Diwali in B.C. founder Rohit Chokhani will be joining the Fringe Festival as the new executive director.
He replaces Laura Efron, who stepped down from the position last October after overseeing two installments of the fest.
Chokhani has a long history with the Fringe, starting with a role as production manager on Siddhartha: A Journey Home at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in 2011, then coproducing 2015’s Mrs. Singh & Me with South Asian Arts (winning the Public Market Pick of the Fringe Award). In 2017, Chokhani directed Anosh Irani’s Bombay Black, also winning the Public Market Pick of the Fringe Award, later remounting it at the Firehall Arts Centre and elsewhere.
The Mumbai-born artist spent his early adulthood pursuing computer programming, first earning his master’s in the field, then leaving it to delve into the arts after he arrived here in 2010, by way of the U.S. He's been a driving force here ever since, bringing South Asian and other culturally diverse stories to Vancouver stages.
Chokhani isalso the force behind Project SAT (South Asian Theatre) and the cocreator of the Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts. As part of Diwali at B.C., he started partnering with the Cultch and its Heather Redfern to present work at the York and the Vancity Culture lab.
“I always believed that although Diwali has roots in India, we’re doing it in B.C.,” Chokhani told the Straight about that project in 2018. “How do we take that concept and make it welcoming to other cultures?”
The Vancouver Fringe Festival is still scheduled to take place from September 10 to 20 at venues on Granville island and around the city.
In a press statement today, Chokhani acknowledged the struggles the performing arts are facing amid COVID-19.
“It is worth stating that even before I start, our team at the Fringe, our performing arts industry at large, and our community of global citizens have been challenged with this recent pandemic. My heartfelt support goes out to anyone and everyone affected by this,” he said. “I look forward to working with our team of hard-working staff, board members, donors, volunteers, artists, and the extended performing arts community.We are resilient, currently online, and will soon be back making Theatre for Everyone in physical spaces!”