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Kennedy Theatre preview: "Ramayana: the Abduction of Sita"

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A historic Indian Hindu story is making its way across the Pacific to the Kennedy Theatre.

"Ramayana: the Abduction of Sita" is a Balinese music and dance performance, part of the East West Center’s Asia Pacific Dance Festival. Hawaiʻi's Balinese performing group is joining forces with a Tokyo-based Balinese performing group for two nights this weekend.

The Ramayana originated from India and spread to other Southeast Asian countries. Eventually, the story varied in a localized form.

The tale is the story of Prince Rama as he is exiled from his kingdom to the forest with his wife, Princess Sita, and brother, Prince Laksmana. Meanwhile, the evil king Rawana kidnaps Sita as she is alone in the forest, hoping to take her as his bride. After a long journey, Prince Rama reunites with Princess Sita.

In this rendition, 60 people will be recreating the tale live on stage, with 17 guest artists from Tokyo, Japan.

“We want to bring to the audience here, a window to Balinese culture through performing arts,” Annie Reynolds, arts program assistant at the East West Center, said.

The gamelan

Musical performance in the show is primarily from the gamelan, an instrument ensemble that features bamboo flutes, bronze keys, gongs and other beat-keeping instruments. Reynolds is also playing in the Hawaiʻi ensemble and says there is no set tune in every performance, but rather an interaction between the group on stage.

“The concept behind is how you make a production that fits where you are. It’s a matter of timing, how characters interact with each other,” Reynolds said.

Leading the visitors’ ensemble is Putu Setiawan, a co-artistic director in the show, who says the collaboration actually started as a joke between him and Made Widana, another co-artistic director. Everyone was so interested in performing in Hawaiʻi that it soon became a reality.

“We have to make this event not our program. Not only Japan’s program, it’s between Hawaii and Japan … How to make it one heart,” Setiawan said.

The 75-minute performance has two shows: one at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and one at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Kennedy Theatre.

Tickets are available online for $12 to $34, to be picked up at the show. Tickets may also be purchased by phone at 808-956-8246 or at the Kennedy Theatre box office, one hour before showtime each day.

Editor's Note: Photos in this story were taken during a rehearsal. The cast and crew will be in costume for the performance.