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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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