Women and Buddhism in Playwriting: Two Theatre Scripts
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Since the time of Buddhism’s inception, women have occupied an ambiguous position in the religion, partially because Buddhist arts and literature are almost always created and written by men. The professional problem in playwriting for this project is, therefore, to write two theatre scripts that present certain Buddhist teachings while at the same time emphasizing female characters and their experiences. One of the scripts is an original and the other is an adaptation from a novel. Arya, the original script, tells the story of a spirit and her three different past lives. The adaptation, Under A Sorrowless Tree, focuses on the journey Vasitthi, a character from Karl Gjellerup’s The Pilgrim Kamanita, takes toward the Buddhist enlightenment. Upon completing this project, I hope to contribute works that bring focus to the role of women and Buddhism in the field of contemporary playwriting. The dissertation is divided into five chapters, with the two scripts included as appendices. Chapter I introduces my background and my approach to the scripts and the dissertation. Chapter II surveys selected Buddhist-related dramas in certain countries in Asia and discusses how this project fits into these historical practices. Chapter III relates the details of the writing processes of the two scripts. Chapter IV contains the account of the production of Arya, which was presented at Texas Tech University in November of 2009. Chapter V displays the results of the survey of the audience’s responses to the production of Arya and the analysis of the survey, with an emphasis on the audience’s reception of the Buddhist content in the script.