Thailand, Week Four

February 8, 2015

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.


Aerial view of the famous piano building at RICD







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.



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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.



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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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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.



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?







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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 Two

January 24, 2015


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.




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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.



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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





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