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Nang Pramo Thai: The Exuberant Shadow Theater of Northeast Thailand

Film and lecture by shadow theater scholar Bonnie Brereton.

Monday, November 19, 2007
10:00 AM - 10:45 AM
A18 Haines Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Thai shadow theatre or nang talung has long been associated with the southern region, where it is famous as the hallmark of local identity. However it is also found in parts of the northeast (Isan), where it is known as nang pramo thai. Although it began there probably no earlier than the first quarter of the twentieth century, nang pramo thai  is now a vibrant form of entertainment that has a loyal following. This talk explores the status of this dramatic form in the central Isan provinces (Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Kalasin, and Roi Et) and contrasts it with that of the traditional shadow theatre of southern Thailand. Unlike its southern counterpart, nang pramo thai is found mainly in villages, with a  repertoire confined primarily to scenes from the Ramakian and the Sin Sai story. 

Nang pramo thai in many ways embodies the essence of the local culture of the Northeast. This can be seen not only in its robust music, high-spirited puppetry, and inclusion of women puppeteers; but also in the performers’ ingenuity in adopting an “imported tradition” and transforming it into a local one when faced with financial hardship.

Bonnie Brereton has been interested in Southeast Asian cultural forms since she first went to Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1965.  She earned masters degrees in Southeast Asian studies and Asian art history and a doctorate in Buddhist studies from the University of Michigan, and has taught courses in comparative religions and cultures.  After working as an outreach coordinator at Michigan’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, she received a Fulbright fellowship to serve as a consultant at Khon Kaen University where she began research on local shadow theatre and village temple murals. She now lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand but travels frequently to the northeast to continue her research.

Her most recent publications are works co-authored with Thai associates, including “Traditional Shadow Theater of Northeastern Thailand (Nang Pramo Thai) Hardy Transplant or Endangered Species?” forthcoming in Aseanie, and a book in progress on Isan murals.

This film and lecture are presented as part of the class "Introduction to Southeast Asian Studies," but the public is welcome to attend.

Parking in UCLA's Lot 2 costs $8.

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies

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