04 May 2012

Likay - traditional drama form

We started of the day at the Christian Comminication Institute, conveniently located a block or so from our hotel. CCI was founded around 1960 by a missionary couple (Alan & Joan Eubank). They wanted to use a traditional folk drama form (likay) to help spread the gospel.

There is another form of drama that is very formalized and can't be changed...the stories the movement, the music...it all must remain untouched. However, likay is more improvisational. It tends to be a small troupe of players that roves from town to town, sets up in the town square and does a number of performances before moving on. The shows are pure entertainment (no social message), painted canvas backdrops, lots of humor, and frequently ribald. The stories are modern with topics from daily life.

The Eubanks created Gospel-based stories in the Likay format. There are some archetypes that are maintained from traditional Likay...The Hero is always charming and idealistic, for example.

Today the troupe performed a Likay version of "The Good Samaritan." The parts are spoken and sung but there are also gestures and movements that go along with it. Afterward, Ken had come of the performers show us how these movements communicate, almost like a sign language. I wished they'd showed us this before the performance. I followed the story but knowing the gestures were more than theatricality would have been helpful.

After the performance the troupe worked with us on some of the (very) basic traditional dance movements. It's a lot of stylized hand positions and movements that, to do properly, you have to have joints that bend in ways they generally don't...fingers that arc toward the back of the hand, elbows that bend a bit past open. They showed us the type of stretches that dancers do daily to facilitate these moves. Done properly, it's vey graceful. There were a couple of women in the troupe that had studied traditional dance formally and they were a joy to watch.