Thursday, May 23, 2024
Tibetan culture's celebration: music and dance in Twin Cities.

Tibetan culture’s celebration: music and dance in Twin Cities.

Cast members of “The Buddha Prince” act out a scene dramatizing the early life of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader, at Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Minneapolis in June 2023. The play, staged outdoors through July 9, is produced by TigerLion Arts and the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. (Courtesy of Eric Melzer)

Return of “The Buddha Prince” to Minneapolis

After fourteen years since its last performance, the “walking play” about the life and teachings of the Dalai Lama is coming back to Minneapolis. Co-created by theater artist Markell Kiefer and musician Tenzin Ngawang, the play titled “The Buddha Prince” emphasizes the Dalai Lama’s universal messages of compassion, kindness, and truth.

Performance Details

Running from June 23 to July 9, “The Buddha Prince” can be seen Thursdays through Sundays at Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Minneapolis. Tickets are priced at $25 for adults, with free admission for children. However, a pay-what-you-can option is also offered. Showtimes vary and can be found on the website.

The Dalai Lama’s Early Life

“The Buddha Prince” depicts the early life of the current 14th Dalai Lama, who has dedicated over seven decades to leading Tibetans worldwide in preserving and connecting with their culture. At the age of 4, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. By the age of 15, when China took control of Tibet in 1950, he found himself as the head of a nation in crisis, negotiating directly with Chinese ruler Mao Zedong.

A Storytelling Format in Harmony with Tradition

The unique “walking play” format of “The Buddha Prince,” where the audience follows the actors around a large public space to witness each scene, aligns with traditional Tibetan opera and dance performances. These performances, typically held outdoors and nomadically, are influential in Tibetan culture. By utilizing physicality and movement, the creators aim to create an enjoyable and inspiring experience for the audience.

Tibetan Culture and Music

In Tibetan culture, music and movement are highly cherished. When the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, he prioritized the creation of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. Tenzin Ngawang, the co-creator of “The Buddha Prince,” was born in the Tibetan community in Dharamsala and performed with the company for over fifteen years. Ngawang also arranged the music for the play, combining traditional Tibetan songs with new compositions featuring translated lyrics from Tibetan teachings, including those by the Dalai Lama.

Telling Stories to Preserve Tibetan Culture

The Twin Cities harbor the second-largest Tibetan community in the U.S., making “The Buddha Prince” an opportunity for Tenzin Ngawang to continue teaching Tibetan culture to the younger generation. While facing challenges with language barriers and cultural assimilation in the American world, Ngawang is determined to pass on the rich heritage of Tibetan culture through his work.

Preserving and Sharing the Actual Story

Tenzin Ngawang’s efforts to tell stories like “The Buddha Prince” are significant as they contribute to preserving Tibetan culture and its history. Despite being unable to visit Tibet due to his cultural work, which may not be welcomed by Chinese authorities, Ngawang remains committed to sharing the true story.

Performance Details

If you are interested in watching “The Buddha Prince,” the outdoor play about the Dalai Lama, here are the details:

What: “The Buddha Prince”, an outdoor play about the Dalai Lama

Where: Washburn Fair Oaks Park: 200 E 24th St. Minneapolis. Tibetan flags mark the entrance.

When: Thursdays through Sundays until July 9; showtimes vary and are available at


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