Nang Pramo Thai! The Exuberant Shadow Theater of Northeast Thailand
Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 12:00 PM
Presented by Professor Bonnie Bererton, University of Michigan
Thai shadow theater (nang talung) has long been associated with southern Thailand, where it is a famous hallmark of local identity. It is also found in parts of the northeast, where it is known as nang pramo thai. Although its presence there probably dates from no earlier than the twentieth century, nang pramo thai is a vibrant form of entertainment with a loyal following. This talk explores the status of this dramatic form in the central Isan provinces and contrasts it with that of the traditional shadow theatre of southern Thailand. Despite its low profile, nang pramo thai in many ways embodies the essence of the local culture of the Northeast. This can be seen not only in its robust music, high spirited puppetry, and inclusion of women puppeteers; but also in the performers’ ingenuity in adopting an “imported tradition” and transforming it into a local one when faced with financial hardship.
Dr. Bonnie Brereton went to Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1965 and in 1969. After
working as an outreach coordinator at the University of Michigan’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, she received a Fulbright as a consultant at Khon Kaen University where she began research on local shadow theatre and village temple murals. Her most recent publications include “Traditional Shadow Theater of Northeastern Thailand (Nang Pramo Thai) Hardy Transplant or Endangered Species?”, Aseanie, forthcoming, and a book in progress on Isan murals.