Lending their strength : The survival of professional lakhon phut samai mai in Bangkok through strong female characters

Maneerat, Kulthida
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2008.
Bangkok's Dass Entertainment and Patravadi Theatre are the epitome of professional lakhon phut samai mai, or modern spoken drama, in Thailand. These two pioneering professional troupes have survived for more than fifteen years where other theatres have failed after a few short years of operation. In this dissertation, I examine how the survival of these two professional troupes may be attributed to their primary focus on the depiction of phuying kraeng, or strong female characters. The term phuying kraeng is used in this study to refer to mentally strong and independent women who are the embodiment of samai mai, or modernity, within the Thai dramatic context.
Chapter two provides a brief historical overview of lakhon phut samai mai and the emergence of professional troupes, focusing on the social and economic factors that shaped the operations of Dass Entertainment and Patravadi Theatre. For the purposes of this study, I delineate three chronological periods based primarily on the historical narratives of these two companies in order to demonstrate the evolution of professional lakhon phut samai mai. The three periods are the Formative Period (1990--1993), the Popular Period (1994--1997), and the Recessive Period (1998--2002).
Chapters three through five examine the characterization of individual phuying kraeng in representative plays from the three periods. The core of the examination is the way in which each phuying kraeng testifies to women's pursuit of modern identity and how this increased the popularity of these two professional troupes output, thereby ensuring their survival. The analytical examination of individual phuying kraeng is based on well-established theoretical approaches to the study of phuying kraeng's depiction in mass media as developed by Thai scholars and integrates playwriting theory developed by Western scholars. I frame the analysis with four crucial playwriting elements: the phuying kraeng's goal, obstacle, action and outcome. For each period, I discuss the phuying kraeng function as criticism of women's position in modern society. The depiction of phuying kraeng in the selected plays serves to both expose unjust social expectations and restraints imposed on women and to advocate for women's equal rights.
The concluding chapter summarizes the functions of phuying kraeng and the basis for phuying kraeng's popularity with their middle-class audience. I conclude with the productions' contributions to the expansion of the troupes' audience base and a discussion of professional lakhon phut samai mai as both an alternative to mainstream entertainment and as a symbol of Bangkok's modern culture.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 201-211).
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211 leaves, bound 29 cm
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Theatre; no. 5053
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