"Gratitude to the Guru Ceremony"
Jill and Amy are getting blessings from the Hindu priest who actually breathes into them strength and courage and inspiration as theatre artists using the traditional masks from Ramayana.
ATG production of "The Crucible"
in Thailand !
Performed by the
Moradokmai Theatre Troupe
at Ideal Studio, Bangkok
directed by Jill Navarre
Amy Bassett, assistant director
March 27, 28, and 29th, 2009
For performance photos of "The Crucible" with the Moradokmai Theatre Troupe, please go to: http://avjill.hi5.com
Immediately images rush to mind … curvaceous girls in traditional costumes smiling beguilingly. Or, the land of the Lotus flower, quiet canals, pleasant peasants, the longest reigning monarch on the planet … Buddha … tranquil temples …. Or, angry citizens seize airport, bringing international travel to a halt, demanding change ….
I had met Pobchan (called Juju) and then Chang (full name Janaprakal Chandruang) her director husband and later some members of the Moradokmai Theatre Troupe: A community for Dramatic Arts and Development ( moradokmai.blog spot.com or moradokmai-troupe.hi5.com ) when Pobchan came to attend a sustainable development workshop in Auroville in 2007. So I invited them to come down and perform their children's show here … a folk tale called Pra-a-paimanee. Moradokmai is their creation, a Performing Arts Community outside of Bangkok where creativity is encouraged, and with it certain values like generosity, discipline, humility, cooperation, patience, respect for elders.
First day in Bangkok , out of the airport, 6 lane super highway … I had the feeling I was in L.A. …. Many of the young city people are into spiky haircuts, short skirts and makeup, television and video games. So against this tide Moradokmai swims, taking students 14-19 who want to learn music, theatre and dance. And more. With about 14 senior artists on hand from all over Thailand as teachers and mentors, the Moradokmai Home School gives these kids a place to live, a packed day full of classes, work, gardening, building houses (mud brick), serving others, cooking, cleaning, shopping, dancing, music, learning to take care of each other, the guests and the young children who are also part of the community. It changes their lives.
So there we were, Amy and I, invited to come and attend the First Patumthani International Theatre Festival along with guest artists from Slovenia , Holland , Korea , India and the U.S. Oh .. we were the representatives of the U.S. at the Festival. And … oh yeah, we met the Princess of Thailand !
HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, that is. She is the official patron of the Kamlangjai Project … a modern juvenile offenders' rehabilitation program administered by the Ministry of Justice. She appeared at the Buddhist Temple (one of the five venues of the Festival) to watch the boys from the Ban Kanchanapisek Vocational Juvenile Training Centre who performed Ongkulimal, a play about the reformation of Tanat, “a young man who took a wrong step into the black hole of his life without intention”.
Then they called on the international participants to perform. When it was our turn, we decided to perform the Charter of Auroville … Amy giving some background about Auroville first and me performing the text with movement and gestures as it was recited. Whew ! Then we got to (ceremoniously) accept a gift from HRH, a quick bow and at the end, all international participants entertained the audience with a few moments of dance and laughter.
The Festival itself was jam packed with events. From Feb 1-8, theatre, dance/drama, avant-garde, traditional, children's theatre, folk tales, political, surreal … There was also music from Nobody, two sweet and funny musicians from Korea who kept us laughing and singing with their raucous rock and blues numbers. Besides the international guests, Moradokmai was playing host to about 50 school groups from all over Thailand who had come to perform. These kids were sleeping in tents and eating under a canopy … oh, did I mention the food?
Among the best cuisine in the world. With fabulous variety, beautiful colors, intriguing textures and delicious flavours, a meal in Thailand is pure heaven ! How about spicy seafood soup, green chicken curry, papaya/mango salad, Duck Thai Curry, Prawns with Lemon, Fried noodles with pork, Pad Thai (Thai fried noodles), and for dessert, Mango Sticky Rice Pudding, Pandan Rice Cake, Tapioca Mango Pudding, Thai-style Crème Caramel, and Crunchy Thai-style Fried Bananas !
Both Moradokmai students and seniors were involved in our production of “The Crucible”. We worked morning and evening, 6 hours a day, six days a week … The Crucible, by Arthur Miller , is a political drama set in 17 th century Salem, Massachusetts, USA and tells the story of the witch trials which occupied center stage there for 2 years before everyone came to their senses. Based on his personal experiences with the HUAC hearings during the McCarthy era, “The Crucible” is hard hitting, fast paced and ultimately, soul-redeeming, although it's a pretty harrowing story and lots of good guys (and gals) die along the way.
It didn't take us very long to discover that most of the actors at Moradokmai could not speak English … actually I think it took about half an hour during the very first reading! So what to do? It was either do it in Thai or go home, and luckily, Amy and I opted to stay and try our best to make it work in a language neither of us understood … at all. But being from Auroville, I took it as a challenge and luckily, there was already a Thai translation available and the actors were very … relieved. After a while, it wasn't so bad … and when everybody works real hard and believes it can happen, it must happen... it usually does!
Will I go back again? You bet … to direct Our Town by Thornton Wilder.