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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thai Cultural Loss

Sakorn Yangkhiawsod, aka Joe Louis, a Thai "National Artist" and the founder of the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre in Bangkok died 21 May at age 85. Puppeteering was in his blood- both his parents were puppet masters and he was named after a character in a play they were performing (Joe Louis was his nickname). Begun in 1985, his theater kept alive an art form that dated to the 11th century in Thailand and is unique among the various forms of puppetry. Derived from traditional Thai khon theater, a stylized and refined form of performing art which includes dancing, singing and music, the puppet plays are performed by puppeteers who are also khon performers. Meter-high, papier mache puppets are three-dimensional (unlike shadow puppets), and controlled with sticks (unlike marionettes from Burma) by the puppetmasters who are also onstage.

Their production of "The Myth of Rahu and the Lunar Eclipse" won them the 'Best Traditional Performance Award' at the 10th World Festival of Puppet Art, in Prague, in June 2006.

His children and grandchildren continue the tradition at his famous theater in Suan Lum Night Bazaar, 1875 Rama IV Road, Bangkok, as well as a new venue beginning in September- the Aksara Grand Theatre at the King Power Complex on Soi Langnam.