Haritha Popuri

Master's in Theatre and Performance Studies, York University

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), History of Science and Technology and Religious Studies, 2014

I want to be able to have conversations with the public and have that responsibility to make myself understood.

It is a long way from a class on the history of alchemy at King’s to a stop at Yonge and Bloor on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway. A long way geographically, but not so far in Haritha Popuri’s fertile brain.

“I was thinking about travelling underground,” on the TTC she says. “And I was thinking back to my class in alchemy and what it meant to the (ancient Egyptians) whose god Atum-Ra every night would go through these very epic battles underground in order to emerge victorious in the sunrise.”

No doubt there are days when a commute into downtown Toronto must feel like an epic battle, at the end climbing up the stairs to the light like the rising sun. And these thoughts got Haritha thinking about an art installation that would explore the commute through a very different lens.

She hasn’t produced it yet; Haritha is in the middle of a master’s program in theatre and performance at York University. But she has come up with a whimsical title for it: NeferTTC.

Haritha has other ideas for art, performance and theatre, many of which have their roots in her time at King’s. As part of her statement of intent when she applied to the master’s program at York she described an installation in Chicago focusing on housing discrimination in that city.

“(It) would gather together the memories of the people who directly experience the effects of living in areas that are so completely overlooked and maligned through state policy,” she says. “People pass by without realizing what happened and what is happening that made these places the way they are today. They have a history. They don’t just happen.”

In part her ideas are a reflection of a political consciousness she says that began to develop through her work with the King’s Students’ Union. But they also are the result of an epiphany she had in her fourth year at King’s. At that point she was thinking of a career in academia.

“But I shied away from that because of the idea that I would only ever be able to talk to people who were already in the know, a very small group. And that kind of scared me. I want to be able to have conversations with the public and have that kind of responsibility to make myself understood.”

Haritha has huge respect for those professors who “entrusted” her with ideas. There was no handholding she says. “They respected that you had the ability to rise up to that challenge and figure it out eventually.”

And that is what she wants to do through her art and theatre.

“What matters to me is that translation between the people who can see critically and break things down and the people who then do things about it. And that’s what I want to do.”

Posted: Apr. 2016

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