Lookingglass Brings Down the House with Indian Rock Musical Sita Ram
Company members mentioned in this article: David Kersnar
by Ruth Smerling
Lookingglass ensemble member David Kersner, Josephine Lee, Artistic director of the Chicago Childrenâ€™s Choir and Grammy nominated composer Jai Uttal have teamed up to bring another monumental cultural event to Chicago, SITA RAM, based on the Hindu spiritual epic, Ramayana, the classic poem describing the triumph of love over evil, written by Sage Valmiki in Sanskrit in 300 BCE. Two thousand years later, Ramayana is as important today as any spiritual scripture held sacred throughout the world, variations and translations of the work have been performed in dance-dramas and shadow plays throughout Java, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma.
The original poem has 2400 verses and fills a volume about the same size as the Christian bible. The poem is divided into seven sections. Legend has it that Valmiki was actually a thief. He made the mistake of robbing a holy man who was a pauper. The holy man gave him the mantra â€śMara,â€ť which meant evil. After repeating the mantra countless times, Valmiki suddenly realized that saying mara, mara, mara was the same as saying rama, rama, rama, invoking Rama, the seventh incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, the Hindu embodiment of heroism and goodness. With this epiphany, Valmiki sat down and wrote Ramayana as tribute.
SITA RAM is a story within a story. The monkey Hanuman (Isiah M. Robinson) tells the story to the little monkey, played by the adorable energetic Abigail Droeger. He unfolds the story of Prince Rama, a powerful young man who is in love with the beautiful Princess Sita (Pranidhi Varshney). He should be able to take her for his bride, but he she is in the grasp of the evil Ravana (Anish Jethmalani), the 10-headed demon. He believes that Sita belongs with him and that together they can instill harmony and peace into the world around them. But to get to that point, he has to battle not only Ravana, but his legions of loyal subjects who are under his control.
SITA RAM enlists the Chicago Childrens Choir and the Natya Dance Company of Chicago to tell the ancient tale. This is not a traditional telling. Thereâ€™s rock music, wild dancing and an ethnic mix of performers, making the ancient story another star on the American flag, stirring the Hindu culture into the melting pot.
SITA RAM runs through April 2. The show sold out nine days after its announcement. Tickets are often available day of performance. Check with the box office at 312-338-0665.
NATYA DANCE COMPANY DEMONSTRATION APRIL 5 â€“ Would you like to experience a Natya Dance Company performance? Natya Dance Company invites you to a lecture an demonstration on April 5 at 12:15 p.m. Phone for details at 312-212-1240 or visit the website, www.natya.com.