Column: A play about Lamas (the spiritual kind)

Avenue flashes

John Akal
Posted 5/17/23

I want to open this week’s column with a hearty congratulations to all of our Golden High School and Colorado School of Mines 2023 graduates.

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Column: A play about Lamas (the spiritual kind)

Avenue flashes


I want to open this week’s column with a hearty congratulations to all of our Golden High School and Colorado School of Mines 2023 graduates. It’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey for all of you to get those diplomas, but you did it! Now you can move on to the next great adventures in your lives.

I recently saw a T-shirt that accurately summed up the four stages in a man’s life. Stage 1, you believe in Santa Claus. Stage 2, you don’t believe in Santa Claus. Stage 3, you are Santa Claus. Stage 4, you look like Santa Claus.

That pretty much sums it up for guys. I’m sure there’s another similar T-shirt for women, but I was too busy combing my white beard to do a search for one. You’re on your own for that.

Ah, the things all you recent graduates have to look forward to…

Well, today we are going to talk about education systems a little bit and how there are a few out there in the world that are drastically different than our own, here in the old U.S. of A. We’re also going to talk a bit about Lamas.

Yes, I spelled that correctly. Lamas vs. llamas. One is a Buddhist monk and the other is a South American two toed ungulate in the camel family. The first one serves as a spiritual guide and the second one just spits on you.

OK, so I want you to imagine for a moment, that one day, two strangers dressed in robes show up at your front door and tell you that your three-year-old son is the reincarnation of an esteemed religious leader and that they are there to whisk him off to a foreign country to embark on a lifetime of religious study and spiritual training. And these guys fully expect you to be honored by this and just hand the kid over to them. That’s a little different style of educational system than we’re used to, isn’t it?

Of course, that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often around here, but it does in places like Tibet and others that have a large population of devout Buddhists. I’m sure most people are familiar with the Dalai Lama, but a lama is more or less a priest in that religion, so there are many of them and some of them are considered to be a “high lama” and the reincarnation of one is a pretty big deal for them.

That brings us to why this has anything to do with what’s going on around here in Golden. As it happens, our own Miners Alley Playhouse will be presenting a production of a new play that revolves around the question of what you would do if you were and American family confronted with this situation.

It’s called “The Oldest Boy: A Play in Three Ceremonies,” written by Sarah Ruhl. This is the description of what it’s all about: “In this moving exploration of parenthood, an American mother and a Tibetan father have a three-year-old son believed to be the reincarnation of a Buddhist lama. When a Tibetan lama and a monk come to their home unexpectedly, asking to take their child away for a life of spiritual training in India, the parents must make a life-altering choice that will test their strength, their marriage and their hearts. ‘The Oldest Boy’ is a richly emotional journey filled with music, dance, puppetry, ritual and laughter – Sarah Ruhl at her imaginative best. A meditation on attachment and unconditional love, the play asks us to believe in a world in which sometimes the youngest children are also the oldest and wisest teachers.”

I have to hand it to the folks over at Miners Alley, they always manage to come up with something unique and unusual. Did you catch the part in the description about puppetry? They actually use a life-sized puppet to portray the part of the young three-year-old boy.

This is the theater’s Spring production in the main theater and it’s opening this week. The show will be running with Thursday through Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees from May 19 to June 11.

Tickets and more information are available online at

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multimedia production. He can be reached at

Golden, Avenue Flashes, Miners Alley Playhouse


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