Kathakali Dancers: Shanmukhadas Chandrasekharan, Sreedharan Achari Revikumar
Kathakali Drummer: Parameswaran Hadish
Kathakali Singer: Kunjisankaran Sadhudas Vinod
musicians: Yukio Tsuji & Yoshitaka Shimada
make-up artist: Sukumaran Thendankavil Ramakrishnan
special effects: David Adams
lighting design: Oleg Brau
additional performers: Members of Kerala Team of Kathakali Artists, the Great Jones Repertory Company, Slant, Kinding Sindaw & The Indhra Rajashekar Dance Academy

Performance Schedule:
May 8th - May 12th
Wednesday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
Annex Theatre

La MaMa will present special performances of "Draupadi," a new Kathkali Dance Opera conceived and directed by Ellen Stewart. The work will be performed by leading Kathkali dancers from India, members of the Great Jones Repertory, and others. It depicts a classical Sanskrit story of a princess who was married to five brothers, and of their constant wars. The title is the name of oneof the heroines of the great Hindu epic, "The Mahabarata." Draupadi, a princess of unequaled beauty, was won in a contest by the heroic archer Arjuna and shared by the five sons of Pandu on the orders of their mother, Kunthi. Her legend is part of the classic story of the struggle within the royal house of Kurus, in which the 100 sons of Dhritarashtra--the Kauravas--and the five sons of Pandu--the Pandavas--battle continually for control of the Kingdom. Draupadi's humiliations at the hands of the Kauravas are a thrilling part of the epic; her story is a saga of suffering. This production culminates in the portion of the epic in which the Pandavas lose the princess to the Karavbas through a game of chance. It will be an interdisciplinary work staged in a series of vivid choreographic and action-packed sequences, performed with musical accompaniment. Kathakali is a spectacular dance-drama form of the southern Indian region of Kerala, characterized by its complex language of mime and highly stylized and colorful makeup that resemble masks. Stories involve heroes, villains, gods, and demons, in addition to more subtle characterizations of those who commit evil deeds yet retain a streak of valor. These personality traits are all indicated by complex makeup, which can take up to three hours to apply and which highlights facial expressions, a vital aspect of the art. Costumes are colorful and include heavily decorated headdresses associated with the parts played and voluminous white skirts enabling freedom of movement. Kathkali was first introduced into the U.S. by La MaMa in 1966; subsequently, La MaMa artists participated in workshops in Kathkali until the death of the famed Kathkali dancer and teacher, Sukinda Dutt, during open heart surgery in the '80s. La MaMa's founder/artistic director Ellen Stewart returned to Kerala State, India this year to assemble this unique production, because artists of this particular region are "the only ones in the world who can do this authentic dance," according to Stewart. Featured will be two dancers, two musicians and a makeup artist from Kerala. The dancers, Shanmukhadas Chandrasekharan and Sreedharan Achari Revikumar, will train twelve La MaMa dancers in some Kathkali techniques, which will be used in the show. The interdisciplinary production will also include music played by Yukio Tsuji, Yoshitaka Shimada and Indian musicians Kunjisankaran Sadhudas Vinod and Parameswaran Hareesh. There will be music composed by Tsuji and Ellen Stewart, traditional costumes from India, makeup by Kathkali make-up artist Sukumaran Thendankavil Ramakrishnan, special effects by David Adams and lighting by Oleg Brau. The title role will be played by Zishan Ugurlu, a member of the Great Jones Repertory. Storyteller will be Indhra Rajashekar. Set design is by the company, John Scheffler and Alissa Mello/Michael Kelly. The mask of Bakasura and the head of the Hindu god Ganesh are designed and created by Federico Restrepo, a member of La MaMa Bogata. Ellen Stewart is internationally recognized for her stagings of majestic, multi-arts theater spectacles, many on classical and religious themes. Her directing record includes "Cotton Club" (La MaMa, three times), "Bamba" (Argentina, 1984), "Mythos Oedipus (Greece and La MaMa, four times), "Orfei" (La MaMa, 1975, 1985), "Phaedra Via Hercules," "Dionysus," "Romeo and Juliet" (Salzburg, Uruguay, Sarah Lawrence, 1981, 1988, 1991), "Fedra" (Argentina, 1986), "The Monk & The Hangman's Daughter" (Florida, Italy, 1986, 1990, 2000), "Prescepio Vivente (The Nativity)" (Italy, 1990), "Gerusalemme Liberata" (Rome, 1990, 1992), "Cordilera" (Philippines, 1988), "Ciacinta" (Italy, 1991), "Ecumenical Music of the World" (Paris, 1992), "Yunus" (Istanbul 1991, La MaMa 1992), "Tancredi and Erminia" (La MaMa, 1993) and "Seven Against Thebes" (La MaMa, 2001). The La MaMa ensemble will include members of the Great Jones Repertory and members of three other companies: the La MaMa-based performance ensemble SLANT, the Philippine-American dance/martial arts troupe Kinding Sindaw, and Indhra Rajashekar Dance Academy. There will also be additional guest artists. The India-based collaborators are drawn from the leading Kathkali artists of Kerala: Shanmukhadas Chandrasekharan is perhaps the most outstanding young dancer in Kathakali of today. He was born in Pullangadi village of Alappuzha District, Kerala State, India, which has a prolonged tradition of classical performing arts. He joined Kalamandalam, the major dance school of Kalamandalam in Cheruthuruthi, at the age of 13. He studied with illustrious Kathakali teachers including Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nayar and Gopi, earned a government scholarship for higher studies in Kathakali, and has now been a provisional Instructor of Kathakali for several years. He was a member of the Kalamandalam Kathakali Troupe that toured Iran, France and Italy for performances during the last several years and is adept in the heroic and major female roles in Kathakali. Sreedharan Achari Revikumar hails from Kottarakkara in South Kerala, India. He also joined Kalamandalam at the tender age of 13 and trained under the maestros Kalamandalam Rajasekharan and Kalamandalam Prasanna Kumar. Currently Mr.Revikumar is provisional Instructor at Kalamandalam. He is also a singer and painter. He has an enviable instinct for improvisations and distinctive character-presentation. Mostly, Mr.Revikumar is well-recognized for his demonic roles in Kathakali such as Dussasana, Baka and Thrigartha. He has a penchant for both realistic acting and vigorous dancing and is well-recognized for both his semi-comic characters and his female-demonic roles in Kathakali. Kunjisankaran Sadhudas Vinod, from Agasthicode in South Kerala, is a highly gifted young vocalist. In traditional Kathkali, accompanying verses are rendered by two singers at the back of the stage, and musical accompaniment is provided by cymbals, gong, and drums called chenda and maddalam. K.S. Vinod studied at Kalamandalam in the late '90s and joined the institution as provisional Instructor of Kathakali Music a couple of years back. He has traveled in France and Italy as vocalist in the Kalamandalam Kathakali company during 2001. Parameswaran Hareesh, from Ollur, a village in the Thrissur District of Kerala, was born into a distinguished family of traditional artists. He has followed in the footsteps of his father, Kalamandalam Parameswara Marar, an accomplished percussionist in Panchavadyam, a Kerala ensemble. Parameswaran is now a senior student of the chenda, the high-sounding musical instrument in Kathakali, at Kalamandalam. He is considered an upcoming stage artiste. Sukumaran Thendankavil Ramakrishnan is one of the best known make-up artists of Kathakali today. He took his diploma and post-diploma in Kathakali and Koodiyattam (traditional Sanskrit theater) make-up from Kalamandalam a few years back. Now he has a government scholarship for advanced training in Kathakali make-up under the make-up maestro, Kalamandalam Govinda Warrier. Sukumaran was born in Thonoorkara, a village in Thrissur District of Kerala, and is now one of the few excellent make-up artists and costume-makers in the fields of Kathakali and Koodiyattam. He has traveled widely in India as member of Kalamandalam Performance Company and is now a busy free-lance make-up artiste. Funded in part by the Asian Cultural Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts.
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