The Dalai Lama at Eastcliff

The Dalai Lama has visited Eastcliff twice.

We first met the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, at the same event when Eric and I first met members of the Brooks family. It was at Eastcliff, in early May of 2011. It is a favorite memory that I share early in Eastcliff: History of a Home. That May 2011 visit was the Dalai Lama’s second visit to Eastcliff, he had been there about ten years earler.

On May 29, 2011, about three weeks after his Eastcliff visit, the Dalai Lama signed a document formally transferring his temporal authority to the democratically-elected leader of Tibet. This agreement formally ended the 368-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas functioning as both the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.

We were able to see His Holiness again in 2014 when he returned to the University of Minnesota, but on campus, not at Eastcliff.

We noticed that he has been filmed or photographed several times wearing a University of Minnesota Block M visor. (The visor helps with the glare of camera lights.) We can’t help but to consider his scarlet and saffron robes to be interconnected to Minnesota maroon and gold.

Waiting for the Dalai Lama, Eastcliff front lawn, May 2011

The Buddha Prince

Edward and Markell Brooks’s great-granddaughter Markell Kiefer was at Eastcliff for the 2011 Dalai Lama visit, as described in Eastcliff: History of a Home. The younger Markell is a playwright and founder of TigerLion Arts. For the 2011 visit, she co-created KIPO! A Circus of Spirit, Song, and Dance with a twenty-person ensemble from the world-renowned Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.

In 2001, for an earlier visit by the Dalai Lama to Minnesota (and Eastcliff), Markell wrote The Buddha Prince with Waylon Lewis, a childhood friend and fellow second-generation Buddhist of the Shambhala community. The Buddha Prince is an innovative “walking play” celebrating the life and teaching of the fourteenth Dalai Lama. The outdoor production included a large cast of children, adults, and puppets.

Markell developed a second edition of the script and musical score in 2004, which was performed in Pasadena. In 2005, it was performed in Minnesota and in New York City, where it played for two weeks in Central Park and at the Theatre at Riverside Church. In 2009, The Buddha Prince was performed again in New York City and in Minneapolis.

In 2011, Markell’s TigerLion Arts andTwin Cities Public Television (TPT), created Buddha Prince Backstage, a video documentary about the making of The Buddha Prince.

Between the original Buddha Prince, and the 2011 KIPO! (KIPO! means “happy”), Markell collaborated on another walking play, of sorts, at Eastcliff.

Tying the Knot

Markell Kiefer married Tyson Forbes on the Eastcliff lawn in an event titled “Tying the Knot.”

The ceremony began on the circular driveway with the burning of juniper, raising of flags, and a warrior cry. (Chairs were set for the elderly by the flagpole, and as needed along the way.) The entire group processed across the front yard to the southwest corner for Tashi Sholpa, a traditional Tibetan opera dance. Next, as a piper played from the southeast part of the yard, the group progressed to the backyard.

The wedding ceremony was held in front of the arched gate leading to the pool, and included words from both mothers, vows written by the couple, a breaking of the glass, a rice blessing, and a Sunshine Kazoo Parade. (The breaking of the glass was in honor of Markell Kiefer’s father’s Jewish heritage. Markell and her mother are Buddhist. Tyson’s family has a history of revering nature.) The wedding party and guests then left on a red bus for a reception.


After “Tying the Knot,” Markell and Tyson collaborated on a walking play titled Nature. In the play, Tyson is cast as his ancestor, Ralph Waldo Emerson. The story focuses on Emerson’s friendship with Henry David Thoreau. From 2014 through 2019, Nature toured nationally and received positive reviews in Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Iowa, South Dakota, and throughout Minnesota. A documentary based on the play, Nature: Walking with Emerson and Thoreau won a 2018 Regional Emmy® Award.

In addition to collaborating on Nature, Markell and Tyson have collaborated on two children.

Left: The Star Tribune, September 18, 2014,
Below: The Chicago Tribune, July 7 and 8, 2016

The Boston Globe, September 1, 2019

Please note: The above text was edited from Eastcliff: History of a Home due to lack of space. It is intended as a supplement to the book.

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