“Walking play” The Buddha Prince comes to Minneapolis

The play shares the Dalai Lama’s message of accepting diversity, embracing freedom and spreading peace

Actors perform The Buddha Prince at Powderhorn Park Thursday. The play, which commemorates Tibets 50 years in exile, celebrates the life and teachings of the Dalai Lama.

Image by Marija Majerle

Actors perform “The Buddha” Prince at Powderhorn Park Thursday. The play, which commemorates Tibet’s 50 years in exile, celebrates the life and teachings of the Dalai Lama.

by Lolla Mohammed Nur

âÄúLook deep, youâÄôll see weâÄôre all the same,âÄù was the closing line of The Buddha Prince, a vibrant outdoor play based on the life and teachings of the 14th Dalai Lama and performed for free at Powderhorn Park Thursday night. The âÄúwalking playâÄù is literally that âÄì a play whose cast of actors, singers and instrumentalists walk from scene to scene while vividly enacting different periods of the Dalai LamaâÄôs life. The play drew in a crowd of about 180 audience members. Viewers witnessed a detailed rendition of the Dalai LamaâÄôs incarnation of his predecessor (the 13th Dalai Lama), journeyed to the invasion of Tibet during his adolescence, and were finally taken to his emotional escape to India. The Dalai Lama currently lives in India and has led the exiled Tibetan government there since 1959. Each of the six outdoor scenes allowed audience members to immerse themselves into the storyâÄôs organic set even though lighting and microphones were not used. âÄúI was pleasantly surprised. I thought the âÄòwalking playâÄô was an interesting concept,âÄù said audience member Sol Ortiz. Angela Giddings, another audience member, thought the play was âÄúamazing. Walking just made you feel like you were part of it, more vested in it.âÄù The playâÄôs script includes excerpts from the Dalai LamaâÄôs teachings and autobiographies, and has been endorsed by the Office of Tibet in New York. Play director Markell Kiefer said she was inspired to write the play because of the Dalai LamaâÄôs message of basic human values like peace, compassion and dialogue as opposed to war. âÄúWe all have different traditions and cultures, but at the very basic level, if we look deep, we all look the same. And thatâÄôs what everyone was left with,âÄù she said. The play has run in several cities across the country since 2001. However, this yearâÄôs performance is especially significant as part of the âÄú50 Years in ExileâÄù worldwide celebration commemorating the anniversary of ChinaâÄôs invasion of Tibet in 1959. Previous showings this year were at New YorkâÄôs Central Park and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Half of the castâÄôs 25 members are local Tibetan singers and performers while the remainder is comprised of professionals from diverse racial backgrounds. The playâÄôs music is a blend of Western instruments and Tibetan songs and dances. Kiefer said that because the play is outdoors, cast members must always anticipate the unexpected to happen. âÄúThereâÄôs always something like a plane flying over head or people just hanging out who couldnâÄôt care less about the show,âÄù she said. Kiefer said sometimes people stroll through a scene and the actors have to improvise. Asian languages, literature, and theater sophomore Yefei Jin played the role of the 15-year-old Dalai Lama, enacting the scene in which the Dalai Lama flees his homeland to seek refuge in India. âÄúTibet will never be free until the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels!âÄù Jin said in one of his most poignant lines in the play. Although JinâÄôs parents are Chinese, he said what drew him to act in the play was its message. The most distracting part about acting outside was the airplanes that constantly flew overhead, Jin said. He also noticed that the crowd at Powderhorn Park was a lot smaller than the 600+ crowds at previous performances in New York. âÄúBut it was still exciting, we all had big roles and everyone was connected to the message of freedom,âÄù Jin said. Edina resident Thu Top is a native of Tibet who watched the play. He thinks the play is âÄúvery important because it informs people about what happened and how the Dalai Lama had to escape.âÄù Co-sponsored by the UniversityâÄôs Center for Spirituality and Healing, the play is also a celebratory launch for the centerâÄôs new Arts and Healing Initiative. âÄúThis is a story of one manâÄôs capacity to transcend the brutality and intrusion in his life. This is a story of healing,âÄù Dianne Lev, the centerâÄôs director of development, said. More showings of the play are at 5:30 p.m. this Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday with 2 p.m. showings on Saturday and Sunday.The play is free, but any donations go toward the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota.