“My Home is a Suitcase” is a play by Rzgar Hama about individuals who sought new lives as immigrants. It is based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. These are real stories. The next few interviews will be from some of the individual readers of their stories of beginning new lives in Canadian society. Hama is known for several plays, including “Soldierland” with some professional commentary by Dr. Marvin Westwood and Dr. George Belliveau of The University of British Columbia in “Dr. Marvin Westwood & Dr. George Belliveau on SOLDIERLAND a play Written and Directed by Rzgar Hama.” Here I speak with Himanshi Upadhyay on “My Home is a Suitcase.”
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We’ll keep this focused on an initiative by Sky Theatre Group under Rzgar, “My Home is a Suitcase.” How did you find the Sky Theatre Group?
Himanshi Upadhyay: I saw an advertisement on Facebook.
Jacobsen: How did you become involved with “My Home is a Suitcase”?
Upadhyay: When I first contacted Rzgar, frankly speaking, I didn’t know what it was going to be. I attended the meeting with other participants. Everything he said was so interesting for me because I always wanted to be a part of something creative and meaningful. So, at first, we started to write something about our lives and shared with each other. Then we wrote some of the key moments of our lives. After that, whole stories like when, why, and how we migrated to Canada and how our lives were before that decision to immigrate, etc. During all those meetings Rzgar, Hila, and Lenora also taught us some acting exercises and some writing skills. Overall, it was a long journey that we all did together and developed a bond with each other and the project “My Home is a Suitcase.”
Jacobsen: What was the experience of telling the story – without telling your story – to some of the public and peers who made a new life for themselves?
Upadhyay: At first, it was scary :). Everybody was a complete stranger to me. I didn’t want those unknown people to judge me. But then, I realized that everybody has something to say here. I saw that no one is judging anyone. Everyone had their own set of problems or struggles in their lives, but there was a mutual respect for each other. So with time, I became comfortable sharing the story, in sharing my life, with all the participants.
But again, the moment came when I was in front of the public to share my story with no control about how they were going to judge me or think about me, I got goosebumps. Then I just imagined that the whole room is filled with my friends and they are curious about my life and after that, it was an amazing experience. People were so good. After the reading, two of the ladies came to me said, “We can totally relate to your story. We are so proud that you made a decision for yourself.”
Jacobsen: What was working with a seasoned, veteran playwright and director like for you?
Upadhyay: It is really a learning experience. I am using “is” because the project is still going on. I have learnt so many things so far about theatre and public reading. Rzgar gave some acting classes before Covid-19 hit and that time I thought, “Wow, acting is not so easy. It’s exhausting,” but, yet, you have to show what you are doing is effortless. One more thing I liked about Rzgar. He imagines the whole play so well that you are just left amazed by his creativity.
Jacobsen: What are you hoping some of the audience takes home with them when the final production comes out?
Upadhyay: Respect for their lives. Because that’s what happened to me. I just realized after listening to others’ stories that we should respect what God is giving us because many people are seeing us as the lucky ones. Also, they will see that “immigrant” is not just a word. It has a whole story of a living soul behind it.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Himanshi.
Upadhyay: Thank you so much, Scott, I am glad we are taking “My Home is a Suitcase” to the next level.
Image Credit: Soran Mardookhi, and Rzgar Hama/Sky Theatre Group.