It’s 10:00 PM but the night is just getting started. Yakshagana performances last at least 8 hours, and will only finish as the sun rises and their rakshasas (demons) are defeated. They are not plays, but acts of an art that brings together theatre, dance, music, dialogues, complex constumes and sophisticated stage techniques to reenact the myths and legends of the gods, not as you find them in any book, but modified and expanded to fit the audiences and culture of coastal Karnataka. A spread of plastic chairs and rugs crowded with families face the small stage where the gods and demons take turns to overcome the other with carefully choreographed steps. The actors, all men, play many characters (including women), changing into and out of elaborate costumes weighing kilos and thick layers of makeup several times throughout the night. Continuously, they pack and unpack their things in boxes that are coded by scene and by actor. They sleep and travel through the day, to play the gods once again during another night in a new place. This particular troupe arrived in Malpe, Karnataka, with a 50-people crew and a script of 32 scenes – actors read and re-read their lines between each scene, even when they perform 24 nights in a row, without a break. The backstage, like the real stage, is an ongoing production of changing, preparing, praying, relaxing, re-dressing, undressing and joking around – an intimate performance to parallel the one on stage, in front of hundreds. Click here to see more photos.