Monday, January 02, 2017

Street Theatre in Myanmar

We landed in Yangon, Myanmar and, after 24 hours of no sleep, immediately made up for lost time. Still a bit jetlagged, we met with the whole gang from Thukhuma Khayeethe yesterday, our intrepid and inventive partners in Myanmar since 2009. Since our last visit just a year and a half ago, there were two marriages and three children including one set of twins!   

This week we will begin our rehearsals for Volpone, our adaptation of Ben Jonson's 16th century play. A dual-language production, the show tackles themes of greed and corruption but, since plays in progress have a way of taking on a life of their own, we'll see how it manifests these or other themes.

The challenge, beyond the obvious hurdles of creating successful theatre, is that Thukhuma Khayeethe is trying to create a culture of contemporary theatre where there has been none over the last 5 decades. Traditional theatre abounds, and this is what the tourists want to see, but contemporary theatre has been forbidden under the military regime since, as we know, theatre is dangerous! It can expose uncomfortable truths!

In addition, it was our intention, now that the military regime is (mostly) gone, to bring theatre directly to the people by doing our plays in the streets or parks. There are no venues for contemporary theatre, so it's is a logical place to perform... but how would an actual play be received?

People do see dramas on TV, so the idea is not unknown, but they don't see theatre. They love comedy, so we have to combine both, with the added complication that we intend our Volpone to be interactive with the ending decided by the audience. Will they respond?  Will they participate?

Since our last trip, Thukhuma Khayeethe has also started a coalition of four young theatre groups that also want to do modern theatre. TK is the oldest and most experienced group, but it is really encouraging to see a new movement starting up. 

With this interactive show, we will be examining all these questions with Thukhuma Khayeethe, and continuing to figure out how to use theatre to spark discussion and bring taboo topics to light without having anyone end up in jail.  With performances in public spaces as our testing ground, and a newly opened government, we have a unique opportunity to experiment with all possibilities while refining the show.  We can't wait to see where the coming weeks take us!


2 comments:

Arshid Baba said...

Wish you guys all the best in Mayanmar.
We have seen your breathtaking performances in Kashmir and wish you could come to the valley again and help in bringing back the peace.

Arshid Baba said...

Wish you guys all the best in Mayanmar.
We have seen your breathtaking performances in Kashmir and wish you could come to the valley again and help in bringing back the peace.