March 13 – week one

Saturday March 9

Distorted amplified Temple prayers filter in through the bathroom window at Beautyland #1 Hotel where I have landed, a quiet out of the way spot near Kandawgy Lake. Last evening I met with Soe Mya Thu, co-director of Thukhama Khayeethe (TK) theater group. Soe and I discussed the upcoming workshops and shows. He also gives me the news that TK members Thila, May and Than have just returned from Mon state where they were doing workshops with children up there, a final part of the Swedish project that began last October.

We will start the workshop tomorrow afternoon, with the TK crew as well as actors from other groups. The plan is pretty much what we have already discussed- an open workshop, then a performance creation workshop with TK, and then a week of shows in the Rangoon area. Soe and I joke a bit about how much Burma is changing-so much so quick. Already last year there were major changes, any and all public political discussions, previous forbidden, were opening up. Aung San Su Kyi’s photo was everywhere whereas previously, even the mention of her name was forbidden, hence everyone referred to her as ‘the lady.’ The airport taxi driver this time is quite talkative, and is quite informative about how new cars are appearing everywhere now that the generals are allowing their importation…that and how prices have gone way up….
Now the sun is up, and I am wiping jet lag from my eyes, time to move into the day…

Wednesday March 13th

Early morning quiet, a nice contrast to the bustle of the new Yangon, as Dario, head of Medecins du Monde here tells me as we communicate over cell phones, both stuck in huge traffic and late for our meeting at their offices. Indeed Yangon, or Rangoon, is rapidly changing. The political shifts have translated into huge commercial shifts. Since a year now, new cars are allowed in, and suddenly there are new cars and dealerships everywhere, and likewise all the roads are packed full of shiny vehicles joining the vast fleets of rattling polluting ancient vehicles puffing away. Of course it is not just the vehicles that are changing here, new buildings are going up everywhere, and smartphone use has exploded. My understanding is that although Yangon is making major moves, the rest of the country is moving at a much slower and familiar pace.

The meeting at MsM is very productive, and next week I will come in to do workshops with their staff, both the medical staff, and the peer groups counseling. MsM is focused on Aids/Hiv prevention and treatement programs, mainly sex workers here in chair.trioYangon. The workshops will focus on using clown for stress/tension release, self esteem, and working to improve communication capacities by introducing humor into shadow emotions such as frustration, anger and fear. As we discuss the problems the staff face in their work, it is clear that the workshops will be a positive injection of energy.

This week I am teaching workshops to members of Thukhama Khayeethe developing the clowning skills. Two of the participants, May and Than, were part of our project last year in the Children’s Training Schools, and are eager to continue developing. Than, a magic afficionado, has opened up considerably, and May, who I first worked with in 2009, after the Nargis cyclone, continues to show great capacities. Today we will start moving into show creation process. We have been training at the most unusual of places: in the newly built outdoor asssemby hangar of the Free Funeral Service Society. This organizatioffss.carn, started 12 years ago by a famous actor, Thuka, when he was blacklisted by the regime, provides proper burial services free of charge to all those in need. What started as an idea is now a major facility on the outskirts of Yangon.

This Saturday morning, our focus will shift to a monastic school outside Bago, 80 km away, where 3 more members of TK are working, and we will spend two days finishing show creation. Then we will be performing 6 or 7 shows in the Yangon area. Looking forwards.

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