Category Archives: Theater

Somtow’s chariot halfway to Heaven

A scene from Somtow Sucharitkul's 10-part opera epic 'DasJati'. Photo/Siam Opera

A scene from Somtow Sucharitkul’s 10-part opera epic ‘DasJati’. Photo/Siam Opera

The Nation
Janice Koo
July 18, 2016 1:00 am

Work proceeds on history’s most ambitious opera cycle, and there’s every indication of glorious success

Ii seems to have happened overnight, but Somtow Sucharitkul is at the halfway point in composing his 10-opera epic “DasJati” (“Tossachat – Ten Lives of the Buddha”), collectively touted by trade publications as the “biggest opera of all time”. It will be, too – provided that the composer survives to realise his extraordinary ambition.

Opera Siam’s compilation of scenes from the first five installations in the cycle – staged at the Thailand Cultural Centre on June 25 and 26 in honour of His Majesty the King’s 70th year on the throne – afforded a wonderful opportunity to revisit some of the more unusual highlights from Somtow’s fevered imagination.

Presented once again in wondrous fashion were the shipwreck and angelic rescue scene from “Mahajanaka”, the animals in the forest mourning the death of “Sama: The Faithful Son”, and the temptation of the Death-God from “The Silent Prince”, as well as the wittily electrifying Baby Dragon Dance from “Bhuridat”.

These musical dramas were performed in Bangkok over the past four years, but most interesting of all was the “sneak preview” of the next entry, “Chariot of Heaven”, from which the audiences at the Cultural Centre were treated to the scene “Tavatimsa Heaven”.

One of the problems in setting these 10 beloved Jataka tales of the Buddha’s incarnations to music is the sheer variety of storytelling techniques involved. Some of the stories are intimate and simple. Others have complicated, generation-spanning plots, and “Chariot of Heaven” derives from one of the latter. It’s based on Nimi Jataka, the story of King Nemiraj, who was so noble that the gods invited him to preach to them in Heaven. Continue reading

Kathak meets Buddhist monks in Hyderabad

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 10.22.45 PMThe Times of India
Paulami Sen | TNN | Apr 5, 2016, 12.00 AM IST

Kathak guru Shovana Narayan’s goosebump inducing production, Wisdom and Compassion: The way of Buddha, staged at Ravindra Bharathi on Sunday, was different from the word go. Staying true to the eclectic style she is famous for, Shovana merges the tatkars of her dance troupe with the soothing chants of Buddhist monks, and the effect is spectacular. Divided into five acts, the production, which draws heavily from the teachings of the Buddha, was magical to say the least. The music, lighting schemes, the chants of the monks from the Drete Dhargon Monastery and the harmonious music transported the audience into a magical realm for 90 minutes. Some in the audience were even moved to tears — especially at that part where emperor Ashoka is thoroughly disillusioned after watching the perils of war, bloodshed and grotesque bodies. The show concluded with a segment of meditation initiated by the Buddhist monks. Post the show, Shovana was surrounded by her admirers in the dressing room — while one of them spoke eagerly about how much she loved the performance, another reminded her of yet another stellar show in Delhi way back in 1994. Shovana herself had some nice things to say about the Hyderabadi audience: “The reception of my dance in the city is always so excellent! It feels wonderful to perform here, people are so warm, they come up to me and tell me so many things about my dance. The first time I came to perform here was way back in 1980 and it has been a great relationship with Hyderabad since then. Look, so many people turned up this evening, despite the World Cup T-20 finals. I will come here again and again to perform, whenever Hyderabadis beckon.”


Play to honor Buddhist King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong


King Tran Nhan Tong was honored as King-Monk when he ceded his throne to lead a religious life and became the founder of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism.

A Cai Luong or reformed theatre play dedicated to King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong is expected to debut in December this year to commemorate the 707th anniversary of his attainment of Nirvana.

The play, entitled “Buddhist King” and performed by the Vietnam Cai Luong Theatre revisits the most glorious historical period in Vietnam. During this period, Vietnamese people under the leadership of the Tran Kings in the 13th and 14th century, defeated Mongolian invaders 3 times, gaining national peace.

Script-writer Bui Huu Duoc, who has spent decades learning about Buddhism, wrote the script for the “Buddhist King” play. He said the play features King Monk Tran Nhan Tong as a clear-sighted King as well as a religious figure.

Dr. Bui Huu Duoc noted, “During his reign, King Tran Nhan Tong led the Dai Viet people to defeat Mongol invaders twice. He became religious at a very young age. Though he was a King, he had the heart, mind, and views of a monk”. Continue reading

Thirst: The Nature of Craving – A Zen Opera in Three Acts

Saturday, January 09, 2016 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Atlanta Soto Zen Center
1167 Zonolite Place NE
Suite C
Atlanta, Georgia 30306
United States

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Registrar: Tom Pongratz
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“Thirst: The Nature of Craving”
Between periods of Zazen and chanting the day will be divided into three “Acts”.

Act 1 – What We Crave
In this section we will discuss what it is we crave when we crave. Beyond the obvious sex drugs and rock & roll, what is it we are actually craving? Is there something else? Something deeper? Or do we just dig the high.

Act 2 – How we Crave
The phenomenon of craving – as experienced – is not reducible to standard, common, prosaic language. Ordinary rational language is not sufficient. Something is always lost, missed, or harmed in the telling. Thus in Act 2 we will attempt to understand the phenomenology – the experience as experienced – of craving by sharing its expression through non-prosaic forms. Continue reading

Play hails founder of Vietnamse Zen Buddhism

Sitting monk: Thousands of pilgrims attended the unveiling ceremony of a bronze statue of the King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong in the Yen Tu religious and historical site in Quang Ninh Province on December 3, 2013. A cai luong play dedicating the King-Monk, who is founder of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism, is expected to debut in December – Photo: VNA/VNS

Sitting monk: Thousands of pilgrims attended the unveiling ceremony of a bronze statue of the King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong in the Yen Tu religious and historical site in Quang Ninh Province on December 3, 2013. A cai luong play dedicating the King-Monk, who is founder of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism, is expected to debut in December – Photo: VNA/VNS

VietNamNet Bridge – A cai luong (renovated theatre) play dedicated to the King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong – founder of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism – is expected to debut in the 11th lunar month, December, this year.

Entitled Vua Phat (Buddhist King), the play commemorates the 707th anniversary of his attainment of Nirvana.

The play will be staged by students at the Ha Noi college of cinematography and theatre, members of the Kham Pha dance troupe and monk students of the Viet Nam Buddhism academy.

The Buddhist King is about the life of Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308), the third king of the Tran dynasty. Continue reading

Siddhartha: The Musical

FO GUANG SHAN Philippines in cooperation with the Buddha’s Light International Association will restage Siddhartha: The Musical at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on July 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Directed by Sarah Mae Enclona-Henderson and with musical direction by Jude Gitamondoc, Siddhartha: The Musical tells the story of Siddhartha, the prince who renounced his royal status to seek enlightenment, eventually becoming the Buddha. The musical is based on the book The Biography of Sakyamuni Buddha by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order. Most of the songs used in the musical are also based on the writings of the Venerable Master. All proceeds of the restaging of the musical will benefit Guang Ming College in Manila for the training of scholars from financially challenged families around the country in the fields of Performing Arts and Buddhist Studies. For ticket inquiries, call the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple at 559-9540.


‘Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical’ imparts positive messages of love and compassion

Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical tells four stories through song and dance in imparting universal life lessons on love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical tells four stories through song and dance in imparting universal life lessons on love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

The Star Online
Sunday January 11, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM

In this musical, it’s entirely possible for pink lotus flowers to stretch on for all eternity in high definition, if the producer so desires – thanks to an impressive virtual reality stage set-up.

Painstakingly created by the folks at the Shanghai Virtual Performing Art Lab at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in China, this production integrates artistic content with scientific and digital technology, presenting a virtual reality stage in breathtaking 3D magnificence.

“Having a virtual reality stage really enhances the experience of watching the musical,” says Datuk Tan Swee Lai, producer of Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical, during a chat ahead of the musical’s opening.

“With these beautiful 3D effects, it feels like you are actually part of the scene. It feels very interactive. It is a big difference compared to when you utilise just props and conventional multimedia as we did in our previous productions,” she explains. Continue reading

Global debut of “See Mount Wutai Again,” a Buddhist Drama Directed by Wang Chaoge, Unlocks an All-new Era of Multistage Integrated Performance

OCTOBER 9, 2014 08:17 AM EDT

MOUNT WUTAI, China, Oct. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Jointly created by Mount Wutai Scenic Spot and Guanyinxiang Art Development Co., Ltd., and directed by renowned director Wang Chaoge, the large-scale drama See Mount Wutai Again made its global debut on Mount Wutai in Shanxi on September 19, 2014. An audience of more than 1,600 specially invited people including representatives from the Mount Wutai Buddhism Association, guests from all walks of life, and media watched the debut, and spoke highly of the performance. Meanwhile, masters from various temples on Mount Wutai held a grand blessing ceremony blessing with 1,000 participants.
In March 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping talked about the history and significance of Chinese Buddhism development for the first time during his visit to the UNESCO headquarters. Xi connected Buddhist culture and construction of a socialist spiritual civilization, speaking highly of Buddhism. He said, “After a long period of evolution, Buddhism has seen integrated development with Chinese Confucian culture and Taoism culture, and finally formed Buddhist culture with Chinese characteristics, exerting profound influence on Chinese religious belief, philosophy, literature and art, etiquette and custom, among others.”

Mount Wutai is the most well-known Buddhist sanctuary among the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China, and See Mount Wutai Again gives an in-depth interpretation of spiritual connotation of Buddhist culture in an innovative manner. The nearly 200 meters long stage with a strong Buddhist atmosphere, extraordinary thematic interpretation, and beautiful revolving space constitutes the visual highlight of the drama. In the drama, audience saw how Buddhism is connected with modern life and life stories of common people on Mount Wutai. The audience, along with the roles in the drama, experienced passage of time and Zen meditation of life, while experiencing the wisdom implicated from Mount Wutai from a special perspective. “In China, Buddhism is not just a faith; it is part of our culture, running in the blood of the Chinese people,” said director Wang. Whether you believe in Buddhism, there exist Buddhism-related behaviors in our life.” Continue reading

Monks studying at theater academy

Shanghai Daily
Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Monks from the Jade Buddha Temple yesterday enrolled at the Shanghai Theater Academy, in order to improve the quality of their musical performances for visitors.

Ten monks signed up as full-time students to study music and performance — the first monks from the Anyuan Road temple to study full time.

The 10, who are members of the temple’s Buddhist orchestra, started the first semester with classes on singing, reciting lines, performing and building up their physiques.

After graduation from the three-year course, they will primarily perform Buddhist music to believers and visitors at the temple, said Abbot Jue Xing.

Established in 2000, the orchestra sings sutras in Sanskrit. Continue reading

Journey To The West – The Musical charts a monk’s epic tale

The cast of Xuan Zang: Journey to the West - The Musical by Han Production at a rehearsal in Kuala Lumpur. Producer/director Yang Wei Han calls this English and Mandarin musical an "epic production".

The cast of Xuan Zang: Journey to the West – The Musical by Han Production at a rehearsal in Kuala Lumpur. Producer/director Yang Wei Han calls this English and Mandarin musical an “epic production”.

The Daily Start
Published: Sunday October 12, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM


A monk’s lifetime quest for knowledge is immortalised in a musical.

Who hasn’t heard of Journey To The West, one of the four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature? Inspiring numerous books, movies and drama series, this story relates the adventures of Buddhist monk Xuan Zang on his pilgrimage from China to the “Western Regions” (India) to obtain sacred scriptures.

Accompanied by three disciples, Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy, and a dragon prince, who goes under the guise of a white steed, they battle demons and monsters along the way, overcoming all odds in the quest for knowledge.

This 16th century novel, for all its fantastical elements and embellishments, was based on historical events nine centuries prior – though no less impressive in its own right.

Xuan Zang was a Tang Dynasty monk who, plagued by the discrepancies in the Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures, left his homeland and travelled west overland to India in search of the originals. In defiance of the emperor’s ban on travel, he left Chang’an in 629 and headed for India where he spent the next decade and beyond visiting important pilgrimage sites and studying at the ancient centre of learning, the university of Nalanda.

When he returned to China with hundreds of scriptures and relics in his possession, almost 20 years had passed. Xuan Zang declined all appointments offered by the emperor and instead retired to a monastery and dedicated the rest of his life to the translation of these Buddhist texts. Continue reading