indica News Bureau-
One of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, “Ramayana!” returns to the California stage in a musical production featuring lavish drama, dance and songs by a school’s entire student body and others from the community.
Mount Madonna School’s nearly 200 students, from pre-K to high school seniors, will put on the show June 6-9 at the Mexican Heritage Theater in San Jose for the 41st annual staging of the event by the four-decades-old private school.
“‘Ramayana!’ has been central to Mount Madonna School since its founding,” Supriya McDonald, head of the school, said in a news release. “It’s the culmination of months of work during the academic year and is a year-end celebration for our community embracing diversity and creative self-expression.”
The “Ramayana” is a timeless classic teaching the universal values of truth, duty, love and service to the greater good that tells the tale of Prince Ram and Princess Sita and her abduction by the demon King Ravana, McDonald said. The ancient story is set to a mix of traditional and contemporary music, and the school’s production features an adult choir and musicians with more than a dozen original songs.
The well-known tale with origins in India was adapted into a musical by members of the Mount Madonna community in the 1970s, McDonald said. The original songs are part of the American rock musical theater tradition, with echoes of “Hair,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” with a nod to “Hamilton.”
McDonald said the production carries on a tradition inspired by Baba Hari Dass, the renowned educator, yoga master and silent monk,
All seats are reserved and tickets are available at ramayana.brownpapertickets.com for the June 7-9 performances and at ramayana-preview.brownpapertickets.com for the June 6 dress Preview.
Sampad Kachuck, an MMS faculty member in his 36th year directing the productions, said the longevity of the show’s production demonstrates the importance of tradition and the benefits of familiarity.
“Some students have participated since they were in preschool. Although new songs, script changes and technical aspects are often inserted, the form stays mainly the same,” Kachuck said. “As we approach a new year of ‘Ramayana!’ our purpose is not to merely re-create what has been done in the past, as brilliant as those productions and characterizations may have been. Instead, the true value of the endeavor lies in our willingness to be present, engaged, and, within our dynamic collaboration, open to new discovery.”
The current incarnation of the show features choreographed fight scenes, monkeys and monsters, comedy, deep introspection by many characters, including King Ravana in his 10-headed costume), Kachuck said. Choreographed dances from Bharatanatyam to hip-hop and stage combat are featured.
“I see ‘Ramayana!’ as a beautiful amalgamation of tradition and community,” Kachuck said. “The power of theatre, and of this play in particular, is how it brings all kinds together. On the production end we work side by side and once the performance occurs, each of us as audience or participant can have our own experience, while acknowledging and honoring the efforts of the whole.”
[The school’s website is https://www.mountmadonnaschool.org/]