Sikh outreach through theatre

Some ideas are just better communicated through modes other than writing. Theatre, through the unfolding of a story and through the body language of its actors, can sometimes convey meaning and ideas more effectively than just written words alone.

Some Sikh youth from Rockland, MD have decided to use theatre to engage non-Sikhs in learning about Sikhs- a wonderful idea.

bullah__theatre.JPGTwo plays are being planned for the fall expressing themes of diversity, mutual respect, interfaith and justice. They will both be staged on Saturday December 13, 2008 at the Wooten High School in Rockville, Maryland.

Where did this idea come from?

Last fall, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation had some of its kids take part in a play The Lorax, a musical adaptation from the famous Dr Seuss story book which was staged by kids from many different faiths. This play, adopted to create awareness about environment, was coordinated by the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and was staged by the Childrens Theater Company of New York.

After going through this experience, GGSF decided to form the Rockville Chapter of Childrens Theater Company last May to explore the possibility of staging a play depicting the concepts of Guru Granth Sahib. Dedicated to Building Character Onstage, the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) of New York develops in children and youth a keen sense of citizenship while introducing them to the incomparable magic of theatre through their full participation in the creation and performance of musicals and plays. [link]

What will the plays be?

Two plays have been selected in the upcoming show in December. First play – Yertle & Myrtle The Tyrant Turtles- Music and Adaptation by Lory Lazarus (inspired by Dr. Seuss) is to be performed by girls and boys of 6-9 ages.

In this story the hero, a turtle named Mack, shows how one can stand up to pressures of power executed by the King and eventually brings down the tyrannical throne.

Second play Wayward Knight’ with music and adaptation by Frank Sanchez and Mehr Mansuri, is going to be performed by our youth of ages 10 18 yrs. This is a story of a knight who is called upon to serve the King and that is the biggest honor he can get. As he sets off on this journey he comes across various situations where many seek his aid and protection. Though he resists something inside will not allow him to refuse. He presses on, but his mission is delayed again and again as the knight stops to help those in need. Has he been loyal to the King by following his heart or has he been an errant knight after all? Eventually he reaches the King, but no one in the kingdom recognizes him, and in fact he is called a thief. Finally when he meets the King, while he feels very low and humble because he did not fulfill the Kings command, the King recognizes him and honors him to highest degree of Knighthood for his good deeds, honesty and service! [link]

The second play for 10-18 year olds has been adapted to take place in the times of the Gurus and the set and characters will reflect this. Most importantly, the plays will be infused with quotes from Gurbani and/or Sikh history, to convey the messages of Sikhi to the audience.

The story will be of one of those Sikhs who has been summoned by the Guru at Anand Pur Sahib. Of course he is put through the test. We will incorporate Gurbani quotations and shabads to give inspiration to the Gursikh and be part of this long journey, learning at every step of the way what our faith is all about if we follow it from the Guru Granth Sahib. This effort can only be made by the youth and in theatrical sense to bring it to the community at large, because it leaves an impression on the minds of the performers and the audience like a pleasant dream. This would give life to our Sikh scriptures and teachings of service, honesty, duty, love and much more. The youth will also express them selves with Sikh costumes, turbans, warrior attire and very grand acts of Gatka the Sikh martial art. [link]

Some thoughts from organizers on why they chose this method and what they hope to achieve:

Harminder Kaur Mangat said, This may seem like a very simple idea, but when the meek speak up for their own rights and that off the others, specially acted by very young kids becomes rather special. When we infuse the play with quotations from Gurbani or our Sikh history, it becomes very apparent to the world that Sikhs have always stood up for human rights. It would become easier for a child to understand and remember how and why our identity is so important because if we can stand up for others we certainly can stand up for ourselves!

Dr. Rajwant Singh, Executive Director of GGSF, said, This is a unique way of celebrating this important anniversary. For ages, art and culture has brought together different countries, races, and people. We hope to not only share the celebration of 300 years of Guru Granth Sahib with others outside our community but to bring everyone together through these plays.

Jasjit Kaur Gabri, Assistant Director of the play, said, Working in the Childrens Theater Company at GGSF really convinces me that theater and music infused with Gurbani is one of the most powerful tools that can be used by our kids to bring home and world together.” [link]


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One Response to “Sikh outreach through theatre”

  1. Interested says:

    Where is it possible to get a copy of the play please?

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