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Pratik Motwani sails solo with The Long Way at MAT 

click to enlarge COURTESY MILLIBO ART THEATRE
  • Courtesy Millibo Art Theatre
In 1968, a sailor named Bernard Moitessier set out on a nonstop solo journey around the world, part of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Of the nine participants, five retired, one sank, one perished, and Moitessier emerged as the front runner in the final leg of the race. Though he would likely have won (over Robin Knox-Johnston, the only one to finish the race) if he had continued to the finish line, he elected instead to sail on, eventually docking in Tahiti, where he finally settled down.

“He completely transformed into a man who lived off the land, very, very simply,” performer Pratik Motwani says. “He had a kind of spiritual awakening. He found oneness with everything.” The story of Moitessier’s journey lit a spark of inspiration in Motwani, which formed the basis of his new solo performance, The Long Way.

Motwani says: “I got inspired by this idea of ‘what if the man never comes back?’ The basic [premise] of someone going to sea with a particular intention — then life taking him in another direction, and him accepting and becoming that.” In The Long Way, Motwani plays a lone sailor, learning how to survive alongside the sea, and to evolve with the sea in spite of hunger, thirst and raging storms.

From Mumbai, India, Motwani is an artist in residence at Dell’Arte International, a theatrical school in California, where he created this show with puppeteer and Dell’Arte instructor James Hildebrandt.

Motwani has an impressive background in physical theater, including a Master of Fine Arts degree from Dell’Arte. The success of the performance depends on his nuanced interaction with a minimal set, enriched by Hildebrandt’s shadow puppets. Together, they create a dynamic visual landscape that doesn’t fit most audiences’ concept of a solo show.

“Usually solo shows are people telling their story,” Motwani says, “and it’s not very visual or technical in that way.” But the production he has conceived with Hildebrandt proves incredibly technical, relying on perfect timing and synergy.

The two opened The Long Way with three recent performances at Dell’Arte, and will now bring it to the Millibo Art Theatre before taking it to New York for the United Solo Festival, of which Motwani is honored to be a part.

Though Motwani has performed in countless productions, he says it’s different touring a show of his own creation. He just hopes audiences will feel as though they’re a part of the action, relating to the ocean in the same visceral way as his protagonist. “It’s a story of a man’s ocean voyage,” Motwani says, “so it’s not a funny show, but it’s not a tragic story. It’s triumphant.”

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