Mandala's 'The Story of Ram' celebrates Diwali outdoors Oct. 9 at Naper Settlement

  • As part of the Diwali celebration, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts is presenting "The Story of Ram" on Saturday, Oct. 9, at Naper Settlement.

    As part of the Diwali celebration, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts is presenting "The Story of Ram" on Saturday, Oct. 9, at Naper Settlement. Courtesy of Monika Bahroos

 
 
Posted9/22/2021 12:05 PM

In celebration of the Indian holiday of Diwali, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts presents "The Story of Ram," a family-friendly, outdoor immersive performance on Saturday, Oct. 9. Performances will be at 11 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. at the historic Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St. in Naperville.

"The Story of Ram" is Mandala's interpretation of the ancient epic Ramayana, a classic tale that spans across cultures, producing a multidimensional theatre work that combines contemporary culture and mythology. Artists share slices of rich tradition steeped in the epic, including dance, music and puppetry. Permeating the arts throughout South and Southeast Asia, the tale of Ram, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman exiled in the forest -- at odds with the brilliant king Ravana -- weaves together cultures from India, Indonesia, Thailand and more.

 

In its sixth year, Mandala's "The Story of Ram" takes place outdoors for the first time at the historic Naper Settlement to provide a completely immersive experience, with audience members interacting with the characters and moving around the environment.

The performers -- portraying humans and animals -- include Mandala's professional ensemble, Gingarte Capoeira, Indonesian Dance of Illinois, Somapa Thai Dance Company from Washington D.C., Thai Music @ Chicago, Chicago Kalakshetra (providing ritual drumming from the Indian state of Kerala) and award-winning artists I Gusti Pak Ngurah Kertayuda, Laksha Dantran and, as the monkey king Hanuman, Ashwaty Chennat, Mandala's associate artistic director.

In addition, the Government of India and the Indian Consulate in Chicago are partnering with Mandala on welcoming the Chitrakari Group and its Leather Art Puppet Show, representing the 11th generation of this folk art form (Tholubommalata).

"The Naper Settlement is a historical site representing the history of Naperville, Illinois, USA, and The Story of Ram is a tradition that migrated to the U.S. with immigrants from India," said Pranita Nayar, Mandala founder and executive artistic director. "So it is two cultural traditions melding with each other: the cultural artifact that existed and practiced traditions brought here with new waves of people."

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"We modeled the production after Shakespeare in the Parks and other mobile, outdoor theater. Our exciting challenge was to incorporate intercultural and non-verbal performing arts into this structure," Chennat said.

Mandala's annual holiday tradition, "The Story of Ram" began as a collaboration between cultural arts practitioners -- Pranita Nayar and I Gusti Pak Ngurah Kertayuda -- as they explored shared mythology in their respective dance traditions: Bharatanatyam and Balinese Dance. Their musings blossomed into a full dance-theatre production for children and diverse audiences, celebrating the beauty of cultural perspectives in the Chicago area.

Tickets are $25 general admission at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; tickets for the 5 p.m. fundraiser performance are $100.

Tickets and information are available at mandalaarts.org/the-story-of-ram/.

All programming is subject to change.

The Mandala South Asian Performing Arts connects audiences and students with the vibrancy, flavors, and colors of the performing arts traditions of South Asia, offering powerful engagement with unique and expert dancers, musicians, storytellers, artists, and educators whose origins reach from the Himalayan ranges to the Indian Ocean, from Persia to Indonesia. Mandala's ensemble dancers and musicians, teaching artists, and artistic collaborators and outreach partners bring folk and classical traditions, as well as current and hybrid innovations, to life. Mandala promotes cultural awareness and exchange through entertainment and education.

"The Story of Ram" is supported by the City of Naperville Special Events & Cultural Amenities Program, the DuPage County Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information, visit mandalaarts.org.

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