by David Studwell
Beginning in August of 1947, the largest mass migration in history began as fifteen million men, women, and children left their ancestral homes to cross the newly drawn borders between India and the new country of Pakistan. During and after the partition of India over one million people died as a result of violence that erupted between people who were attempting to migrate from one country to the other. This Stained Dawn is the story of some of the survivors of Partition and how this tragic event affected their lives.
The play you are about to see is unique in several ways. To begin with the play has been written almost entirely by the cast of Theatre Wallay. Each cast member personally collected the narratives that the text is based on from numerous one-on-one interviews with survivors from Islamabad , Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Chiniot, Rawalpindi, and numerous villages in between. They held workshops with students around the region who had also collected personal narratives and transformed them into some of the stories you will hear tonight. As you can imagine, devising an original theatre piece of this nature has been a challenge. Beginning only one month ago, the Theatre Wallay team, under my guidance and direction and in collaboration with Kathleen Mulligan, began the difficult task of selecting monologues to be included in the play. As a team we chose pieces that captured unique and very personal accounts of partition as well as pieces that echoed the memories and feelings shared by many of the people interviewed over the previous two months. Once the material was selected, a structure had to be developed that best supported the telling of the story. Implementing theatre techniques used to compose and devise original work, I helped the members of Theatre Wallay to craft the story you are about to hear. We begin with life before and move through the gathering storm to the night of partition. After migration we come to the life after and share in the memories of early childhood in homes far away and the hope in the future yet to come.
We hope the stories you hear tonight will stir you and open your eyes and ears to the collected memories of those who lived through this troubled time and share in their hope for a new and more perfect dawn. – David Studwell