Bidesiyā is a popular folk performance from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in eastern India. Similar to other popular theatre genres, such as jātrā of Bengal and nauṭaṅkī theatre of Uttar Pradesh, bidesiyā incorporates dance, drama, music, acrobatics and other arts. Because of the prominence of lauṇḍā (female impersonator) actors, bidesiyā is often called lauṇḍā-nāc (the dance of female impersonators). The performance emerged as a cultural response to the British era colonial outmigration of the nineteenth and early twentieth as a text of tribulation of those who were left behind remembering those often forcefully migrated to bidesh (foreign land). Bidesiyā continues to be performed with similar echoes of labor and migration. During the time of my fieldwork in 2009–2011 in Patna, Vaishali, and Nalanda districts, there were more than two hundred such bidesiyā parties (troupes) estimated to be performing. This study gives an overview of bidesiyā theatre in Bihar in relation to the inseparable link between a performance and a marginalized community’s struggles for survival based on viewing forty performance by twelve groups and focused on the works of two popular troupes.


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pp. 57-81
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