Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Volpone Rehearsals: Myanmar Update 4

After six rehearsals the show is really taking shape.   Well, I think so by watching the actors, though I don't understand a word they are saying (as they are improvising in Burmese).  Still, they are beginning to "embody" the characters and come up with some funny “bits". 

Volpone is a Shakespeare era comedy, written by Ben Johnson in that same "Shakespearian language" which takes some getting used to.   It's beyond even the best of our English speakers here (heck, it's beyond me a lot of the time), so Joanna and I have been 'translating" the Elizabethan into modern-ish English, while also cutting and editing so this three hour play runs more like 60 minutes.  Since these translations are not set into Burmese yet, the actors have been improvising to get the feel of the characters and the plot, which has a lot of twists and turns and intrigue.

Traditional Myanmar theatre has a lot in common with "traditional" western theatre (ie, Shakespeare and Commedia del'Arte).  Since the military junta has been in charge, traditional/classical Burmese theatre is all you could study, as contemporary theatre techniques and modern plays have been viewed with suspicion and heavily censored. Thukhuma Khayeethe (the local theatre ensemble) wanted to do a Commedia era piece that could lend itself to modern interpretations, and Volpone is a great bridge between the classical and modern.

The actors have a lot of clown and comedy experience from performing social theatre productions for children and communities around Yangon. Joanna, Anna Zastrow and I did a 10 performance tour in 2010 with the newly formed Thukhuma Khayeethe to local monastery schools with the Hand Washing Show in 2010.  They have several new actors and actresses added in the last year, and this will be their first "serious comedy".

So we'll see how it goes... 

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