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Mandala's OUTDOOR THE STORY OF RAM Welcomes 500 To Naper Settlement, October 9


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.

Mandala's OUTDOOR THE STORY OF RAM Welcomes 500 To Naper Settlement, October 9

On Saturday, October 9, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts brought its annual celebration of Diwali, The Story of Ram, to the historic Naper Settlement, 523 South Webster Street, Naperville, for three family-friendly, outdoor immersive performances, welcoming nearly 500 people, including elected officials, representatives from several consulates and community VIPs.

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 took 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, similar to Shakespeare in the Park. The performers-portraying humans and animals-included Mandala's professional ensemble, Gingarte Capoeira, Indonesian Dance of Illinois, Somapa Thai Dance Company from Washington DC, 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.

Mandala Founder and Executive Artistic Director Pranita Nayar told the crowd, "Under my direction, every celebration of The Story of Ram has been about weaving communities together, about building bridges-literally and physically in the performance as well as metaphorically. That's our most important message: Let's build bridges. Let's come together."

Among those attending:

  • Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, U.S. Congress (D-IL 8thDistrict)
  • Congressman Bill Foster, U.S. Congress (D-IL 11thDistrict)
  • Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, Illinois General Assembly (D-41stDistrict)
  • Dr. Mimi Cowan, Speaker, District 11 Will County Board
  • Dr. Geneace Williams, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager, City of Naperville
  • Mrs. Natnapang Damrongsoontornchai, DeputyGeneral of Thailand, Royal Thai Consulate Chicago (and family)
  • Mr. BennyKurnia Rahman, Deputy Consul General for Social and Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Chicago
  • Mr. Amit Kumar, Consul General, Consulate General of India, Chicago, and his wife, Surabhi

Dr. Cowan said, "Congratulations on such an amazing event. What a perfectly enchanting night. And I just can't stop thinking, 'I bet Joe Naper never imagined THIS'-and smiling because growth and change are the hallmarks of successful communities. I celebrate your ability to demonstrate-in such a beautiful way-Naperville's commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as the arts."

Many community leaders and supporters collaborated to organize the fundraiser performance at 5 p.m. Woodridge Clinic was Presenting Sponsor. Patel Brothers and Swad Foods was Gold Sponsor. Indian Harvest, a Naperville restaurant and caterer, provided the food.

Community member Rachna Prasad commented, "Mandala took an ancient story and made it relatable and relevant to a modern audience. The story was told with clarity and purpose and did not shy away from connecting the dots to today. The dance performances were beautifully balanced between gentle and graceful movements woven through with energy and humor. My friends and I brought our young teen daughters hoping to connect them to their heritage. What a marvelous surprise to see their South Asian heritage literally embraced by their Naperville heritage. Watching these ancient dances against the backdrop of our city's oldest buildings was an image I will always treasure."

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.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is India's most important holiday of the year, celebrated by people of many faiths. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. Though the holiday is celebrated differently in different parts of the world, the common theme is the victory of good over evil. (Source: National Geographic).

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