Prayas Theatre Organisation / Collective / Group


NamePrayas Theatre
CityTāmaki Makaurau
Decades Active2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Prayas Theatre is the largest South Asian theatre company in Aotearoa, based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Founded in 2005 by a group led by director Amit Ohdedar and actor-designer Sudeepta Vyas, the goal of this community-led company was originally to produce Indian works in English for a wider New Zealand audience; ‘Prayas’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘attempt’ and the company was named so because the founders were “attempting is a very new thing in Auckland” at the time. After growing in size and creative appetite, their vision has become “to revolutionise South Asian storytelling onstage in Aotearoa”.

The company work primarily with South Asian practitioners, presenting a mixture of classical and contemporary work, often ensemble-driven and accompanied by live music. Some of their shows are based on preexisting celebrated works, some are written by overseas playwrights, and many are homegrown original works.

Local works have included Ahi Karunaharan’s The Mourning After (2015), which centres on a Sri Lankan New Zealander’s tragic homecoming as he searches for the remains of his family in his ancestral village devastated by the 2004 tsunami, and Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth (2017), which traces the 150-year history of Indian migrants in Aotearoa through movement, puppetry, poetry, music, and theatre — and which won Best Ensemble Performance at the Auckland Theatre Awards.

In 2018, the company presented the Australasian premiere of Dara, the epic retelling of the real-life emperor Shah Jahan — most famous for building the Taj Mahal — and the battle between his two sons over who would succeed him on the throne. It’s a rivalry that wrestles with the complexities of Islam and that, in turn, has shaped modern-day India and Pakistan. Co-directed by Amit Ohdedar and Sananda Chatterjee, the NZ Herald hailed the production as an “astonishing achievement” with the Indian Weekender commenting on how “the play brings out a timely debate”, referencing the global rise in religious intolerance.

In 2019, the company re-presented A Fine Balance with Auckland Theatre Company, a landmark moment as “ATC’s first mainstage collaboration with a community theatre, [and] the first time a cast of entirely South Asian actors will be on its mainstage.”

Prayas also focuses on upskilling new talent, with many now-established South Asian practitioners getting their start with the company, including Padma Akula, Sananda Chatterjee, Ahi Karunaharan, Aman Bajaj, Mustaq Missouri, Sneha Shetty, Bala Murali Shingade, and Ankita Singh. As part of their focus on supporting new practitioners and their work, the company has collaborated with Agaram Productions to stage First World Problems, an anthology of new South Asian works which has had three iterations (2018, 2019, 2021).

In 2020, the company celebrated their 15-year anniversary by creating Prayas Classroom, a series of intermediate-level free online workshops for artists across the country. They also commemorated the year by publishing PRAYASNAMA – Memoirs of 15 Years on their website, a collection of reflections and retrospectives written by key members.

Prayas has a 7-person executive committee, with Ohdedar staying on as President.


Key works / presentations

Key awards

2017 — Auckland Theatre Awards: The Mangere Arts Centre Best Ensemble Performance, for Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth

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Last updated: 5 March 2024 Suggest an Edit