Buddha Swings first came about when we performing a bunch of ‘JukeBox Musicals’ with The Overtime Theater back in the Old Frontier Town of San Antonio, Texas. Them’s were hard times, trying to earn a buck by doing Live Theater in the Alamo City. You saw Anton In Show Business, right? Well, this show was created in the town that play was set in! Really, I promise! I saw Anton In Show Business and yes, seeing a play about doing Theater in the very town where I had done Theater, while doing theater in the city not in that city, was a surreal night for me. For which I will be eternally grateful. Natural non-drug induced moments of Surreality are rare, and precious.
We were doing a lot of Improv Comedy down in old San Antonio, and therefore the ideas came fast and furious. Some stuck and some thankfuly went away. But a ‘Swinging Buddha’ was an idea that stuck. As I was learning how to dance in public for the first time ( at the ripe age of 38 ), I was re-reading some Buddhist myths. There seemed to be certain Jungian and linguistic connections between the Genre of Swing Jazz and The central tenets of Buddhism. Maybe. Or, it probably just sounded fun to say “Kappilavatthu” in an Andrews Sisters song. Ultimately, a whim became a song parody. A song that seemed to be more than just an improv sketch. So, maybe a whole play?
However, to tell the story of the Buddha took a little research. Buddhism was a faith I had dismissed for years, along with all other faiths. But now, the Buddha’s story spoke to me: his challenges, his fears and his solutions to his problems. I also found the differences in the origin myth fascinating. As Buddhism travelled across Asia, the story changed with it. As opposed to Christianity, which superimposed its theology on the native faiths, Buddhism had the character of the local belief systems imposed upon it. The basic moral codes were kept, but the story and the face of the Buddha changed. The classic Buddha of India became fat Ho-teh, the feminine Ahmida, and the hundreds of demons and spirits of Tibet religion became a pantheon of Buddhas and Boddhishatvas. But how about here in America?
What does an American Buddha look like?