June 23 - July 9, 2023

the play


The Play

program cover
View the 2023 Program.
The Buddha Prince is a play celebrating the extraordinary life and teachings of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, created for a diverse audience of all ages. It shares the story of his early life in a free Tibet and his subsequent escape into India. Narrated with excerpts from the Dalai Lama's own teachings and autobiographies, The Buddha Prince offers a very personal point of view into his coming of age, the difficulties he experienced, the precious lessons, and the tremendous sadness he absorbed for his people.

The Buddha Prince was created to be performed outdoors as a 'walking play,' taking the audience on a journey through the natural environment with the scenes unfolding around them. Drawing from both eastern and western artistic traditions, a diverse cast of physical actors, dancers and musicians tells the story with song, dance, mask, puppetry, clown, traditional Tibetan and home-spun musical instruments.

Above all, The Buddha Prince is a theatrical offering to celebrate the beauty and resilience of the Tibetan people. The audience is meant to laugh out loud, to cry with others, and to leave inspired by a belief in the great capacity of the human heart.

Pema in red hat
Photo by Eric Melzer   

The Buddha Prince has received full endorsement from the Dalai Lama's Office of Tibet.

View the 2023 Program

References and Letters of Support

The Dalai Lama

At age two, the 14th Dalai Lama was identified as the incarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. He soon entered a rigorous program of education and spiritual practice. At age 15, he assumed full responsibility as leader of the Tibetan government after the Chinese Communists invaded in 1959. He soon had no choice but to escape to India, where he lives and heads the Tibetan government-in-exile to this day. He devotes his life to restoring peace in Tibet and in the world at large. The Dalai Lama's teachings of non-violence and compassion serve his commitment to world peace, human rights, and the protection of the environment. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for "advocating peaceful solutions based on tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the Tibetan people". The Buddha Prince is intended to further promote and support these worldwide efforts for peace.

History and Evolution of the Play

The Buddha Prince was first written, created, and performed in Minneapolis in May of 2001 as a celebration of the Dalai Lama's visit to the Twin Cities. It was intended to be a children's play, written by Markell Kiefer and Waylon Lewis, childhood friends and second-generation Buddhists of the Shambhala community. Mr. Lewis wrote the first draft, and then Ms. Kiefer shaped the play with excerpts from the Dalai Lama's teachings and autobiographies. The play was performed at The Peace Garden with a diverse cast of children from different cultural and religious communities. Children were selected from the local Tibetan, Zen, and Shambhala Buddhist communities, along with the Jewish Community Center, the Quaker community, the Children's Theatre Company, and local elementary schools. The event was hosted by the Shambhala Center of Minneapolis and endorsed by the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota.

buddha prince performance
Photo by Eric Melzer   
Ms. Kiefer then moved to Boulder, Colorado, to receive a Masters in Lecoq physical theatre from Naropa University, during which time she collaborated with a group of theatre artists - Michael French, Carlyle Coash, and Nina Rolle - to write the second edition of the script and the musical score. Ms. Kiefer developed the design with artists Katie Haggerty and Sky Brooks, who created new puppets and masks for the play. The Buddha Prince was then produced again, with a diverse cast of professional actors, at Lower Arroyo Park in Pasadena, during the Dalai Lama's visit there in April of 2004. The event was co-sponsored by the City of Pasadena and hosted by the Shambhala Meditation Center of Los Angeles.

Ms. Kiefer has since moved back to Minneapolis, where The Buddha Prince is now based, and created the final script and musical score with Tibetan musicians Tenzin Ngawang and Ngawang Choephel. In the fall of 2005 The Buddha Prince performed at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, and then toured to New York City, where it performed for two weeks in Central Park, and at the Riverside Church Theatre. The tour was hosted by the Minneapolis and New York Shambhala Centers, co-sponsored by the Riverside Church, endorsed by the Office of Tibet, and funded by the Philanthropic Collaborative, Pictage Inc., individual contributors, and family foundations. Since then, Ms. Kiefer founded TigerLion Arts, whose mission is to inspire and create positive change through theatre and film.

In 2009, at the request of the Office of Tibet, TigerLion Arts remounted The Buddha Prince in honor of Tibet's Fifty Years in Exile. Over 7000 people of all backgrounds and ages were present to witness the play during four astounding weeks of performances in Central Park (New York City, NY), the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (Chaska, MN), and Powderhorn Park (Minneapolis, MN). The event was co-presented with the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing as the centerpiece for their Arts and Healing Initiative launch, and co-hosted by the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, the Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey, and The Tibet Fund. As never before, the production featured a half-Tibetan cast performing traditional Tibetan music and dance, and included volunteer choruses comprised of local community members.

On every occasion, The Buddha Prince has left people with open hearts, wide eyes, and changed minds.


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