Theater Arts Dept. presents Buddhist tales from Southeast Asia

Theater Arts professor Kathy Foley (photo by Scott Rappaport)

The UCSC Theater Arts Department will present Before Becoming Buddha: Jataka Tales of the Previous Lives--a collection of Buddhist stories from Southeast Asia told through music, dance, masks, dialogue, and song--May 31 and June 1-3 at the Theater Arts Center Mainstage.

The show is under the direction of theater arts professor Kathy Foley, a specialist in Southeast Asian performing arts. UCSC alumnus Ben Arcangel is the choreographer; and Undang Sumarna, director of UCSC's West Javanese gamelan ensemble, will direct a live ensemble of musicians for the production.

Jataka are the stories of the Buddha's previous lives, and they draw on a wide body of South Asian literature, including important epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata and animal tales from the Pancatantra.

"I invite audiences into these stories with hopes that they will wish to take up the message implied by the pictures, puppets, masks, and singers," said Foley. "Right here and now we can begin a journey whose ultimate destination is the perfected universe. Music, dance, and the world of art can embody not just what we are, but that other we might be."

One of the first foreign artists ever invited to perform wayang (puppetry) at the Indonesian National Festival of Traditional Theatre, Foley has been involved in the arts of Sunda, West Java, since l974. She has performed and lectured throughout the United States for audiences ranging from the National Geographic Society to the Santa Cruz artists-in-the-schools program. Foley was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Indonesia and has taught annually at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok since 2003. She is also editor of the Asian Theatre Journal.

The evening shows begin at 7 p.m. and the Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. Tickets are $13, general admission, $9 seniors and students w/ID. UCSC undergraduates are admitted free with valid ID. For more information, contact the UCSC Ticket Office: (831) 459-2159, or (service charges may apply).