This past Tuesday, Lincoln Center Theater held a platform talk entitled “Life Imitates Life, Again and Again,” in the Vivian Beaumont lobby. I would be remiss if I failed to note it on this blog.
The evening was the first of two special events in conjunction with The Oldest Boy. (The second, to be held on November 4 at 6 pm, will be “The Story of Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism,” a talk by Dr. Thupten Jinpa Langri, the translator to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.) Moderated by Anne Cattaneo, LCT’s dramaturg, the event featured Sarah Ruhl, the play’s author; Kyabje Gelek Rimpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist Master and the founder of Jewel Heart; and Mickey Lemle, a filmmaker and board chairman of Tibet Fund, which provides urgently needed resources and comprehensive programs to the Tibetan community in exile.
Born in 1939, Rimpoche was recognized as an incarnate lama at the age of 4, and engaged in intensive study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism before being forced to flee Tibet in 1959. Through his scholarship and teaching, he has since played a crucial role in the survival of Tibetan Buddhism in exile. During the LCT event, he spoke eloquently on such subjects as reincarnation and past lives, as well as dispelling the notion (raised during the audience-question part of the program) that there are no female lamas in Tibetan Buddhism.
Lemle has been a producer and director of TV and feature films since 1971. One of his most acclaimed projects is Compassion in Exile, a 1993 documentary about His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Before arriving at the LCT event, Lemle said he had spent the day with the Dalai Lama at Princeton, working on a new film project. (His Holiness will be appearing at the Beacon Theater in New York next Monday, November 3, the same night that The Oldest Boy opens.) Lemle spoke to the LCT audience about the Tibet Fund and its work in cultural preservation and humanitarian efforts. He also told the crowd that the first word spoken by his now-24-year-old son, Aaron, when the boy was four months old and in the presence of His Holiness, was “yak.”
Ruhl spoke primarily about the play itself, and addressed a question from an audience member: does The Oldest Boy include much about the political situation in Tibet and in the Tibetan exile community? Ruhl, who is committed to the cause of spotlighting the atrocities committed by China against the Tibetan people and the erasure of distinctive Tibetan culture, answered that “the emotional center of the play is about motherhood.” She added: “If I wanted to write something more political, I would write an essay and submit it to The New York Times.” She continued that as a playwright she deals in moral ambiguity, and when it comes to the cause of Tibet and its culture, “I don’t believe there’s any moral ambiguity.”
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.