Thursday, January 19, 2012

What a Difference an Election Makes: Myanmar Update 1

Michael and Joanna left for Myanmar last Sunday to continue BST's collaboration with Thukhuma Khayethe (Arts Travelers).  Here is Michael's first update from January18.

Greetings from Yangon, Myanmar.

What a difference an election makes.  Today we met with our local collaborator, Thila Min of Art Travelers Theatre, and he was fairly giddy about how much has changed in the last few months.  The election was 4 or 5 months ago -- that is, the military regime handed over the government to "the people", though it was indeed one of the military favored parties that won most of the parliamentary seats. Since then, they have freed many political prisoners, Obama sent Hilary for chats with the government and the USA opened diplomatic relationships (we had an embassy here, but not an ambassador).   As Thila Min reports, people can now shout "freedom" in the streets, and say Aung San Suu Kyi's name without fear of imprisonment (until recently they had to refer to her as "the lady"; she being the opposition party leader lately free of her house arrest).  Heck, I just realized I can GOOGLE Aung San Suu Kyi's name and get results -- couldn't do that before!

They can now visit the websites You Tube and the BBC and Voice of America, previously all off limits. They notice there are WAY more tourists in town than ever before.  In fact that was a problem for us on our first night-- our two usual hotels were all booked, and all have raised their prices $5 per night.  We will be checking in to our favorite, Kung Lay Inn, tomorrow night.  We stopped by there and they still had our brochure on the desk from our stay in 2009! 

Our task here is to do some serious work on a play we've suggested to our collaborators in Arts Travelers: Ben Johnson's Volpone, a Shakespeare-era comedy about greed and con games (kinda resonated with us re: our collapsing US and world economy).  We're using the basic plot-line, but we'll update the language and situations.

We've been working with Arts Travelers in two projects, the last one being our tour around Yangon and the Mon and Katrin States with the Hand-Washing Show for kids.  Our hope is our version of Volpone will interest the sponsors of international collaborations to underwrite a tour of the show in Myanmar and the USA next year.  Their company has grown from the four members we worked with in 2010 to the 10 members they have now.  We'll meet the new actors for the first time tomorrow morning.

That’s the news at present.  We're pretty excited about being here and working with this energetic group.  

More to come,

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