Thailand 2016 – Week Two

January 25, 2016
aarongabrielcomposer

Interact Thailand for the week of January 17-23, 2016.  

A weekly update of the international collaboration between composer Aaron Gabriel (Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts) and the artists at Rajanagarindra Institute of Child Development (RICD) as they create new musical theater in the spirit of radical inclusion.

The famous piano building at Rajanagarindra Institute for Child Development (RICD)

#internationalcollaboration

#newmusictheater

#radicalinclusion

#chiangmai

#artistsabroad

#yum


Learning Dream Keeper Theme

The staff teaches the melody for the Dream Keeper theme.

This week in Chiang Mai the weather swung from 98 degrees on Saturday to 49 degrees on Sunday night.  Everyone put on layers of sweaters and couldn’t stop talking about how it snowed in Laos. I kept silent, considering my friends back home in MN.

This week also included writing a new song for The Dream Keeper, hiking up a mountain and welcoming Ryan Evans (and friends) from the Wilder Foundation. The Wilder Foundation will be working with Interact Theater in MN this coming year on a variety of agency strategies and other related projects including the translation of the project summaries from Thailand.

On Wednesday, my translator DJ and I took Ryan and his friends for a three-mile hike to the top of Doi Suthep to enjoy Wat Phra That Doi. The hilly terrain was challenging, but ultimately worth every step. The weather was heavenly – sunny and cool.

On Friday, Ryan and Co. visited RICD where the staff provided them with a generous array of Northern Thai foods including keaw gi (roasted sticky rice), ho nin gai (chicken “stew” steamed in banana leaf) and sai ooa (Northern Thia sausage). Breakfast was followed by a tour of the piano building and some shopping at the Mae Rim street market. In the afternoon, Pong and Tan taught them a part of The Dream Keeper theme in Thai and that evening we all enjoyed a traditional kantok dinner.  Everyone was very grateful they took the time to visit and explore the programs offered by RICD Drama and Music.


STAFF PROFILES: Meet Gaew!

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Fluke and Gaew

Gaew is the newest member of the RICD staff and will be directing The Dream Keeper.  Originally from Bangkok, she earned a degree in Mass Communications from Kasesart University.  Her love of theater began at Kasesart where, each year, her department put on an original large-scale theatrical production. Over her four years, she performed a variety of roles and eventually began directing. In her final year she worked at a television station as an assistant director, but decided she preferred the theater.

After university, she became a company member at Moradokmai Theater in Bangkok. Moradokmai is a Buddhist theater focussed on social action. It’s director, Khru Chang, is a well-known Thai theater-maker who uses both traditional Thai and non-traditional forms to create original work – often used in educational environments to illuminate marginalized rural perspectives. Gaew’s experience with Khru Chang helped her “study how theater can change people’s behavior – in the actor and the audience.”

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Gaew leads a physical warm-up

When asked about her new role at RICD, she responded “I’m very excited use the skills I’ve learned to help a disadvantaged group of people gain the ability to better communicate their stories.  I have taught theater to typical actors for a long time and see the opportunity to work with disabled performers as the ideal challenge.”


 

THE DREAM KEEPER 

Progress continues to be made every day. Like in the U.S., all the staff artists have several jobs so I a lot remains in flux. Admittedly, there are times I get confused as to whom I should be collaborating with, but it all works out in the end. I have found it’s best to always have a back-up plan so if everyone has suddenly gone missing, I can work on Plan B.

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The Dream Keeper gives a dream

In The Dream Keeper, a magical spirit called visits young people who are struggling to figure out what dreams mean and why they are important. Each person’s case is different: sometimes he gives dreams, sometimes he takes dreams away, sometimes he explains what a dream means and sometimes he creates confusion.

This week we worked on a section of the show where a young man with cerebral palsy struggles with his dream of being a musician.  He loves the sounds of the trumpet and guitar and piano, but his muscles won’t allow him to play an instrument.  The situation is made worse by the fact that his father is a famous conductor and is disappointed with his disabled son.

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The Dream Keeper takes dreams away

When the Dream Keeper visits, he tells the young man that the answer is “right in front of his face” but then the Dream Keeper disappears.  With this information, the students, staff and I composed a fun song in which the young man interacts with an orchestra – almost like his conductor father would.  In the end, the young man remains frustrated that the Dream Keeper didn’t fully answer his question and decides to go on a quest for the answer.


2016-01-16 12.48.49OTHER ADVENTURES

Last Saturday I returned to Dulabhatorn Foundation where I lead a community-driven song creation session. The students chose to write a song about dancing. We only had an hour-and-a-half, but they reached their goal with enthusiasm. The Dulabhatorn staff then wrote some fun guitar chords and the students were able to dance and sing their way out the door. You can listen Dancing Kids by clicking here.

 

The staff mentioned they thought the song would be perfect as an anthem for their summer camp program starting in March, but I challenged them to keep writing and refining. A lot of the melodies they used were from modern pop songs or well-known folk songs – which is fine – but I challenged the staff to help the students write songs exploring their own melodies and styles. If only we had more time! Hopefully, they feel empowered to experiment more with some community-driven techniques.


#YUM!

Of course, more delicious food was et this week including some of my old favorites. The food at the kantok dinner was excellent and, because the owner was muslim, we ate things like naem gai (sour chicken) instead of naem moo (sour pork). Maem gai was equally good in my opinion although couldn’t help but wonder what my American friends would think of raw chicken left out to ferment for three days. One of my favorite discoveries of this trip is that they now have sour pork with the chilies and ginger available at the Seven-Eleven up the street.

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Northern Thai sausage

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Naem moo (sour pork)

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Thaiyai noodles with cabbage, tomato sauce and fried tofu

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Fried and marinated pork in spicy sauce

Thailand, Week Five (Final Week)

February 14, 2015
aarongabrielcomposer

Interact Thailand for the week of February 9-14, 2015.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

A weekly update of the activities of artists from Interact Minnesota (Artistic Director Jeanne Calvit, Story-teller Kevin Kling, Actors Lhea Jeagar and Dominic Zeman and myself) as we create musical theater with the staff and artists at RICD/Interact Thailand.  Interact Theater’s mission is to create art through radical inclusion that changes society’s view of disability.

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The famous piano building of RICD

#interactthailand

#theloveshow

#musicaltheater

#disabilityarts

#chiangmaistreetfood

#homewardbound


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Jeanne, Lori, Dan and Kevin bow to the actors.

We couldn’t have packed more into this week. Along with tech rehearsals (adding costumes, lights and sound in two days!) and opening The Love Showwe had a barrage of dinners, special visitors, meetings, recording sessions and last-minute shopping. There was barely time to sleep.

On Monday, Lori Leavitt, Interact Minnesota’s Development and Marketing Director (recently turned Interact board member) visited us during a coincidental family trip to Chiang Mai. It was such a delight to have Lori and her husband Dan here experiencing first-hand the transformation happening with the Thai performers.

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Gade and Tao prep for the performance.

It was interesting to see that the boys at RICD are much more into make-up than the girls. In fact, opening night reminded me of several middle-school productions I’ve directed where a group of unsupervised pre-pubescent girls came out of the dressing room proudly looking like “ladies of the night” from the late-1990’s. Here it’s primarily the boys. And they spend a LOT of time on it.

It also reminded me of sitting on a stool next to my older sister Rachel’s vanity watching with fascination as she curled, sprayed, fussed, colored, plucked, teased, applied, wiped, re-applied and was generally annoyed with me being there. For me, there’s always been something entrancing about people putting on make-up and what it does for them. Again, transformation.


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A ceremony for the return of Kevin’s spirits.

After rehearsal on Tuesday, the entire Love Show team (interns and all) went to have a special dinner at May’s father’s house in Mei Tang. The meal was rustic Northern Thai cuisine and included larb moo (both cooked and raw), namprick (chili paste), saa (beef tar tar) and gang tom kai (sour chicken curry. All of it, especially the pork tar tar in pig blood) was magnificent.

Before dinner, a Buddhist monk performed a ceremony to help Kevin’s spirits to find their way back home – the Buddhists believe you have 32 spirits in total and sometimes those spirits get separated from people because of trauma and accidents. The ceremony was to help Kevin regain the spirits that he lost in accident in 2001. The monk said they would be there waiting for him when he got back to Minneapolis.

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Saa

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Chinese-style vegetable

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Papaya salad

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Larb moo (pork tar tar in pork blood) – DELICIOUS!


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Pong getting a little slap-happy around the end of the session.

On Wednesday, we added the microphones. There’s nothing quite so special as a lot of children experiencing microphones in a resonant space for the first time. And nothing quite so peaceful as the end of that rehearsal. After rehearsal, Pong and I dashed off to his friend Pon’s recording studio to lay down some tracks of the show before I left.  In the next months, they will be producing a full recording of the show.

When we walked out of the studio at 10:30pm, Pon’s mom had a lovely dinner prepared for us. It was one of those moment’s where I truly wish I could have sat and savored the food a little longer – it was so delicious – but we had an hour ride home and an even crazier next day. Thanks, Pon and Pon Si!


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Aaron with Pon outside the recording studio.

Thursday was our final day tech and, to the great credit of the RICD staff, it went swimmingly. Everyone was very relieved after. It was also our last chance to go the Waworot Market (one of our favorite places) to buy spices and coffee and other sundry. We only had an hour to shop as they close promptly at 6pm and start packing up around 530pm. As I walked along the back alleys of the market, the proprietors kept slamming down their metal doors as if to say: “We open at 5am! It’s your fault for running so late.” I managed to get a new suitcase which was my primary objective as my other suitcase is brimming with gifts, but didn’t really peruse like I love to. So many treasures. And with dinner often costing about $1 and a nice gift costing about $3-$5 it’s easy to get carried away.


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Mr. Valentine (Aomsin)

Friday, January 13 at 7pm we opened The Love Show to a huge crowd of friends, family, community and dignitaries. The audience reaction was amazing, especially to Ning Nong’s doctor sketch, Lhea’s amazing turn as Juliet (which really had me laughing from the piano), and, of course, Film, Future and Kong’s ‘Arroi! Arroi!’ rap had everyone clapping along. But it was really Aomsin as Mr. Valentine with Kevin Kling on harmonica that brought down the house. The crowd really went wild after his blues number “Mrs. Valentine” where he sings about how so many women give him attention: flowers and chocolates, but his heart belongs to Miss Thailand. Talk about a signature song – and it was entirely Pong’s idea. Way to go Pong!


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Mon and Fern!

This week’s featured volunteer/performer combo is Mon and Fern.

Mon was a GREAT help during the show: translating, performing, instructing, helping with costumes. She was a super-volunteer. (She also played Miss Thailand.)

Fern is Mon’s daughter and has struggled for many years with stomach issues that have left her bed-ridden. She hasn’t know much more than the room in which her grandmother would take care of her.

Now that her health is better, it is very important to Mon that Fern start having a social life.

In Mon’s words: “Before RICD and Interact Thailand, Fern wouldn’t speak or play with other children. Sometimes, if they tried to play with her she would hit them. For the first time, Fern is looking around and seeking out other children to talk to. She’s learning words to songs gaining confidence to speak up. Fern’s favorite part of the show is most definitely the rap song ‘Arroi! Arroi!’  She knows all the words and sings it at home. Now, she wakes me up every morning and asks to go to the theater. Fern can’t wait for the next show.


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Will and Carly

Carly and Will are our interns from the Spring Semester in Thailand program. They have spent their afternoons with us since week one learning blocking and music and helping wrangle the younger performers.

Carly Richardson is from San Fransisco, California and goes to school at Westmont College in Santa Barbara where she studies Kinesiology. In her words: “I love Interact’s model of radical inclusion and working with a group of actors with such a large range of abilities. At first it was challenging because it was so professional and we had to help everyone learn things so fast, but now that everyone knows the show it’s really fun. It’s nice to form relationships with people.  ‘m really impressed with Ning Nong and Tan – how they work so hard and make their story the center of the play and at the center of the program.

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Khim teasing Will at dinner.

Will Thompson is from Orlando, Florida and goes to Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee where he studies Sociology. In his words: “I’ve really enjoyed watching the process because I’ve never done theater and it was really fun to see things from the inside out. Working with the staff and children was amazing. Watching the music and poetry come together from scratch and enabling the actors learn and perform it really rounded out the experience. I have to say, I really connect with Khim. She’s so funny. I’m really grateful for this experience.”

This is great because last year, Khim would barely speak with anyone and was very stubborn. This year, she knows all her blocking and rarely needs some one to cajole her.

#thankyou


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It takes two to tango! Lhea and Dominic in The Love Show

Lhea and Dominic are visiting performing artists at Interact Thailand from Interact Minnesota. They have done an excellent job rolling with the punches being that there have been a bevy of last-minute changes and the majority of the show is in Thai. They’ve embraced the culture, the language and their new friends with aplomb.

Lhea, in her words: “My favorite part of being in Thailand has been working on the show. I’ve always to play Juliet and now I finally got a chance to. I’ve loved learning the Thai dances with Tan and learning to say things in Thai. The Thai songs are difficult, but I’m trying my best. Sometimes the food is a little spicy.

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Dominic and Lhea on the set.

Dominic, in his words: “I’ve never been to a foreign country and I love Thailand. I love the people, the religions, RICD, the clothes, the shopping, the cooking classes and Christoph and DJ. I think a way to connect with God is to meet people I’ve never seen before and become attached to them.  It’s hard to split apart though. I love to dance, so I’m glad I get to dance with people in the show.

#interactinternational


Last (but certainly not least) I sat down with Dr. Samaii, director of RICD and spoke with him at length regarding his thoughts about Interact Thailand.  In July, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will visit the hospital and see an abbreviated version of The Love Show.  Something we all hope Interact Minnesota can be a part of. Dr. Samaii, because of his vision and dedication, has provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these young and gifted performers. Six years ago, none of this would have been thought possible.

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Cast members Lhea, Mina, Non, Carly and Dr. Samaii.

In his words:

RICD Music and Drama and Interact Thailand are revolutionizing how we think about treating disability because for the first time we are asking the community to be part of the treatment. The truth is, the community needs treatment as well. For centuries, disabled people in Asia only been seen solely as those who take from society. At Interact Thailand and RICD they are allowed to give and even more to inspire others with their gifts.

In order to be successful, we must constantly be developing new ideas for how to help our community – like working with Interact Minnesota and the idea of radical inclusion. We must network with people from all over the world and help them set up similar community programs.  And we must collect date, create assessments and produce educational materials so the academic and scientific world has proof of our success.

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Jeanne received flowers from the General Director of Mental Health Dr. Jessada Chokdarmrongsuk, presented by Dr. Samaii.

We cannot predict what will happen in life, we only have our hearts to guide us. We don’t know if our plans will be successful or not, but we have to try. The rest is up to the heavens.

We can only do our best. And know we can do nothing by ourselves.  If you don’t have a friend to help you, you cannot share the passion, the success, the lessons and the failures. So, then first we must learn how to share.


 

I could go on an on about this week as so much happen, but I’ll finish with some production photos (supplied by Pong) and let them speak for themselves.   I’ll have a follow-up blog next week, so look for more information to come!

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2015-02-14 13.30.42

 

Thailand, Week Four

February 8, 2015
aarongabrielcomposer

Thailand Blog for the week of February 2-6, 2015

A weekly update of the activities of artists from Interact Minnesota (Artistic Director Jeanne Calvit, Story-teller Kevin Kling, Actors Lhea Jeagar and Dominic Zeman and myself) as we create musical theater with the staff and artists at RICD/Interact Thailand.  Interact Theater’s mission is to create art through radical inclusion that changes society’s view of disability.

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Aerial view of the famous piano building at RICD

#interactthailand

#theloveshow

#musicaltheater

#disability

#chiangmaistreetfood

#sourporkisamazing


The Love Show Thai:English

Poster for The Love Show

The songs, stories and scenes are pretty much intact and now everything is about how much we can get out of rehearsal in a condensed amount of time. There is quite a bit of nitty-gritty still left to be done:  entrances and exits, memorization and (of course) tech rehearsal!

One of the musical highlights is a rap song Pong wrote called ‘Arroi! Arroi’ (Delicious! Delicious!) all about everyone’s favorite foods.  It features Kong and Future. Click on their names to see their profiles from Week Two.

#feelthelove

#arroimatmat


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Pong working with future on projecting his voice. Sing out!

Most of the actors have little or no performance experience, so time must be dedicated to theater fundamentals: “cheating out”, articulating and projecting. It’s coming along though and everyone is giving 100%.

There is some great humor in the show including a wonderful scene where (Juliet) Lhea refuses several suitors then falls in love with Mr. Valentine (Aomsin) only to be refused by him because he’s in love with Maeya (Miss Thailand.)  

Stay tuned next week to hear Aomsin’s song of longing: Mrs. Valentine.

#aomsinsblues

#icanseethefuture


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The actors rehearse the finale number.

This week the mornings were spent on music rehearsal and afternoons spent bringing the scenes and stories together.

Kevin has been working with several actors and staff on story-telling (some original and some from other sources.) One very touching story came from staff-member Tan (featured below) when she told  of how their son Fluke’s disability brought their family together. Below, you will find Kevin’s response to working with Tan on her story.


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Pi Chow (and her trusty face mask)

This week’s first featured artist is Pi Chow.  Pi Chow is the daughter of Dr. Cheyenne and Jane – the family who generously housed Jeanne, Christoph and Dominic for part of the trip.

Pi Chow works with Ting Li (featured last week) at Baan Sanook. And Ting Li is her favorite part of being at Interact Thailand.

This is Pi Chow’s fourth year in the program and she loves it “because of the dancing.”

Pi Chow calls Kevin “k-VEEN” and me “k-LON”. Months after I leave, I will still hear Pi Chow calling my name.

#klonruleskveendrools


Pi Pi is our other featured artist.  Last week I included the lyrics to his song ‘Letters and Numbers’ and have this week as well.  If you click on the text below Pipi’s picture you can see a video of him rehearsing.

When asked what his favorite part of the program was, he said: “Letters and numbers!” I’d like to think that means the song Pong and I wrote for him, but I think it’s just how he sees the world.  As letters and numbers.


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Tan modeling some Thai Silk

This weeks featured staff member is Tan.  She, her husband Ning Nong and their sons Fluke and Film have been involved with Interact Thailand since its inception five years ago.  They also work at the hospital year-round in the Music and Drama program. I’ve asked Kevin to write his thoughts about working with Tan on telling her story (which she will perform in the show.)

From Kevin Kling:

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Fluke, Tan and Film getting in costume for a performance at RICD

Every once in a while a story comes along that absolutely leaves you stunned. That’s the way I felt first time Tan told her story: beautiful, surprising and all about love. Halfway through she was crying, I was crying, our interpreter, DJ, was crying, a woman in the corner that was supposed to be filling out papers was crying.

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Ning Nong being interviewed at RICD

The story is of her and her husband, Ning Nong, and their first-born son. His name is Fluke and he is a wonder – he is very gifted and sings the first song in The Love Show – a solo specially written for him called ‘How Will You Know I Love To Sing?’.  

Fluke had a very rough early life, born two months premature he had to live in an incubator. Tan tells how she would sing to him and write poems for him. She goes on to described how she and Ning Nong grew from the challenges and triumphs of Fluke’s amazing spirit. They have another son, Film – another one formed of momentum – and the four of them make an unbelievable force.

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Fluke and Film perform at a mental health awareness rally

They are all heroes of mine, but that story…wow. Part of a story’s journey is knowing WHEN it should be told. This is a hard story to tell and difficult to cut, but working with Tan has been amazing. In her words: “If I can help people by telling my story, I need to tell it.”

Thanks, Kevin.  And thank you Tan for supplying the pictures.

#flukeandfilm

#tellyourstory


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Jeanne gives Dr. Samaii a painting by Gail Harbeck

At a special dinner earlier this week, Jeanne presented Dr. Samaii (the head of RICD) with a special painting done by Interact Visual Artist Gail Harbeck.  She made a special effort to include the Buddha, endangered Thai cranes and the piano building itself.  Dr. Samaii was very honored by the gift. Click on Gail’s name above to learn more about her work.

#giftedgail

#pianobuildilng


This week was filled with so many amazing eats and delicious libations I don’t know where to begin or end.  I really need to say a special thank you to May (Pong’s wife) for going out of her way to make sure I’m trying the most unusual and diverse regional specialties.  She even arranged a special lesson for me to make Khanom-ah: a crunchy dessert made from sticky rice flour, regular rice flour and palm syrup.  There are very few people who still make this delicacy and I got a private lesson.


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Pan-seared mackerel (I probably ate eight of these)

May’s mother (a skilled chef) made my favorite Thai dish Tod man plah: lettuce wraps with flakey pan seared mackerel, fresh mint, basil, cilantro and dandelion leaves slathered in Thai salsa.


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Larb moo

And May personally taught me how to make Larb moo: a “yum” or mixed salad made with ground pork, pork skin, fresh greens and toasted uncooked rice.  What a treat to be in your kitchen! Thank you May!


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The Thai Butterfly (almost gone)

The night before he left, Jeanne’s son Christoph made a unique and beautiful cocktail he called the “Thai Butterfly” that he spent three days preparing.  He made several different whiskeys, syrups and tinctures with ingredients that included cloves, galangal, soaked broad beans, kaffir lime leaves and butterfly pea flowers (which gave it a glorious indigo color.) He served it with mint. Hopefully he can replicate it for his friends in the New Orleans.


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Fried jell-o sandwiches!

Perhaps the most interesting thing I found in the food stalls this week were fried sandwiches with different jell-o and jellies in them. It was sort of like a pot-luck in the basement of Bowstring Chapel – only Thai style. Someone should definitely submit the fried jello sandwich as the this season’s hottest new food item at the Great Minnesota Get-Together – I’m sure you could put it on a stick. I’m anxious to hear from these blue-ribbon winners:  Kathleen Richert?  Colette Illarde?  Katie Levine?

Anyone?

#friedjellosandwiches

#thailbutterfly

#chiangmaistreetfood

#thankyoupongandmay

#cocktailsbychristoph

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Fried curried fish balls

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Sour pork with cabbage, ginger and chilies

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Toasted coconut water

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Spicy buffalo skewers with cilantro and mint

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Coconut jelly in the shell

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Squid and egg omelets (on a stick)

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Grilled pig intestine

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Mmmm…toasted coconut water.


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Baby Please with Pong (nice Pong…) and May

Letters and Numbers

Trees are made of numbers

Numbers make the sky

Rocks are made of letters

So are you and I

All things are made of letters and numbers

Minutes and hours and days

We are simply composed of characters

Arranged in different ways

My mom is made of numbers

My aunt and grandpa, too

My friends are made of letters

Spelling love and hope and truth

All things are made of letters and numbers

Days and weeks and years

Letters and numbers remind us that

Things are not always as they appear

Thailand, Week Three

February 1, 2015
aarongabrielcomposer

Thailand Update for the Week of January 26-30.

A weekly update of the activities of artists from Interact Minnesota (Artistic Director Jeanne Calvit, Story-teller Kevin Kling, Actors Lhea Jeagar and Dominic Zeman and myself) as we create musical theater with the staff and artists at RICD/Interact Thailand. Interact Theater’s mission is to create art through radical inclusion that changes society’s view of disability.  

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Tan, Pong and Ning Nong teach the actors a new song.

This week started off a little rocky as many of the artists (including me) were out sick with a cold.  Nevertheless, Pong and I kept working and finished the rest of the songs, Jeanne polished up the scenes and Kevin worked with several of the artists and staff on telling their personal stories.  Sickness can’t stop The Love Show!

This week we wrote a song called ‘Letters and Numbers’ for an autistic actor named Pi Pi.  Pi Pi has a wonderful voice and sees the world in a unique way.  I have included the lyrics below. Look for an artist feature on Pi Pi next week!

Over the weekend, the Americans traveled to Myanmar and Chiang Rai.  We spent two days shopping in the street market, visiting pagodas and wats and eating Burmese food.  (See more below.)

This week’s featured artists are Ting Li and Jip Joy.  I also interviewed the invaluable interns joining us from Institute of Physical Education.

#theloveshow


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Ting Li

Ting Li was in the program three years ago and has joined us again this year. Normally he works at Ban Sanook or the Healing Family Foundation creating weavings, but loves performing.

In his own words:  “My favorite scene in The Love Show is where I play a tough guy who transforms into a kathoey (lady-boy).  That’s who I am.   I am very beautiful and feminine.

[Click on the word kathoey to learn more about Thailand’s ancient “third gender”]

#ladyboys

#gobrucejenner


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Jip Joy

Jip Joy has been here two years.  When she’s not at Interact Thialand she works for her uncle’s construction business.

In her own words:  “I like dancing a lot.  I like when I do traditional Thai dancing and everyone is looking at me.  Sometimes, I wish people would look ONLY at me when I’m on stage.  In The Love Show I like the doctor scene because now I have learned how to talk to my doctor.

#thaidancing


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From left to right: Mint, Keaw, Om, Benz and Pao

Our interns are doing their final year school residency at RICD.  Not all the interns are planning to work with disability or the arts – some are planning to continue their education, work for the government or become entrepeneurs – but they are all very excited about this opportunity.

In The Love Show all the interns will be singing, rapping, dancing and acting.  When I inquired about their favorite parts, they giggled a lot. Mint likes the romance scene (where many men propose to Lhea.)  Benz is excited to play a kathoey.  Om is excited to watch Benz play a kathoey.  Kaew is excited to do traditional Thai dancing.  And Pao is excited about everything.


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Crossing over to Myanmar or Burma.

Mae Sai/Tachileik are the border cities at the northern most tip of Thaiand.  There are large street markets on both sides full of vendors selling shoes, jewelry, watches, videos, luggage, fabric, antiques, handicrafts and food.  There are also many hawkers pushing cigarettes, razors and viagra.   At one point, one woman came up to Kevin and tried to shave his face.

Since the tragic earthquake last March much of the market has been rebuilt and expanded.  It looks entirely different from how it looked when we visited a year ago.

In Chiang Rai, we visited Wat Rong Kung (the White Temple) and the new eco-tourism destination Singha Tea Plantation or Singha Park.  We also had a delicious lunch at Cabbages and Condoms – a Thai restaurant and resort chain dedicated to sustainable agriculture and safe sex.

#cabbagesandcondoms

#myanmar

#singhapark

#watrongkhun

#onlyinthailand

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Street Vendors in Tachileik.

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Wat Rong Khun

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Monks at Singha Park

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Tuk tuks in Tachileik

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Cabbages and Condoms

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Condom salad (made with cellophane noodles, not actual condoms)

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Kling flanked by condoms

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Wang Come Hotel


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Lizzy

Lizzy Update

After an entire week of convincing myself the scratching sound coming from beneath my bed was “just in my head” Lizzy finally came out to play. Poor girl!  Hopefully, she’s in a better place now.

#threescompany

#chiangmaiadventures


Letters and Numbers

Trees are made of numbers

Numbers make the sky

Rocks are made of letters

So are you and I

All things are made of letters and numbers

Minutes and hours and days

We are simply composed of characters

Arranged in different ways

My mom is made of numbers

My aunt and grandpa, too

My friends are made of letters

Spelling love and hope and truth

All things are made of letters and numbers

Days and weeks and years

Letters and numbers remind us that

Things are not always as they appear

Thailand, Week Two

January 24, 2015
aarongabrielcomposer

 

Thailand Update for the Week of January 12 – 16.

A weekly update of the activities of artists from Interact Minneapolis (Artistic Director Jeanne Calvit, Story-teller Kevin Kling, Actors Lhea Jeagar and Dominic Zeman and myself) as we create musical theater with the staff and artists at RICD/Interact Thailand.  Interact Theater’s mission is to create arts through radical inclusion that changes society’s view of disability.  


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Baby Please with Pong in #loisknits

Bear with me: but I have to start every blog with the obligatory Baby Please picture. This week we have her sporting a handmade knit cap from Grandma Lois.  I struggle to imagine ways this child could be any more adorable.

#thankslolo

 

 


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Exploring ways to celebrate for ‘The Love Show.’

Week two is now behind us and we’ve created four new scenes and three new songs for The Love Show – a show about all the different ways we find love in life. I’ve included the Enligh translation of lyrics for our new song To Love and To Mean Itbelow.

In July, an excerpt of this show will be performed for the Princess of Thailand.  She will be visiting the hospital for its grand opening so it’s important that the songs and scenes really showcase the stories and talents of these unique performers.

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Lhea gets her hand kissed by Future. Unfortunately, he’s a little young for her. Pretty cute though! (see below)

The guest artists from Interact Minneapolis, Dominic and Lhea, haven’t hesitated one bit when it comes to the theater creation. They are great role models and have really inspired the other here in Thialand with their confidence.

Our (very resonant) rehearsal room is always filled with laughter and positive energy.  We have a lot of new faces including this year including Non, Mooham, A, Jing, Jo, Kate, Fern, Pi-Pi, Kong, Mon and Future. I hope I have time to feature everyone, but let’s start with Future and Kong.


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Future (who Kevin Kling lovingly refers to as “Mini-Me”)

Future is eight-years-old and actually participated in the program three years ago.  Now he’s back for more!

In his own words: “I like Interact Thailand because everyone is very funny and I have good friends here.  I love acting because it’s healthy to have fun and laugh.

When asked what super power he’d like to have: “I would be “Ee-say” (a Japanese anime character) because he has a big magic dragon arm that gives him power within.

#pleasedeargodletfuturefitinmysuitcase


 

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Kong giving an example of the “culture of cute” that is so popular in Asia.

This is Kong‘s first time working with Interact Thailand and he’s grown tremendously in the past two weeks. He’s very articulate, full of passion and ideas, and improvises poetry.

In his own words: “Interact Thailand is very fun!  I used to be very shy but I’m not shy anymore.  I have so many new friends and it’s best when we can do theater together.  When I finish the program, I hope I can teach my friends at school how to make theater.  Also, the food is delicious.


 

He’s right!  Everyday, RICD provides a hot lunch that makes American hot lunch look like garbage (which isn’t difficult). Everyday we are greeted with green curry or pad see ew or stir fry and soup.  It’s really delicious (arroi mat mat) and generous of RICD.  Some days, they even include a beautiful dessert! #nomorechickennuggets

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Pad See Ew

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Barbecued pork with cucumbers.

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The occasional dessert.

 


 

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Mr. Singh visits rehearsal

Our featured staff member this week is the Mr. Singh.

Mr. Singh visited Interact in Minneapolis in 2011 and then took a course at the Child Development Institute of Los Angeles.

Mr. Singh is now the director of the Psychology Department at RICD and the founder of the Music and Drama Therapy program.  He studied theater and film-making before going into Psychology, so combining his two passions is a dream-come-true for him.  He also started a program for parents of disabled artists called ParentClassroom.

He says he witnesses the transformative power of the arts and disability every day and believes that someday, Interact Thailand will be the epi-center of radical inclusion in the arts for South East Asia.   They already have several satellite programs in Chiang Mai and weekly visitors from around the world.

(In fact, last week, a mental health worker from Malaysia named Chuah Yee Lin observed our rehearsals. She took one of the Interact Education guides and was very keen on starting an Interact program in Malaysia.)

He also says he looks forward to years of continued collaboration with Interact in Minneapolis. NOTE:  Mr. Singh is a fellow foodie and is the one responsible for introducing us to weasel coffee.  #weaselcoffeeisthebest  #thankyoumrsingh #lifechanger

 


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Tha Phea Gate Walking Market

One of the great parts of being in Chiang Mai is the amazing (and crowded) Tha Phae Gate Walking Market on Sunday nights. Thousands of people descend on the center of town near the canal to sample amazing Northern Thailand cuisine and buy hand-crafts.  The city shuts down the streets to traffic and allows hundreds of vendors to set up shop on the sidewalks for one kilometer end to end.

Last Sunday I was able to meet our translator from last year, Nattie and catch up with her.  I was so excited to see that many of the vendors from last year remained in their same locations. Especially the Ancient Ice Cream stand (ice cream which isn’t actually from thousands of years ago, but is made from coconut milk) which features flavors like taro, pandanus, black bean (my favorite) and, of course, coconut. #ancienticecream #chiangmaistreetfood

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Ancient Ice Cream Stand

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Black bean ice cream

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Stuffed crab shells

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Pork balls with thai salsa

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The food court

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Barbeque chicken

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Fun desserts

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Nattie and Mu Tsum


 

In other news, Interact Alumni Alan Ernst was here last week and was able to visit rehearsal and even play along. And Interact Development Director Lori Sudit will be joining us for a couple of days next week on her family vacation.


 

Leapin’ Lizards!

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The scene of the crime: our front porch at Rasiya.

As it turns out, my roommate Kevin Kling and I have a family of lizards living in the rafters above the table outside our room.

About five minutes after Kevin went inside the other night, the mother lizard (probably about a foot-and-a-half long, 2 lbs) fell with a smack right where Kevin was sitting.  Imagine the sounds someone dropping an uncooked chicken on a tile floor. Anyway, it then slithered under the chair where he had been sitting. Of course, I wanted to take a photo, but when I moved the chair I startled it and it darted – DIRECTLY INTO OUR ROOM!

I spent the hours of 11pm-1am moving every piece of furniture in room, trying to find the creature. Finally, giving up, I moved Kevin’s suitcase back to where it original location and out she popped.  She then proceeded to run up and down the wall over Kevin’s head, down on the floor behind his bed and then disappeared somewhere in the wall.

We both went to bed, but throughout the night, we continued to hear her panicked scuttling around us.  I decided to leave the door open so she could leave freely.  Let’s hope the whole family didn’t decide to move in.  #kevinhasanewroommate #notafanoflizards


Lyrics to Love It and Mean It

[I used a similar song model for Interact’s residency at the Mississippi Arts Magnate School last year.  All the lyrics were taken from an exercise where the performers were asked to describe their dreams of love.  Let’s hope this one is just as successful.]

 

Last night in my dream the King and I were painting

Painting the happy Thai people

The king asked me why all the people were happy

I said, my King, it’s quite simple:

 

Everyone has something to be happy about

Though everyone’s reason is different

Reasons to be happy are infinite, like stars

To be happy is to love and to mean it

 

Love is cleaning the house for my mother

Love is being hugged by a handsome young man

Love is giving friends the things that they need

Love is to dance and dance and dance

 

Love is a kiss on the cheek from my daddy

Love is a walk in the woods

Love is deciding not to be too naughty

Love is doing what I should to be good

 

Love is a dream of kissing Rhianna

Love is a dream of marrying Blue

Love is a phone call from the girl who works at Seven

Love is my parents giving me money so that I could buy cookies and cake every day for the rest of my life (pause)

 

Love is being a red and black butterfly

Love is always having a job

Love is being trustworthy and honest

Love is being in love

 

That’s when the king put down his paint brush

And asked me to tell him one thing:

“How do you mend a broken heart

If love is the thing that is missing?”

 

Most love takes time to understand

Remember there are always two sides

And remember to not be too serious

Let a happy spirit be your guide

 

Everyone has something to be happy about

Though everyone’s reason is different

Reasons to be happy are infinite, like stars

To be happy is to love and to mean it

#loveitandmeanit

#theloveshow

#chiangmailove

#musicaltheater

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