“SEE YOU YESTERDAY” MEETS THE FUTURE: Cambodian cast leads workshops for 800 student teachers

(PHOTO: “See You Yesterday” cast members lead a workshop with students at the Teacher Training Center in Siem Reap, April 2018.)

This past March and April, Global Arts Corps re-joined the cast of “See You Yesterday” to tour three major cultural hubs in Cambodia and conduct workshops at the regional teacher training centers, the colleges where all of the country’s future educators receive their training.

For decades, the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge was excluded from Cambodia’s national schoolbooks. Survivors of the regime were often too traumatized or ashamed to speak about their experiences openly, and younger generations didn’t feel safe enough to ask their burning questions about what had happened. 

“See You Yesterday” was created to break a silence.

During 19 weeks of development and rehearsal spread out over a 5-year period, the cast created a theatre production using their spectacular circus skills to explore their parents’ and grandparents’ memories of a genocide they had never lived. In the process, they discovered powerful and simple ways of creating understanding and empathy between themselves and their elders. After touring “See You Yesterday” to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center for a festival and then performing for 18,000 people in the Kigeme Congolese Refugee camp, this group now felt ready to share their insights with their country’s future teachers back at home.

They performed for diverse audiences in outdoor, free, public performances in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang to over 4,000 people. In these audiences were a total of over 800 young Cambodian teachers in training.

On the days following each of these performances, they shared with these teachers what it felt like to live in the shoes of their elders; to imagine their lives out of the broken, inherited fragments of stories and rumors that floated through the silence. They talked about what it felt to start asking questions for the first time. They shared their feelings about how it was frightening at first… and how they needed to learn to trust their own feelings and not run away from uncomfortable truths. They demonstrated some of the empathy and trust exercises they found they needed to perform as a community of actors. They talked about learning how to let their own personal humor and courage and compassion enter into the pain of the stories they were revealing. They told how hard it was to rehearse things they didn’t believe in, only to realize that once they rehearsed something, they could understand it.

A big point for me, and something that makes this project so special is that the play they saw last night came from all of us, from our real stories. When Michael and his team came to work with us, they came with empty hands, no scripts. During our rehearsals, every one of us had a chance to tell our own stories, and that’s how we created this play. It came from all of us.”
— Sambath, “See You Yesterday” cast member (2018)
 
“For me, it’s not just a performance or an episode for us to share; it’s a chance for all of us to help each other to really understand the past and what happened. Also, when the students ask us questions, we learn from them… they give us something back. It’s kind of like working really closely together so that we can preserve this history for our own country, and for others as well.
— Heang, “See You Yesterday” cast member (2018)
 
“I wanted this audience to feel how our parents had felt and be able to share the feelings of anyone else who went through this painful past. […] Among us, we only have nineteen artists to help spread the word and share with others. But these teaching students will reach millions of people in this country, so they can spread the word even better. When the teaching students understand, see, and are eager to learn more, they’ll spread the information to the younger generation so that something like this doesn’t happen again. […] If we can do it, I’d like to perform in every provincial city, all 25 provinces. I’m very greedy!”
— Sinak, “See You Yesterday” cast member (2018)
 
“From the performance, we could see what Angkar [the Khmer Rouge] was really like. We now understand. The show makes us want to know more about our own history, and that makes us love our country even more.

— Student, National Institute of Education, Phnom Penh (2018)

All of us at Global Arts Corps would like to thank the supporters who have stayed with us throughout the time it took us to reach this point, in particular, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, who gave us confidence as well as support from the earliest stages of this project. We’d also like to thank Khuon Det and everyone at Phare Ponleu Selpak and Phare Performing Social Enterprise for inviting us to collaborate with this extraordinary group of young artists; and the teams at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, Amrita Performing Arts, and Cambodian Living Arts for all of their counsel and support over the last six years.

We would not have been able to create this piece without all of the work that came before it, out of places like Belfast, South Africa, and the Balkans. On this tour, we witnessed 19 young circus performers using theatre-based techniques to teach 800 future teachers how to approach a past their elders could never talk about. Thank you to everyone who has invested in us and stuck with us up to this point. We can now promise you that this is the jumping off point for a larger educational movement, driven by youth teaching other youth. This piece is just a culmination and a result of all the experiments that came before it. Stay tuned.

–The Global Arts Corps Team

“See You Yesterday” on Tour in Cambodia

We very pleased to announce the first Cambodian educational tour of “See You Yesterday,” with performances for student teachers, students, and the general public in three educational centers later this month.
 
Following each performance in Battambang, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap, the cast–with support from Global Arts Corps artists from South Africa, Cambodia, Kosovo, and the US–will conduct workshops in the art of exploring one’s past. These workshops will take place the country’s teacher training centers, the institutions where all of Cambodia’s future educators receive their training.
 
The workshops will be the beginning of what we hope will become an ongoing opportunity for this cast to share their experiences of delving into their own emotions and perceptions to build this production out of the fragmented memories handed down by their elders who experienced them directly. The production itself was created out of these young artists’ exploration into their past, in which they broke down barriers of silence that had existed between generations since the genocide. The goal of this tour is to specifically help student teachers develop curriculum to illuminate and expand the potential of the theatrical arts to foster perceptual change, dialogue and understanding around some of the most difficult subjects in their recent history.
 
For more information on the tour, and to read the artistic director’s statement, please click here.
 
Stay tuned for more information on this project in the coming weeks!
 

“Rest in Power”

Dear Friends,

Hugh Masekela, the legendary South African jazz musician, leading international voice against Apartheid, and our beloved collaborator, has died at 78 after a protracted battle with prostate cancer.

Following his passing Tuesday morning, Hugh’s family released this statement: “A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with profound loss. Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across six continents. We are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love. Rest in power, beloved. You are forever in our hearts.”

We were profoundly blessed to work with Hugh on our production of “Truth in Translation.” His composition of the score amplified the sounds of a nation which uses music as its language of survival and celebration. I’ve never met a greater reconciler – a man who could fuse opposing forces, who could sculpt a score to reveal the humanity of a cast, who could craft beautiful harmonies out of discord and pain. More powerful a testament than my words is his music itself. We remember a particular night in Edinburgh, while on tour with “Truth in Translation.” In an improvised concert, Hugh took the stage with the cast and moved the entire audience to their feet. We were lucky enough to capture some of it on film here.

Edinburgh 2007

Thank you, Hugh Masekela. You gave us courage when we needed it most, and we are eternally grateful that you leave behind your music to inspire many more fights for freedom.

–Michael Lessac, Artistic Director, and the Global Arts Corps Team

End of the Year Update

Dear Friends,
 

The past 12 months have been a time of momentous change. Division seems pervasive, and unity fragile and elusive. In response, all of us at Global Arts Corps have renewed our commitment to working with the next generation of young artists, educators, and activists and feel certain that this growing movement is more important than ever.

The reach and relevance of our Cambodian production, “See You Yesterday,” continues to grow. After traveling over 5,000 miles to Rwanda last year to share a story built out of their fragmented, inherited memories of the Khmer Rouge, the 19 young circus performers in our cast are now ready to share what they learned on the road. In 2018, they will tour Cambodia, performing outdoors for the public and conducting post-performance workshops at schools and at teacher training centers. Additionally, the documentary film, “Year Zero36,” which follows the development of the production, the trials and triumphs of its young cast, and the culminating performance in a Congolese refugee camp, will be shared with audiences worldwide. 

Simultaneously, our research and development continue for our newest project – an immense, multi-year, multi-pronged initiative born out of our work over the last 15 years that will bring many different powerful stories of past and present conflict together on one stage, at one time. In 2018, we’ll begin to develop pieces of the final production on multiple continents, highlighting the efforts of women’s movements past and present and working with refugee and host communities, among many others. Stories from each of these places and more will be shaped into a single kaleidoscopic production exploring multiple conflicts as they move backwards in time, all examining violence, fear, courage, denial, shame, and hope across borders and across generations. This project will live on in a multimedia online educational archive that will allow participants to study the various smaller theatre pieces and conflicts that contribute to the larger whole, finding connections across an infinite number of combinations….and serving as an open space for transformative dialogue between people who’ve never talked to each other before.

Consistently, throughout all of these projects, our programs and techniques of learning and empathy exploration multiply as the number of our international youth mentors grows. The fact that this team is made up of teachers from totally disparate cultures reminds us that no matter where we’re from, we wrestle with the narratives that have been passed on through generations. 

Your support contributes to our efforts to help youth embrace and honor all of their conflicting identities – without shame and with empathy – in the face of entrenched difference. 

Global Arts Corps is funded entirely by donations. We hope that you will support these efforts by making a tax-deductible contribution – either through our website, or by mailing a check to Global Arts Corps at 790 Riverside Dr. #6P, New York, NY 10032.

Thank you, and happy holidays from all of us at Global Arts Corps.

Petition to Review the Case of Osman Kavala

Our dear friend and colleague, rights advocate, philanthropist, and civil society figure, Osman Kavala, was arrested by Turkish officials in October and has been detained for nearly a month. We are privileged to call Mr. Kavala a friend and colleague, who, over the course of several decades, has used arts, culture, and dialogue to facilitate exchanges throughout Europe. We attest without doubt to his decency, loyalty, and commitment to peace and join with the extraordinary artists and peacemakers signing this petition.

Global Arts Corps featured in the UNESCO Courier!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friends,

Global Arts Corps is honored to be featured in an article in the latest issue of The UNESCO Courier, entitled “Breaking the Cycle of Vengeance,” by Rwandan journalist Marie Angélique Ingabire.

To access the full issue through UNESCO’s website, please click here.

Thank you all for your continued support,
— The Global Arts Corps Team

A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake is now available for pre-order!

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Actors Quanita Adams & Nick Boraine

Dear Friends,

Global Arts Corps is thrilled to announce that our documentary A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake is now available for purchase through the film’s educational distributor, Documentary Educational Resources (DER).

A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake is our award-winning documentary that follows a diverse group of South African actors as they tour global war-torn regions to share their country’s experience with reconciliation. As they ignite a dialogue among people with raw memories of atrocity, the actors find they must confront once again their homeland’s complicated and violent past and question their own capacity for healing and forgiveness.

Through DER, the film is available to pre-order on DVD for individuals, educators, K-12 schools, universities, nonprofits, and other institutions. If you or anyone you know is interested in obtaining a copy of the film, you can click here to place your order. Questions and purchase orders can also be sent to orders@der.org. We’re proud of the impact this film has made in screenings and festivals, and are very pleased that it’s now accessible to individuals, educators, and organizations here in the US and abroad.

Please stay tuned for additional updates in the coming weeks, including the release of an article on Global Arts Corps in the UNESCO Courier.

United Nations Screenings in Geneva and Vienna

 

Global Arts Corps is honored to announce that A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake will be presented by the United Nations at two screenings in Geneva and Vienna next week. The details are as follows:
 

Geneva Screening of A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake

Presented by Ciné-ONU

Tuesday, April 4th, at 6:30pm

Cinéma CINERAMA EMPIRE, rue de Carouge 72-74, Geneva

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Michael and Jacqueline Lessac. Tickets are free of charge, and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, please visit www.unog.ch/cine-onu

 

Vienna Screening of A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake

Presented by The United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, On the occasion of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda

Friday, April 7th, 12:30pm

Vienna International Centre, UNIS Cinema Room (G0575)

Opening remarks will be given by Martin Nesirky – Director, United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, and Michael and Jacqueline Lessac. This screening is by invitation-only. For more information, please contact us at info@globalartscorps.org.

 
Please stay tuned for updates on these screenings, and the recent pick-up shoot for the new feature documentary on our Cambodian project, Year Zero36.

Global Arts Corps in the Huffington Post!

Dear Friends,

We’re writing to share an article about Global Arts Corps in the Huffington Post, written by one of our Board members, Arlene Lear.

Arlene has spent the last 35+ years working in international development–the majority of them with Counterpart International–with a focus on building institutional and leadership infrastructure in Eurasia, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. In the Huffington Post article, Arlene discusses her passion for supporting our work and shares a collection of photos and stories from the recent tour of our Cambodian production, See You Yesterday, to Rwanda.

Arlene writes,

“Led by its Artistic Director, Michael Lessac, the Corps replays and rehearses conflict and reconciliation on stage by giving equal value to the painful memories and lingering fears felt by both victims and perpetrators – unveiling the humanity in each side to provoke mutual empathy and make consideration of reconciliation even possible. What is unique about the Corps’ methodology is that all productions are co-created by its actors who themselves have lived through the results of the conflict being portrayed.

The Corps’ productions have universal appeal as they touch the hearts and minds of audiences daring to examine what it means to be human facing the loss of loved ones, home and identity. Musical elements of the production further stir emotions and reflection about one’s own buried, or not so buried, prejudices and empathy deficits.”

To read the full article, please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58b07ec8e4b0658fc20f949d

Thank you all for your continued support,
— The Global Arts Corps Team

A message from one of our Cambodian cast members

Phounam Pin (second from right) translates during a Global Arts Corps production development workshop at the Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, Cambodia.

We’d like to share a message with all of you, as supporters of Global Arts Corps, from one of the young Cambodian artists who worked with us throughout the development of See You Yesterday. Phounam Pin joined Global Arts Corps’ project during our first visit to the Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang in 2012, and continued working with us as a cast member and translator up until our world preview performances in Phnom Penh last year, when she left for the US to pursue a college degree. 
 
Phounam is currently studying and raising funds to earn her Associate’s Degree from a community college in the Washington, DC area. Her goal is to go on to earn a Bachelor’s degree at a 4-year college in the United States and then return home, where she can pursue a career transforming the lives of other young Cambodians through the arts.
 
Phounam wrote the statement below about the ways in which her training in circus at Phare and her collaboration with Global Arts Corps impacted her life and her goals for the future. Like all of the young artists we’ve collaborated with in Cambodia, Phounam brings an enormous sense of optimism and openness with her wherever she travels, and we hope that her classmates here in the US learn as much from her as she does from them and her education here in the United States. We encourage all of you to visit her website at https://www.phounampin.com, where you can make a donation to support her studies and read more about her background and experience here in the US.
 
From Phounam:
 
I’m living my dream of pursuing an education in the US. I chose to come to study in the US because this is the country of freedom. There are so many positive and also negative things I can learn from my education here in America. I wish to be part of the solution to the problems in my country by enriching the messages through the arts. I wish to empower young artists and help them to unlock their potential and talents, to help them know that they have the power to change our society. 
 
Growing in a poor family in Cambodia, I’ve transformed my life through the arts. It is the only thing I’ve known since I was 7 years old. It has been the only activity that I had to make a living and to support my family before I came to study in the US. When I was younger, I never understood why my family was so poor and why there were so many orphans who lived in the streets, starving and never having the chance to go to school. Then, I began to see the causes behind it. And one of those causes was the impact of the wars that destroyed everything in my country, leaving us all in poverty and with scars in our heart that are very hard to heal. The genocide killed almost 3 million people in my country, including most of the intellectuals, the artists and many of the parents of those orphan children. 
 
Through the arts, I learned to express myself and to share these messages with my audiences. The Global Arts Corps has helped me to learn about the roots of the problems and the pain that remains deeply in my parents’ generation and in the survivors of Cambodia’s genocide and war who are still too afraid to talk about it. I’m honored to have worked with the team and to have been part of the show “See You Yesterday.” It is so inspiring that the young artists of the second generation from the genocide like us can tell the pain of our own stories through the arts. I now realize that it is only when we have understood our own histories that we can move forward into the brighter future and help bring peace to the world. 
 
I believe that we can use the power of the arts to change society. Art has played such an important role in my life and other young artists in Cambodia. I think it is time for us Cambodians to be united and make a change for our country and the future generations. 
 
I need your support to reach my dream and to help me transform Cambodia. Please donate generously through this website www.phounampin.com.
 
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Phounam Pin