Mount Madonna School near Watsonville has long used the musical “Ramayana!” as an educational tool and a community-building experience for its students, and this year’s production of the theater epic based on a Sanskrit story from ancient India takes place Thursday through Sunday at the Mexican Heritage Theater in San Jose.
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Yes, I’m aware that the following is a recommendation for an event over the hill, 35 miles from downtown Santa Cruz, on infamously white-knuckle Highway 17. But this one deserves some local attention, because it’s rooted in Santa Cruz County, and it’s been going on for a long, long time.
It is “Ramayana!”, a new production of the theater epic based on a Sanskrit story from ancient India, and one of the foundational texts of Hinduism. The show is the work of the Mount Madonna School, near Watsonville, and it’s mounting its 44th annual production of the play, this weekend at the Mexican Heritage Theater in San Jose.
The school is an offshoot of the Mount Madonna Center, atop its namesake hillside northeast of Watsonville. The school has used “Ramayana!” as an educational tool and a community-building experience for its students for generations now. And, having done it so often, it’s become the signature event for the MMC community.
The story is a hero epic, focused on brave Prince Rama and Princess Lakshmana and the villainous King Ravana — who, we should note, has 10 heads, and the Ravana costume has become one of the production’s iconic images.
Though based on a timeless spiritual epic, this particular play is a product of the cumulative creativity of the folks at Mount Madonna, featuring original music and choreography, with eye-popping set pieces and costumes as well.
If you’re over in San Jose anyway this weekend, why not give some support to a longtime local tradition, Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.