The power of community is a beautiful thing. So many people drift through this world without feeling like they truly belong to something that is bigger than themselves. Being a student at Mount Madonna School and being a part of Ramayana performances has always filled this crucial void for me. I have experienced firsthand what can happen when hundreds of people rally around a central idea and work together to create something magnificent.
Mount Madonna School has successfully created this magic for over 30 years and it is still going strong. I have been a part of this school-wide play since I was 3 years old, and its purpose has drifted past childhood tradition and into the realm of lifelong meaning for me.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to play some of the most profound roles in the play include Ram, the central protagonist, as well as his prideful adversary, the Demon King Ravana. Because I have been in Ramayana for so long, playing these characters was extremely special because I grew up admiring not only the roles, but the students who had played them in the past. Everything about each of these parts brings up stirring images of glory and honor. Ram’s cool, blue body paint, the lifting and breaking of Shiva’s bow, the respect and dedication he shows in his quest to rescue his wife, all blend together to create the perfect hero in this Indian epic.
When I played Ravana, I noticed his 10 heads joined together to create a dominating presence within the costume itself. With each step I took, there was a light jingle of the bells wrapped around my ankles to make my presence known to all who were listening. Each character in the play has distinct details about their costumes and the way in which they are portrayed, as each year another student brings a new perspective.
As the final time I perform in this play approaches, I have come to realize how meaningful it will be for me. As I have grown I have become more aware of all the work that is done by people who do not expect any credit or compensation for the hard work they have put into making this a successful production.
The power of the MMS community is what brings out the true meaning of Ramayana. From the beautiful work of our costumers to the intense labor of our set designers, this play requires more than the commitment of its actors. Hundreds of people from the community volunteer because they believe in the play and are attracted to the idea of making a difference. The community of Ramayana reaches beyond the actors and the play itself, and into the audience, across countries and into the minds and hearts of everyone who can say that they were a part of this one of a kind production.
After this year, I will graduate, move on to college, and find my niche in a whole new community. But I know that whenever I want, I can come back to this play and take a new role; it may not be a part on the stage, but whatever I can contribute will be sure to have an impact.
P.K. Hattis is a senior at MMS. This is his 15th year as a Ramayana cast member. He will attend the UC Davis in the fall.
June 10-12. Mexican Heritage Theater, San Jose. $35 adults, $25 youth 18 and under. www.MountMadonnaSchool.org/Ramayana.