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Myanmar Marionette

Myanmar marionette performances were a popular form of entertainment in eighteenth-century Myanmar, before the British took control of the country. At their peak in the nineteenth century, marionette shows were more popular than live theater and received royal patronage. Today, however, overtaken by videos and movies, marionette theater is a dying art form.

Traditionally, the puppets are about 22-27 inches (56-69 centimeters) tall, with up to eighteen strings. Performances are based on stories from the Jataka, the sacred text that recounts the Buddha's many incarnations, or past lives.

A puppet troupe consists of puppeteers, singers, and an orchestra. The success of the troupe depends more on the talent of the lead singer than on the skill of the puppeteers. The audience comes not only to watch the show but also to listen to and appreciate the poetry of the lyrics.