Sakorn Yang-keawsot (Thai: สาคร ยังเขียวสด; 1922 in Nonthaburi Province – May 21, 2007 in Bangkok, Thailand) was a Thai puppeteer. He was a master of the hun lakorn lek (traditional Thai small puppets). Also known by his English nickname, Joe Louis, in 1985 he founded the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre. He was named a National Artist for performing arts in 1996.
Sakorn was born in 1922 to parents who were both khon (masked drama) performers and puppeteers in the troupe of Krae Suppavanich. Sakorn performed in a likay (Thai folk opera) troupe as comedian, but also learned puppetry from Krae. He adapted and improved upon Krae's large hun luang (royal puppets) and revived the art of the hun lakorn lek puppets, which were not as detailed as the larger puppets but allowed for more mobility and lifelike movements. As many as three puppeteers would be used to control the moves of one puppet.
His puppet troupe was popular in the years following the Second World War, and it was during this time he was given the nickname Joe Louis, taking the name from a mispronunciation of his Thai nickname, "Liew", and in honor of the American heavyweight boxing champion. He revived the art of Thai puppetry, which dates back to the 11th century, but struggled to keep the artform relevant as Thailand modernized. In 1985, he formed the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre with his children, performing adaptations of epic Thai literature, such as the Ramakien, with his puppets constructed from light wood, papier-mâché and fabric. The performances are accompanied by a piphat (traditional Thai classical music) orchestra.
Joe Louis Puppet Theatre
From 2001, his Joe Louis Puppet Theatre put on nightly shows in the Suan Lum Night Bazaar in Bangkok. The troupe nearly collapsed in 2004 when it could not afford the rent of its venue, but was saved after a public outcry and funds were raised. At the time of Sakorn's death in 2007, the future of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar was in doubt, and a new troupe formed by some of Sakorn's children was to start giving shows in the 578-seat Aksara Grand Theatre at the King Power Complex on Soi Langnam in Bangkok in September 2007.
Sakorn had nine children. His son, Pisutr Yang-keawsot led the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre, which won the "Best Traditional Performance Award" at the 10th World Festival of Puppet Art in Prague in June 2006.
Sakorn was suffering from lung disease and kidney failure and had been admitted to Kasemrad Rattanathibet Hospital on May 9. He was discharged on May 18 because he wanted to return home, but was re-admitted on May 20 and was being treated in its intensive care unit at the time of his death. Funeral rites were at Wat Bangpai in Bang Bua Thong, Nonthaburi Province.
- Thailand's famous puppet master dies, Agence France-Presse, retrieved 2007-05-24.
- Legendary Thai puppet master passes away, The Nation, retrieved 2007-05-24.
- Renowned puppetry master dies, Bangkok Post, retrieved 2007-05-24 (link expires after seven days when it is archived for subscribers only).
- Krausz, Tibor. 2007-04-17. More than a puppet on a string in Thailand, Christian Science Monitor, retrieved 2007-05-25.
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