New Festival Celebrates South Asian Theatre

Dipti Mehta in Honour, part of the Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts running August 11 - 21 - Photo: Jessica Mentis

Dipti Mehta in Honour, part of the Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts running August 11 – 21 – Photo: Jessica Mentis

The heavy monsoon rains of India take over the country on an annual basis. Amidst the damage and destruction, the monsoon season is filled with celebration, including dance, music, theatre, film and festivals. The welcoming of this captivating and spiritual force dates back thousands of years in India.  Vancouver is also known for its heavy rainfall. With the intersection of these two natural phenomena, albeit at different times of the year, the goal is to celebrate the monsoon here in the Lower Mainland by welcoming the storm with the 1st Annual Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts.


In its inaugural year, the Monsoon Arts Festival runs from August 11-21 in Vancouver and Surrey, with a deliberate spotlight on South Asian theatre. South Asian Canadians are the largest visible minority group in Canada, yet a simple scan of Vancouver’s performing arts community suggests that there are very few South Asian theatre professionals currently working in our industry.

Monsoon Arts Festival is unique, given that no other broadly-focused South Asian performing arts festival exists in Canada. During a span of 11 days, festival highlights include; two critically acclaimed International one-woman plays, HONOUR: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan (New York) and Meena’s Dream (Washington, DC); the return of the ever popular I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken gang with their unique brand of hilarious sketch comedy; an opening (including sneak peek performances from the 10 days ahead) and closing night celebration (with a Talent Night feat. Jiv Parmeshvaran); and to close the festival a special full-length play Kehar Singh Di Maut (The Death of Kehar Singh) performed in Punjabi, presented in partnership with Surrey-based Rangmanch Theatre, written by prominent playwright & theatre director Ajmer Singh Aulakh at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey.

Aside from the presentations, community engagement is another key pillar of the festival. Multilingual development workshops on dramaturging, playwriting, directing and acting, along with readings and an “industry” series are also in the pipeline.

In future years, audiences can look forward to a multidisciplinary arts festival inclusive of dance, music, visual, experimental and interdisciplinary arts, showcasing Canadian South Asian artists and talents, along with a few handpicked international productions.


Festival Schedule

  • August 11 @ 7pm: Opening Night Reception @ The Cultch
  • August 12 @ 7pm: HONOUR @ The Cultch, Historic Theatre
  • August 13 @ 6pm: HONOUR @ The Cultch, Historic Theatre
  • August 13 @ 8:30pm: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken @ The Cultch, Historic, Historic Theatre
  • August 14 @ 6pm: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken @ Surrey Arts Centre, Main Stage
  • August 19 @ 7pm: Meena’s Dream @Surrey Arts Centre, Main Stage
  • August 20 @ 6pm: Meena’s Dream @Surrey Arts Centre, Main Stage
  • August 20 @ 8pm: Closing Night Celebration @ Surrey Arts Centre, Studio Theatre
  • August 21 @ 7pm: Kehar Singh Di Maut, Punjabi show @ Bell Performing Arts Centre (Surrey)


HONOUR: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan (New York)

“Memoirs of a Geisha” meets “Slumdog Millionaire” in Dipti Mehta’s New One-Woman Play

Award-winning actress Dipti Mehta’s new and acclaimed one-woman play, HONOUR: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan visits India’s red light district where we meet the eunuch, priest, pimp, mother and daughter who call it home. A fun and poignant look at the exotic, dangerous life of Mumbai’s real-life brothels and why they exist. This dark tale of pursuit of truth in modern day Mumbai is a testament to survival and pride and is a mother’s gift to her only daughter.

Dipti, who was born and raised in Mumbai and currently resides in New Jersey, also stars in the show. She has numerous film and television credits including The Blacklist (NBC), and The Golden Boy (CBS).

The creative team includes sound design and original music by Matthew Bittner, set design by Bethanie Wampol Watson, lighting design by Jason Flamos, costume design by Peter Flamos, stage management by Ally Namisha and choreography by Monica Kapoor.


Mehta’s art kindles the thought process about our identities, which are eternally meandering through space and time, yet maintain their authentic core…Very few people possess the ability to turn a childhood passion into a profession. The ones who do, often go on to become extraordinary. Dipti Mehta is one such individual.” –

“Dipti is making India proud.” – Times of India


August 12 @ 7pm & August 13 @ 6pm, The Cultch, Historic Theatre

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken (Vancouver)                                                                                                     Sketch Comedy at its finest and funniest!

They’re back!!! Having spent a couple years off the scene, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken is back with some brand new sketches, along with a few of the classics that everyone loves as well. They may have been away for a few years, but they’re still as funny as ever.

Since 2010, the Butter Chicken gang has satisfied the palates of thousands of theatre-goers in shows like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken!—The Best Of Show, The Butter Chicken Reloaded, The Butter Chicken’s Back… Alright, and The Fellowship of the Butter Chicken. No topic is out of bounds as they serve up a gut-busting buffet of laugh-till-you-cry, edgy, racy, totally R-rated and fast-paced live sketch comedy.

Imagine taking a little bit of “Saturday Night Live”, mixing it with some ol’ skool “In Living Colour”, throwing in a scoop of ethnic, sprinkling a little singing n’ dancing, and topping it off with a whole lot of Bollywood.  If you’ve never been to one of their sketch comedy shows, get ready for a show that tackles (and chuckles at) issues regarding race, sex, diaspora, village life, and pretty much anything else you can think of!

August 13 @ 8:30pm, The Cultch, Historic Theatre & August 14 @ 6pm, Surrey Arts Centre, Main Stage

Meena’s Dream (Washington, DC)

Actress and Playwright Anu Yadav performs a tale of nine year‐old Meena, who wishes her mother had the medicine she can’t afford. By night, Hindu God Lord Krishna begs her to battle the ‘Worry Machine’ to save the universe from destruction. Alternating between imagination and reality, Meena must face her deepest fears, and keep dreaming of a world where everyone has enough. A fantastical world Directed by Patrick Crowley and with an original score of South Indian classical traditions, jazz and indie folk.

“… poetic… undeniably powerful… gives voice to the troubling conditions of some Americans from a part of the world we don’t see enough of on stages.” — The Washington Post

“Quite simply, Yadav is incredible!” — Broadway World


August 19 @ 7pm & August 20 @ 6pm, Surrey Arts Centre, Main Stage

Kehar Singh Di Maut (The Death of Kehar Singh)  Performed in Punjabi

This play is based on a Punjabi folk tale of a young man, Kehar Singh, whose death is orchestrated by his greedy mother-in-law and her two sons. The drama is complemented by comedic characters and humorous dialogue, however the beauty of this play lies in the depiction of the simple-minded Kehar Singh and his wife Ram Kaur, who truly love each other.  Although not overly intelligent or worldly in the conventional sense, Kehar Singh wins us over with his pure heart and his declaration that wealth and riches are nothing in the face of true love.

Prominent playwright Ajmer Singh Aulakh is known as a rural dramatist as most of his plays display a real and root level picture of rural life in Punjab. His plays portray a heart touching pain of a low-level farmer who has less land than what he hopes to have. This section of rural Punjab is being defeated by the new economic system of capitalism.

August 21 @ 6:30pm, Bell Performing Arts Centre, Surrey


About South Asian Arts Society

South Asian Arts Society is committed to creating performance and educational opportunities for professional and amateur artists, while developing artistic forums that act as a platform for building knowledge of South Asian culture via new projects, new ideas, and new collaborations. We are active in promoting South Asian dance, music, and theatre via dance and music classes, professional performances and workshops, guest lectures, as well as presenting comedic plays, musicals, and dance dramas across the Lower Mainland.

Monsoon Festival Of Performing Arts
August 11 to 21
Various Venues
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Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts
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