesive argument in my writing. Dr. Carlson was very patient and worked closely with me on these areas and by the end of the workshop I was able to present a cohesive and compelling paper at a national conference. I must also mention that she hosts the best cheese parties ever.
Dorothy Figueira, Freda Scott Giles and Nicholas Morrissey are some of the other professors I have enjoyed working with and learned a lot from. Although I have never taken a class from him, Chris Eaket has been a great friend and his advice has proven to be invaluable time and again.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
I would love to talk to Bengali theater great Utpal Dutt (1929-1993). I have researched the man’s life in considerable detail for an article and the more I read about him the more I regretted the fact that he is no longer around for an afternoon of engaging conversation. His revolutionary vision of theater, his days with underground politics, the multiple police atrocities that he braved and his brilliant plays are all a part of my individual Bengali theater folklore. A lazy afternoon chat with this legend over a simple Bengali meal is one of my most cherished dreams of all time.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
… take multiple language courses at once and teach dialectical materialism.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to...
… start a theater company in Kolkata. It would have a repertory comprising actors, technicians and designers. There would be a world-class training facility with an exchange program with leading performance institutes from across the world where the best thespians would visit for lecture-demonstrations, workshops and training sessions. We would stage seven full-length plays every season in our own facilities besides having new play readings and other experimental work.
After graduation, I plan to...
… teach at a university while continuing with my creative work as a lighting designer. I would also like to try my hand at directing. Eventually I would like to start my own theater company.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
… my first day on campus. I knew nothing about the bus routes and our departmental secretary had asked me to take some paperwork to the University Health Center. Armed with a map, I started walking from downtown and walked the stretch of East Campus Road. On the return journey, I got rid of the map and followed whatever street I fancied. I was exhausted at the end of the adventure, but I was totally in love with this beautiful campus.