Discovering Theater in Nepal
When one considers a place as seemingly remote as Nepal, you would hardly imagine that it has a long history of theater. To most westerners the concept of theater goes hand in hand with ornate buildings and large, complex stages. And yet, Nepal has been involved in theater in one form or another for well over two millenniums. Unlike with western theater, theatrical performances have permeated many different aspects of every day life in Nepal. Members of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths have employed different theatrical practices in their culture and religious rites for thousands of years.
Over time the concept of theater in Nepal has been slowly refined. From the medieval ages to the 18th century, rulers in the country generally regarded the theater as being an important avenue of activity because it symbolized the spirit of the community and because performances could portray powerful messages to those who were watching. Even today, the theater is considered to have great cultural significance. During the mid 1800s, the Rana family decided it was time to create different theatrical troupes and to create theater houses where they could perform for the royal court. This merging of traditional theater and western theatrical traditions resulted in more organized and lavish theatrical productions. In the early 1900s Balakrishna Sama decided that it was time to break down the walls and allow the common public to enjoy these performances too.
Today there are not many Nepali theaters but it is worth attending a production or two if you can. You might want to consider the Aarohan Theater Group and the Gurukul School of Theater. Theater in Nepal has gradually branched out into three very different theatrical styles and you should be sure which is which before booking your tickets. The traditional dance-dramas and ritual blends are very colorful and enjoy an air of festivity, while the masked performances are more stirring and imaginative. Western influences are very evident in both these forms of theater. The thirds style is that of folk theater which is distinctive from region to region and which has changed very little over the centuries. Regardless of which form of theater you enjoy, your attendance will be not only educational and enjoyable but will support the local acting fraternity. These people are working hard to use theater as a medium of education and inspiration and are looking for ways to encourage more youths to take an interest in this age-old form of self-expression.