Sitting in the airconditioned cool of the administrative office at EMDH, while outside it is 99 degrees, and I am thankful for this moment of cool respite. This mornings show had me once again sweating up a storm as I played up the antics with the 250 boys at the Kabaye Boys Training School. The children are a mix of orphans, street children and children in conflict with the law. We have a great time, and they take eagerly to my requests to open up their voices.
One of the bits I have developed in the show is asking them if they want me to play rock and roll, and requesting them to respond with a very American “Yeah”. Generally they hesitantly respond with a proper “Yes”, but I demand a loud “Yeah”. At Kabaye, the kids are ready, their voices eager and after I egg them on a few times, their “yeahs” are loud and unified. I play the bit two or three times over the course of the show, after the big “Yeah” I get my ukulele, do a few Peter Townsend windmills (they don’t get the reference for sure, but they like the move just the same), then just play a single strum before putting the instrument back down. The first time I do this, there are a few chuckles, but the second time, they are most often laughing as they definitely have clued into the joke. Today the kids are more than happy to sing along with me, as I play my little song.
Yes I’m going
Yes I’m going
Down the road
Down the road
Going to sing my song, and then
It’s time to go.
Their voices are loud, they are enjoying the singing. I’m pretty sure they don’t really understand the words they are singing, but as I have just sung the Myanmar translation, I am sure they know the jist of it. The workshop after the show today is good fun, the boys are quite inventive with their funny and that is great to see.
My trip here is winding down the shows and workshops with the institutions are done. 15 shows and 12 workshops with children plus an all day workshop with the staff, all in 9 days. I have had meetings with the staff, and in a few months I will get feedback from the facilitators and team leaders as to how the training we shared is working with the children, and then we will plan the next steps. Sunday I will conclude my work here joining the French Clown team to teach an all day workshop for local actors and some of the staff of Medicins du Monde.
The contrasts are enormous. Driving down the small lane to reach the Malikha Girls Training School, we pass a series of gated mansions with shiny new cars in the driveways and ribbons of razor wire topping the fences guarding them. There is cool shade underneath manicured landscapes. The training school also has a gate, one that two young women open for us, and a lane with a more natural landscape that leads into the institution. I recognize the place immediately. When I came here last year, I was surprised to only be allowed to play for 60 of the girls in a small room. There was no explanation other than that is what the principal decided. This year there is a new principal, and indeed I will get to play for all of them.
The girls are waiting for us in the large assembly hall, an open wooden hangar building with dusty wooden floors. The dust surprises me as almost everywhere people slip off their thongs before entering interior spaces, but not here. I note a sharp contrast between the Monastic school environment, and Malikha. EMDH is the only outside group allowed to work in these schools, and I am feel quite lucky to play for and work with these children. I was quite intrigued as to how the facilitators select the 30 girls to do the workshop with me, of the 240 children who come to the show. Although the situation does not allow me to go into detail, the bottom line is that the facilitators choose the girls whom they feel will benefit the most from extra doses of laughter and fun. The girls and I have a great time, peals of laughter echo in my ears as I write, now a few hours later back in the comfort of the EMDH apartment. A rest before heading back into the heat of the day for an afternoon show and workshop at Kyaik Whyne Boys Training School.
The afternoon show for about 100 boys goes well. The workshop too, although their concentration levels fade quicker than I expect. There is great focus when we move into the slow motion, as well as when I am able to get them to center into breathing into their stomachs and looking to say mingalaba (hello) with a low voice. It’s great to see the facilitators (who did the all day workshop on Monday) helping the children to do the mime and encouraging them to express their humor. It’s clear to see that the boys are enjoying themselves as they focus into creating the illusions of walls and tug of wars. As usual, they find it very fun to be funny monsters. Again I have them as a whole group scare me, and when I scare them, they all collapse in a big heap on the floor laughing. I ask them to repeat their monsters but to focus on using the low voice we worked on (from their hara/center) which they do wondrously. I hear a calmness within their monster voices compared to the previous shriller screams. It could be an illusion, it could be my wishful thinking, but I don’t think so.
Tomorrow will be my last show and workshop through EMDH, this one at Kabaye Boys Training School. After that, on Sunday, I will be joining the French Clowns Sans Frontieres team to teach a workshop at the Alliance Francaise. Further!