Khon: masked dance drama of the Thai epic Ramakien

Amolwan Kiriwat


This thesis will analyze and document khon, which is a masked dance drama, This thesis will present the history and and the Ramakien, which is the Thai epic. structure of khon and show how it is used to present the story of the Ramakien. In addition, it will discuss the training artists to participate in these dramas, and the value of these traditional theatre presentations in understanding the culture of Thailand. Khon is a Thai classical court masked dance whose history dates back hundreds of years. It employs many aspects of the arts: drama, dance, pantomime, and music. The costumes are elaborate, including decorated headdresses or crowns and full-head masks, which is the most distinctive characteristic of this performance. Furthermore, khon is a unique performance, especially when every aspect of the arts is combined for performing the story of the Ramakien-the Thai epic adapted from the Ramayana, the Indian epic. The Ranzakien is the story of Phra Ram, an incarnation of the god Phra Narai. He is assisted by monkey warriors, who bring back his wife, Sida, kidnapped by the demon king, Tosakanth. The story presents the universal belief that virtue always wins over evil. When this epic is presented on stage, adaptations are necessary for facilitating the ability to play khon. Therefore, there are many Thai stage versions of the Ramakien. The adapted version, also known as the script version is different from the original one and also important for the performance: The drama is what the writer writes; the script is the interior map of a particular production; the theater is the specific set of gestures performed by the performers in any given performance; the performance is the whole event, including audience and performers. In performance, actors utilize dance-pantomime along with the chanted narrative of a storyteller accompanied by singers and a piphat orchestra. The text consists of two literary styles: khamphak, which are descriptive verses; and ceraca, which are dialogues in rhythmic prose. Performers play one of four types: male, female, demon, or monkey. An athletic male style of movement is required for the performers who have to engage in elaborate battle pantomimes. Since the Ramakien represents the heritage in Thai literature, Thai students are able to learn Thai culture, values, lifestyle, and also learn how to read, write, and understand the beautiful poetry of this epic. While practicing khon, students are also taught to be disciplined and to work as a group. Furthermore, through the characters in this epic, the principles of Buddhism, which is the most popular religion in Thailand, are presented. If people behave with wisdom, with discipline, with goodness, their lives will be peaceful.