In Southeast Asia, traditional theater is more than one thousand years old and has roots in dance, literature, and the religions of both South and East Asia, which have their own indigenous performance traditions. Modern theater, especially spoken drama, has been influenced by the West. This indigenous performance history, enriched by contact with the West and outside traditions, creates a highly developed theatrical heritage. Dramatic similarities are inevitable in traditional theater because of geographic proximity and historical and political similarities, but each country still maintains its own distinct dramatic forms. Unlike Western drama, Southeast Asian drama gives priority to performance rather than sustained narratives. Yet this does not make it less intellectual. Understanding Southeast Asian theater requires a contextualized examination of the whole genre and form, not just individual plays.