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a yellow and red boat on a blue background


by Ankita Raturi '23

directed by Juliana Kleist-Méndez '21

Original music composed by world renowned sitarist, composer and educator Pandit Kartik Seshadri accompanied on flute by Mallika Seshadri

This show is part of the Wagner New Play Festival, an annual festival of new works by MFA playwrights, in collaboration with MFA/PhD directors, actors, designers, stage managers, and dramaturges. This year, for the first time, the WNPF will be presented virtually. The festival will include four audio plays, including this piece, and one animated work.


How to Listen

This audio play will be available to stream beginning June 9 @ 6:00am. On that date, you, the audience, are free to stream it on this webpage and on iTunes and Spotify. Click the links below to stream the festival trailer and subscribe to our channel to stay updated.

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Content Warning

Please be advised, this play contains mature themes.


The Casta yellow boat on a blue background

Hailey: Lois Shih 
Kate: Natalia Quintero-Riestra 
Mukul: Sashank Kanchustambam 

The Creative Team

Director: Juliana Kleist-Méndez 
Playwright: Ankita Raturi 
Composer: Pandit Kartik Seshadri
Sound Designer: Andrew Lynch
Flautist: Mallika Seshadri 
Dramaturg: Michelle Huynh
Assistant Director: Laylena Zipkin 
Assistant Dramaturg: Mia Vandeloo
Production Stage Manager: Gillian Lelchuk                                                           
First Assistant Stage Manager: Jonathan Fong 
Second Assistant Stage Manager: Sophia Donner 
Script Production Assistant: Jaz Johnson 




About the Play

Kate and Hailey fell in love hard and got married fast, but do they really know each other as well as they think? On their honeymoon, floating along the serene and beautiful backwaters of Kerala on the southwestern coast of India, the newlyweds are eaten alive by both mosquitoes and the racial legacies that shape their lives. Backwaters asks how well we truly know those closest to us, and if love can save us from the toxic, even lethal, cultural baggage we carry. 



About the Playwright

Ankita Raturi | अंकिता रतूड़ी (she/her) is a first-year MFA Playwriting student. She grew up in and around the capital cities of India, Indonesia, and the United States. Ankita has developed new plays at UCSD, NYU, Page Break (SoHo Playhouse), Atlantic Pacific Theatre, The Hearth Theater, Hypokrit Theatre Company, New York Shakespeare Exchange, Pete’s Candy Store, and Natyabharati. Her devised work with co-creator Charlotte Murray has been seen at Fresh Ground Pepper, Corkscrew Theater Festival, and Dixon Place. Ankita’s first poetry collection was performed in 2019 at Dixon Place. B.F.A. in Drama from NYU Tisch (Playwrights Horizons Theater School). M.F.A. Candidate in Playwriting at UCSD. Instagram: @ankitawrites


About the Director

 Juliana Kleist-Méndez is a third-year MFA candidate previously based in Brooklyn, NY. She is an Iowa-born Cuban American committed to embodied storytelling collaborations. UC San Diego credits: Letters from Cuba, Elektra, Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! (WNPF ‘19), Mother Courage and her Children (AD). Select credits: Far From Canterbury (Winner of Best Musical: New York International Fringe Festival; Encores! at The SoHo Playhouse); La hija del pirata/The Pirate’s Daughter (La Pirata Productions); Club Silencio (Manhattan Theater Company); Elvira: The Immigration Play (Lehman College, Collaboraction Theatre Company); King Lear: A Radio Play (The Framework Theatre). She has a BA in Theatre for Social Change from Cornell University. 


About the Composer

Pandit Kartik Seshadri is a world-renowned force in Indian Classical Music. As a sitarist, he attracted widespread attention when he began performing full-length solos in India from the age of six. The sitar master is hailed as an “amazingly accomplished” musical powerhouse for his music’s “expressive beauty, rich tonal sensibility, and rhythmic intricacy,” by the Washington Post, while the Times of India noted that Seshadri’s concert was “a show stopper that transported the audience to soak soul deep in his mesmerizing performance.” Songlines Magazine (U.K.) declared his album Sublime Ragas as one of the “Top Ten of the World’s” CD’s, as with his 2004 Raga:Rasa album, further citing him as one of the “world’s greatest sitar players.”

 A confluence of multifarious musical influences steeped in the Maihar gharana’s dhrupad & beenkar styles, Seshadri began his initial training with Shri Shankar Rao of the Vishnupur gharana and further trained and toured worldwide with his acclaimed guru, Pandit Ravi Shankar. Seshadri performs extensively in his homeland and around the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, Mexico and the Middle East. He has played at prestigious venues and events ranging from Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, the Melbourne International Arts Festival in Australia, the Brighton Festival in U.K., the Ravinia Festival, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City to the Dover Lane, ITC, Sawai Gandharva Samaroh and Saptak Sammelans in India to name but a few. In 2005 and 2010, Seshadri collaborated with composer Philip Glass and the Brazilian instrumental group UAKTI on the critically acclaimed Orion project. In 2016, he was specially invited to perform before His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.

 Seshadri has received numerous awards and accolades for his contributions to the musical world including his nomination as the “Artist of the Month” by the prestigious Sangeeth Research Academy (SRA) in Kolkata (June 2011) and his 2014 honorary award from the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) for his “incredible contributions, vision, leadership and expertise in the creative field … and as a true pioneer” of music and art.

 Seshadri is also a distinguished composer and educator of Indian Classical Music. His Quartet for a Raga was premiered under the auspices of the Contemporary Music Forum in Washington D.C. And his “Concerto #1 for Sitar and Chamber Orchestra” received its world premiere in San Diego in 2010.

 As an educator, Kartik Seshadri heads one of the largest programs of Indian Classical Music in the US at the University of California, San Diego. He has been invited as a distinguished guest faculty member at various conservatories, universities and academies around the world including The Banff Centre in Alberta in Canada, Stanford University, the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music in Bath, U.K., and the Sangeeth Research Academy (SRA) in Kolkata, India. In 2009 Seshadri launched Raga : Rasa – Kartik Seshadri’s Center for Indian Classical music and improvisation.


Cast Bios 

Sashank Kanchustambam (Mukul) is a second year undergraduate theatre major. UC San Diego Credits: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Flute, Cobweb), Man In Love (ensemble), AHC (Lab project choreographer). Short film Credits: Nadartine (Actor-Director-Writer), Choice Creates (Actor), Re-Exam (Actor).

Natalia Quintero-Riestra (Kate) is a second-year MFA Acting student. Originally born and raised in Miami, FL, she graduated with a BFA in Performance from Florida International University. Natalia credits her passion, warmth, and joyful personality to her Cuban, Colombian, and Spanish roots. UC San Diego credits: Town Hall, Letters from Cuba (Enriqueta), Orestes 2.0 (Nurse 3). Regional credits: The 4208 Group's Ten Minute Taste Festival, Old Globe's New Powers New Voices Festival, La Jolla Playhouse's WOW Festival, City Theatre's Summer Shorts (U/S). FIU credits: The Suicide (Masha Lukianovna), A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings (Elisenda), She Kills Monsters (Evil Gabby).

Lois Shih (Hailey) i​s a second-year MFA student. She is from Thornton, Colorado, and holds a BA in Theatre with Acting Distinction from the University of Denver. UC San Diego credits: Uncle Vanya, Heap, ​Orestes 2.0. Regional credits: Smart People (Disrupt Theatre); Romeo and Juliet (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Wolves, Science Shorts​​ (Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company); Dirty Rotten Tofu and the Gohan Girls (Theatre Esprit Asia). 


Creative Team Bios

Sophia Donner (Assistant Stage Manager) coming soon

Jonathan Fong (Assistant Stage Manager) is a first-year undergraduate Theatre major. UC San Diego credit: Man in Love. Other select credits: The Addams Family, Seussical, Into the Woods (SON Arts).

Michelle Huynh (Dramaturg) is a second-year PhD Student. She was born and raised in Honolulu, HI and holds an MFA in Asian Theatre performance from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. This is her first UC San Diego production. Selected credits: We Might Get Along (Director), Vietgone (Co-Director, Tong), Madame Mao’s Memories (Director), Monsoon (Director), Birds at Dawn (Dramaturg), One Flea Spare (Dramaturg).

Jaz Johnson (Script Production Assistant) coming soon

Andrew Lynch (Sound Designer) is a third-year MFA candidate and composer previously based in Brooklyn, NY. UC San Diego credits: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, An Object, Screaming (MFA Dance), Elektra, Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! (WNPF ‘19), The Misanthrope (ASD), A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes (ASD). Other select credits: Calafia at Liberty with the Wetsuit Collective (LJP’s WOW Festival); Leap and the Net Will Appear presented by New Georges (Flea Theatre) in the summer of 2019. He is a co-founder of the Brooklyn arts space Cloud City, and co-artistic director of the physical theatre company 3 Sticks. 

Gillian Lelchuk (Production Stage Manager) is a first-year stage management student from Los Alamitos, California. She earned her BA from Johns Hopkins University in Writing Seminars and Mathematics, and a minor in the Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. After graduating, she interned with the production department of The Kennedy Center, and spent the next two years working as a freelance stage manager in and around Baltimore and Washington, DC. UC San Diego credits: Epicene: A Queer Extravaganza (PSM); Letters from Cuba (ASM). Selected credits include: Perfect Arrangement (Fells Point Corner Theatre); Newsies (Theatre Lab); A People's History (Capital Fringe Festival); Much Ado About Nothing (Fools and Madmen); Daddy Long Legs (Monumental Theatre Co.); American Moor (Anacostia Playhouse).

Mallika Seshadri (Flautist) is a student at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is pursuing a BA in political science, global studies and journalism. Outside of school, she works as a college journalist and studies music from her father, Kartik Seshadri.  

Mia Vandeloo (Assistant Dramaturg) is a first-year BA Theatre and Dance double major from the Bay Area. UC San Diego credits: WinterWorks. Select credits: Big Fish (Muir Musical), Project Symphony (Muir Musical)

Laylena Zipkin (Assistant Director) Is a first-year Theater and Cellular / Molecular Biology double major from San Mateo, California. UC San Diego Credits: The Tempest (Fair Play Theater Company - AD)