A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Kathakali performance at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, performed by visiting artists from Kerala, India. For those unfamiliar with the art form, Kathakali is an old Indian performance tradition notable for its highly stylized movements and elaborate costumes and makeup. In fact, it takes over four hours to apply makeup and get into costume for a Kathakali actor, and there are artists who specialize in this only. When you look at the picture below of me with the actor following the performance, you can see why.
Following the performance, the leader of this visiting group thanked the audience for sitting through the presentation, noting that it can be difficult and even boring for a Western audience. Many of the movements are slow, and there is a lot of repetition, invoking an almost trance-like state for the viewer. With American short attention spans inspired by commercials and fast-moving action-packed Hollywood films, I can understand why he made that caveat. But for me, it was refreshing. What a joy to experience something that relies less on realism and more on symbolic movements, gestures, and vocalizations. I encourage anyone reading this to get out and see something in the next few weeks that challenges and broadens the scope of your standard performance-viewing experience.
As always, I welcome you to e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding our programs and how to get involved. For a full list of locations where we offer programs, please see below.
Director of Performing Arts Abroad