"Indian Ink"

Through Nov. 14

Studio Theatre

Tickets: 202/332-3300

Tom Stoppard's "Indian Ink" is a work of many intricacies. It takes place in both the 1930s and the 1980s, in India and in England, and weaves together philosophies about British colonialism, love and the difficulties of biography.

For director Joy Zinoman, falling in love with the play was easy. It was bringing it to the stage that was difficult. But closing it -- even after several extensions -- will be harder still.

Casting the play with English, American and Indian actors was a six-month process, involving top theater agents in New York and Los Angeles, advertising on the Internet and putting up notices in local Indian restaurants. Zinoman took full advantage of Washington's international community, finding a couple of actors at the World Bank and the Voice of America. (Pictured above, Ravi M. Khanna, from left, Isabel Keating, Sanjiv Jhaveri and Sean T. Krishnan.)

But once she had her multicultural cast assembled, Zinoman still faced the challenge of creating the close-knit ensemble she felt was necessary to the success of the play.

"It's hard to make art with strangers," she explains. "There's a lot of sensitive stuff here. It's very, very important to have a highly united cast."

So even before rehearsals started, she and the cast spent a week immersing themselves in the atmosphere of the play. They studied Indian classical dance and period ballroom steps. They relaxed over a catered Indian meal and watched portions of the PBS series "Jewel in the Crown" and the film "A Passage to India." Zinoman assembled a library of books on colonial India, which the actors pored over, along with a glossary of terms used in the script.

After all this work -- the agonizing over finding the actors, the self-doubts about directing such a complicated script, the struggle to bring everyone together into a single mind-set -- Zinoman had to let go on opening night.

"A sense of loss happens in the transition between the rehearsal period and the performances," she says. "In rehearsals I'm there with everyone every day. Then when the performances begin, I'm pretty obsolete."

The grieving, though, will hit full force when it comes time to pack up and cart away the design elements at the end of the play's run.

Says Zinoman: "It's gone, it's evaporated, that's it. All you have is your memories."