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New Performance Explains Rama Rivalry

A new Cambodian play, “Agangamasor,” will be performed for the first time in late June in the United States after many years of effort in bringing it to life by a Cambodian cultural team.

“Agangamasor” is an epic of Brahmanism dedicated to the deity Preah Eysor, his queen Oma Phakavatey, Brahma, and the god Preah Noreay. The story precedes the Ramayana and explains the rationale behind the endless war between Rama and Ravana.

The story begins with Agangamasor, a guard at Preah Eysor’s palace, becoming frustrated with the visiting angels who tap his head till he becomes bald. To stop these repeated insults, Preah Eysor gives his guard magical powers for self-defense.

Agangamasor uses his magic to depose Preah Eysor. The god Preah Noreay learns of this and transforms himself into a beautiful angel, defeating the former guard through trickery. The two are reborn in later lives as the rivals Ravana and Rama, whose battles inspire the Ramayana.

“I finished writing this play long time ago, but it took us so long to rehearse it because we don’t have much time,” playwright and composer Say Sara told VOA Khmer recently. Dancers and instructors were only able to meet half a day on each Sunday.

Say Sara joined music master Chum Ngek, who prepared the score, and Mani Masady, who choreographed the dance style.

“We the people at Puthi Karam pagoda think that since we are away from our homeland, we have to do something to preserve Khmer identity,” Masady Mani, who instructs dance at the Cambodian Buddhist Society, told VOA Khmer.

Ung Sochietah, who has performed the role of Asura for Maryland’s Khmer Heritage Association since 1976, takes on the role of Preah Eysor in this new play.

“I am so lucky to have an instructor [who was] best known for performing the Asura role to train me,” said Ung Sochieta, adding that many former royal ballet instructors have provided him some coaching.

Say Raci, who is Sara’s wife and one of the fundraisers for the troupe, said that donations to support the team have come mainly from performers’ parents, who wish to preserve their culture.

Thirty-six performers, instructors and musicians will make their first performance on Saturday, June 27, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Centre at the University of Maryland.