iNDICA News Bureau-
The Ramayana is a classic tale familiar to every Indian child. It teaches the virtues of family, duty, truth and honor, and is a tale central to Hindu lore. The epic is a regular feature at California’s Mount Madonna School.
The Mount Madonna Center (MMC) for the Creative Arts and Sciences is a residential community and conference center founded in 1978 atop a mountain in Watsonville, and has featured annual musical productions of Ramayana since the 1970s.
This year will be the 43rd annual ‘Ramayana!’ musical – the only one of its kind. The current version of the show features choreographed fight scenes, monkeys and monsters, comedy, deep introspection by many characters, including King Ravana (in his unique ten-headed costume). Within the action are rousing choreographed dances from Bharatanatyam to hip-hop, as well as plenty of stage combat and spectacle.
The costumes, demon and monkey masks, elaborate sets, props and monster rigs (such as Kumbhakarna, a 25-foot puppet with a radio-controlled mechanical mouth and eyes) were created by Baba Hari Dass, a silent monk who inspired the creation of the Mount Madonna Center, as well as artisans associated with the center and the school.
Every item in the show is a work of handmade art, and the show is described as a Broadway-caliber musical. It is certainly an enormous undertaking, featuring a cast composed of 175 students ranging from preschool to high school and every grade in between.
Gitanjali Riviera, director of the play, said, “All myths have lessons for us, regardless of the cultural tradition or origin. These myths, including Ramayana, tell universal stories of good versus evil, of devotion to something greater than our own individual selves, and the importance of creating a community of service. Whether a student has been in Ramayana for one year or 15 years, these lessons have a way seeping into one’s mind and actions, and as students embody these life lessons onstage, they are also absorbed into other aspects of their lives.”
Apart from these life lessons, the school’s head, Ann Goewert, said she hopes to have her students embody the values imparted by this tale, which is why the production of Ramayana has been central to Mount Madonna School since its founding and is considered “a year-end celebration for our community embracing diversity and creative self-expression”.
‘Ramayana!’ returns to the stage to entertain audiences of all ages June 9-12 at the Mexican Heritage Theater, San Jose. All seats are reserved and tickets are available at ramayana.brownpapertickets.com. Admission is guided by the current Covid-19 protocols for the state of California.
Mount Madonna School is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual and ethical growth. It supports students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society.