Ramayana producers in Seattle assure respectful portrayal to worried Hindus

Apparently to counter the worries of Hindus about the upcoming ambitious theater production “Ramayana” staying true to the story and the spirit of their ancient Sanskrit sacred scripture, producer ACT has assured respectful representation of cultures and traditions.

Becky Lathrop, Director of Marketing and Communications of ACT (A Contemporary Theatre), in an email to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed on October 16, wrote: “Efforts were taken to make sure that the cultures and traditions are represented respectfully. We hope the production/interpretation will be viewed as a wonderful opportunity to bring the teachings of the Ramayana to a broader audience.”

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that they were relieved to get the ACT’s assurance on respectful treatment of the highly revered scripture of the Hindus. Zed had earlier urged ACT that the final product should be the true depiction of Ramayana and not a fantasized or a re-imagined version.

Lathrop, in this email, also wrote: “Accuracy, preparedness and relationship building has been at the forefront of the project for the two years it has been in process.”

Rajan Zed had earlier stated that Hindus wholeheartedly welcomed theater and film companies to immerse in Hinduism, but taking it seriously and respectfully, as refashioning of Hinduism concepts and symbols for mercantile greed was likely to hurt the sentiments of devotees. Insensitive handling of faith traditions sometimes resulted in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols.

Zed had pointed out that Ramayana was an integral part of Hinduism and was held in such reverence that Hindus believed that simply reading/hearing of it showered blessings upon the reader/listener. Rama, the hero of Ramayana, was incarnation of Vishnu, and was worshipped by Hindus. Zed had earlier expressed concern at the mentioning of “re-imagined environments” in the ACT announcement of the play.

Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit scripture that consists of 24,000 stanzas, explores various themes, including human existence, concept of dharma, etc. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksha (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

According to reports, opening night of the world premiere of three-hour long multi-discipline “Ramayana” will be held on October 18, and it will continue till November 11. Described by ACT as “eye-popping roller coaster”, its production budget was about $500,000, it took two years in scripting and includes a large ensemble. Rama is played by Rafael Untalan, Sita by Khanh Doan, Ravana by John Farrage, Lakshmana by Tim Gouran and Hanuman by Brandon O'Neill in this play directed by Sheila Daniels and Kurt Beattie and adapted-created by Yussef El Guindi and Stephanie Timm. Tickets cost up to $37.50.

Located in downtown Seattle and dating back to 1965, ACT defines itself as: “A Theatre of New Ideas…A cultural engine that makes plays, dance, music, and film”; and believes in the “theatre of the moment”. Kurt Beattie, Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi and Brian Turner are its Artistic Director, Executive Director and Board Chairman respectively.

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