‘That Takes Ovaries’ a great success – for the second year running
The cast of this year’s ‘That takes Ovaries.’
The AUA auditorium on Rachadamnoen Road was the venue for the second
showing of the highly successful play ‘That Takes Ovaries.’ This year, a 15
member cast performed 11 entirely new scenes of true stories of courageous
men and women who have overcome adversity, fighting for their rights, facing
difficult personal choices, and ultimately seeking what all humans need –
the overcoming of social and economic impediments to personal fulfilment.
The personal stories enacted were both personal and political, and included
scenes which dealt with child prostitution, discrimination, honour killings,
rape, and other issues – all demonstrating feats of unusual courage.
The international cast included Monika Braendli, Bob Young, David Brown,
David Arnold, Matta Nandrakwang, Irene Barrientos, Walang Gasigitamrong,
Lisa Offringa, Purnima Iyer, Neville Powis, Fiona Oakes, June Unland and Dee
Fancett, all of whom gave fascinating and well-thought-out performances.
‘That takes Ovaries’ was directed by Dr. Laura Godtfredsen, who has been
given the rights to perform the play for charity in Thailand by Rivka
Solomon, the author. Each scene was accompanied by the artful playing of
Remi Nantep at the piano, and Stephan Turner from the Gate Theatre Company
stage managed with his usual flair and skill.
For those of us who missed it this time, or even both times, perhaps we
could persuade Dr. Laura to make this an annual event.
Traditional Japanese music is becoming trendy
Chiang Mai University’s Art Museum theatre was the venue for a very
special concert of traditional Japanese music on February 28, which marked
the beginning of the 2009 cultural music exchange between Japan and the six
countries of the Greater Mekong sub-region, Thailand, Japan, Myanmar,
Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam. The much-appreciated concert, crowded
with Thais, Japanese, Westerners and students, will be repeated in the other
GMS countries at a later date.
and Tomoka kept the audience enthralled at Chiang Mai University’s Art
The event’s organisers, the Consulate General of Japan in Chiang Mai and the
Japanese Education Center of Chiang Mai University, had invited artistes
Nakai Tomoya and Nagasu Tomoka to perform in Chiang Mai for the third time
to celebrate the 2009 musical exchange. Junko Yokata, Chiang Mai’s Japanese
consul-general, noted in her introductory speech that the Japanese
government were enthusiastic about the exchange, adding that culture and the
arts, which include music, speech, traditional costume and the creative
arts, all contribute to international understanding and friendship as well
as to international trade.
The traditional instruments, such as the bamboo flute, the Satsuma biwa and
the 25 and 13 string kotos, together with the songs featured in the concert,
have been specific to rural Japan for hundreds of years, with regional
variations relevant to the style of music and the arrangements, as with
Jiuta music, traditional to western Japan. The two musicians both studied
with famous Japanese teachers. Tomoka studied the shakuhachi with ‘living
national treasures’ Goro Yamaguchi and Ryumei Matsuyama. Both have wide
experience of concert appearances both in Japan and internationally, with
Tomoka representing Japan at the International Flute Festival in Dresden.
Tomoya is also a composer, plays the shamisen, has featured in magazines,
made recordings and won awards. A specific project of his is the
interpretation on the 25 string koto of music composed for Noh plays (an
ancient form of Japanese drama).
In Japan, at present, young people are more appreciative of the ancient
instruments and the country’s musical traditions; consequently, the Japanese
government is promoting the learning of the instruments and the ancient
styles amongst its youth. It seems that, as a result, traditional music is
again becoming trendy!
Salsa on the Champs-Elysees?
The very talented and knowledgeable student Laphawan
Chavengsaksongkram gave a small but enthusiastic audience in the Saisuree
Hall at Payap University a delightfully informed lecture-recital on the
piano music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos on February 27. Bravery
or madness? Villa-Lobos’ music is not particularly well-known in the West,
never mind in the old Lanna Kingdom of northern Thailand! And his pieces for
piano are real rarities in the concert halls. As Laphawan was quick to point
out, this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death, so
perhaps there was more bravery here than madness! And this was an
instructive, well-planned and interesting insight into this unique composer
whose music, while retaining its Latin-American roots very clearly,
especially in its rhythms, is peppered with European and some American
influences as well. Laphawan had prepared her material most thoroughly;
speaking mainly in Thai but with her slide projection in English with
charming illustrations, we were taken through the composer’s life and times,
with the focus on his piano compositions.
Villa-Lobos spent much of his life in Paris, and he was greatly influenced
by Fauré and Debussy. During his lifetime, the composer met distinguished
musicians and other composers such as Artur Rubenstein, Richard Strauss, who
conducted some of his pieces in Rio de Janiero in 1923 while on tour with
the Vienna State Opera, as well as Aaron Copeland after the Second World
War. Laphawan performed several little illustrations to highlight this
composer’s uniqueness, before launching into a performance of his 1942
composition, Poema Singelo (Simple Poem). Her playing showed a good
grasp of the composer’s style and technique, the opening nostalgic
waltz-like theme being delivered with significant expression and feeling.
The most interesting, entertaining and longest piece that Laphawan performed
was a composition written for children to play – Francette et Pia, a
cultural story of two youngsters and their friendship. Combining French
children’s tunes with the strident rhythms of Latin-America, Laphawan played
the several movements with surety and firmness, capturing these two
essential elements in a very intelligent and polished manner. With her
relaxed, informative and pleasant approach, this was a rare opportunity to
hear these delightful pieces and become well-informed about this
cigar-smoking composer who successfully combined the rhythms of South
America with the elegant melodies of France.
Speak Truth to Power – Voices from Beyond the Dark
The cast of ‘Speak Truth to Power ’.
Speak Truth to Power – Voices from Beyond the Dark. Powerful words
to describe a heart-wrenching hour on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings
at the AUA theatre last week.
The play – a series of brief monologues read by the actors – was adapted
from the book Speak Truth to Power by Kerry Kennedy, which deals with that
highly controversial issue, the abuse of our basic human rights. It has been
performed around the world, in both hemispheres, countless times; actors,
some famous, from many countries, have stood on a stage and read quoted
personal accounts from human rights defenders who have been abused,
tortured, imprisoned and attacked.
As the play began, 18 people – led by Rachel Morris (with only three days’
rehearsal) and a cast not finalised until the morning of the first
performance – were grouped on the stage at AUA, unmoving, staring at the
floor and holding their scripts throughout. 16, representing the human
rights defenders, were dressed in black, two, a man and a woman,
representing ‘evangelists of evil, malicious and sarcastic embodiments of
fear and repression at first; then, as the play develops, displaying the
indifference which is the perpetual opposite of love;’ prowled amongst the
16, whispering, probing and threatening.
The readings began. “Courage begins with one voice. It’s that simple. I did
what I had to do. That is what we know. You walk into the corridor of death,
and you know.’ And continued, “I know what it is to wait in the dark for
torture. I know what it is to wait in the dark for truth. I did what I had
to do. Anything else would have tasted like ashes.” Quotes from human rights
defenders from many countries where human rights are ignored, and human
cruelty predominates. Digna Ochoa, from Mexico, a nun and a lawyer. An
unnamed man who spent 20 years in a Vietnamese prison. Hina Jilani from
Pakistan, another lawyer. Dianna Ortiz, an American teacher working in
Guatemala, tortured by Americans. Koigi Wa Wamwere from Kenya. Marina
Pisklakova, who started the first domestic violence hotline in Russia.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa, who states, “God says, Get Up. He
dusts us off and says ‘Try Again.’ God says ‘Try Again’”. And many, many
more, detailing the continued human rights abuse of those who cannot fight
back, and the human rights abuse experienced by those who fight back on
And, all through the play, the two evil entities, prowling, denying,
belittling and verbally abusing, constantly repeating, ‘Nobody cares.
Everybody will forget.’
On all three nights, at the end of the play, the cast received applause. But
the faces of the audience told it all – the shock, the distress, the
helplessness, even the muted anger. The usual buzz of animated conversation
after a show was, at best, also muted, at worst (or maybe at best), missing
entirely. The play had, clearly, made its point.
We do care. We will not forget. The Voices from Beyond the Dark will
continue to be heard.