“The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes” Takes Virtual Stage at Book-It Repertory This Spring

Book-It Repertory Theater audio adaptation of Jamyang Norbu’s story hits internet this spring The Sherlock Holmes Mandala. Adapted by Bilal Dardai, this production features a wide range of local talent including Agastya Kohli, Abhijeet Rane, Samir Shah, Khenrab Palden, Kevin Lin, Khanh Doan, as well as flutist Satyajit Limaye and violinist Andrew Pang – with an audio appearance. of Norbu himself.

In its most basic form, the word mandala is a Sanskrit term meaning “circle”, while in Tibet a mandala becomes a geometric configuration of symbols that combine to create a spiritual representation of the universe and the cosmos, and the various philosophies that form the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism. Norbu’s story explores not only Holmes’ time in Tibet, but also its spiritual side.

Unlike Book-It’s other audio productions this season, The Sherlock Holmes Mandala is personally directed by Book-It’s Artistic Director Gus Menary. “I read for the first time on The Sherlock Holmes Mandala in Tricycle magazine, an independent Buddhist quarterly, ”said Menary. “It was a combination of everything I was interested in at the time – Sherlock Holmes, Buddhism, and Tibetan history.”

Norbu mixes these three elements in his 1999 novel, originally published in India. “In the story of Arthur Conan Doyle, The empty house“, Menary related,” Sherlock returns to his life in London after faking his death, and notices to Watson that he ‘traveled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and had fun visiting Lhasa and to spend a few days with Chef Llama. “”

What Doyle did not write about Sherlock’s time in Tibet was left to Norbu to imagine from a position of local expertise. “Jamyang Norbu took the story, filled in the gaps and described late 19th century India and Tibet in incredible detail,” Menary said.

This production is the realization of a dream. “I had wanted to adapt this story into a play before I came to the Book-It Repertory Theater,” Menary said. “It’s both a great adventure story and a parody of the Westernized perception of a mystical Tibet, with Shangri-La and flying swords.

Although Nordu is also a playwright who has written several plays, he and Menary entrusted the audio adaptation to Dardai. “Jamyang and I had many interesting conversations about literature, our favorite adventure stories and his life in Tibet, India, Tennessee and New York,” Menary said. “I knew Bilal would take great care of Jamyang’s work.”

Dardai brought rich experience to the project. “Besides being a Sherlock Holmes admirer, like Jamyang and myself, he perfected his writing for Lifeline, a Chicago theater company that also does literary adaptation,” Menary reported. “The audio drama for which he is editor-in-chief, Sick: A Midwestern Gothic Mystery, was recently named Best Podcast or Best Online Audio Drama at the 2021 BBC Audio Drama Awards. “

This depth of expertise has enabled Book-It, a company known for its adaptations of the literature, to adapt again in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “When we first realized that face-to-face events wouldn’t be possible, at Book-It we put our heads together,” Menary recalls. “I knew that I didn’t want the business to sink into the impending uproar, and that we had to continue to create and present exciting new plays based on great literary works.

Menary predicted that the performance literature would remain compelling. “In the midst of a great conflict, stories are more powerful and more necessary,” he said. “Whether it’s live, on vinyl records, on the radio or on podcasts, there is a great tradition in oral storytelling.”

But the voice that tells it is just as important as the story itself. “Bilal and I realized that we really wanted Jamyang’s own voice to be part of the adaptation,” Menary said. “As a result, he plays the role of himself, a narrator recounting his discovery of this hidden manuscript on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Hurree Chunder Mookerjee in India and Tibet.

Menary predicts that this introduction to Norbu’s work will leave audiences wanting more. “The palpable love that Jamyang has for his homeland prompted me to take up some of his other works, notably Tibetan warrior, which is a fascinating book about the Khampa warrior, Aten, ”Menary said. “Jamyang is writing a complete history of Tibet, and I can’t wait to read it when he’s finished.”

Until then, listeners can participate in this production on an episodic basis. “There’s no Sherlock Holmes Mandala without Jamyang Norbu, ”Menary said,“ and we are extremely honored to have him in production. “

The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes takes place from May 15 to June 30, in five episodes, broadcast online.

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