“See You Yesterday” in The Cambodia Daily


We’ve returned from Boston after a very successful U.S. premiere and run of “See You Yesterday” at ArtsEmerson, and over the next few weeks, we’re excited to share some of the press and reviews we received. 

First, we invite you to read more about the project’s journey, and check out interviews with GAC Artistic Director, Michael Lessac, Phare’s circus director, Khuon Det, and Phare’s CEO, Huot Dara, in Michelle Vachon’s article in The Cambodia Daily:

“See You Yesterday”: A Cambodian “new circus” company comes to terms with the country’s past

“The scenes in “See You Yesterday” come across as authentic because they actually happened. As the show’s director of circus, Khuon Det, explained, ‘the tableaux staged are the artists’ parents’ and relatives’ stories.'”

“[T]his cast is the best, and the most exciting cast I have ever worked with,” Mr. Lessac said.  “They are the most honest…the most courageous…and they are a community of people who have become, in my mind, ambassadors for change in how people talk about the past.

“I have learned more by working on this production than with any other production I have done in the past,” Mr. Lessac added.

Read the full article here:

“See You Yesterday”: A Cambodian “new circus” company comes to terms with the country’s past


Photo by Jacqueline Lessac

Dear Friends,

We are thrilled to share this press release from ArtsEmerson about the upcoming U.S. premiere of “See You Yesterday,” and we hope to see you in Boston!


MAY 16 – 19, 2019

Press Performance is Thursday, May 16, 2019, at 7:30pm

On the heels of Cambodian New Year, ArtsEmerson is honored to welcome “See You Yesterday,” a moving performance by Global Arts Corps which explores the painful history of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. Directed by Michael Lessac, nineteen Cambodian performers utilize their extraordinary physical skills, including acrobatics and circus arts, to travel back in time and shatter a legacy of silence.

Over 22 weeks of development since 2012, Global Arts Corps — whose celebrated work brings together people from opposite sides of violent conflicts — collaborated with these young Cambodian artists as they grappled with the painful history of their country’s genocide. While details of the four-year horror have largely gone unexplored by younger generations of Cambodians, the cast of “See You Yesterday” interviewed their elders (and even a former Khmer Rouge child soldier) to build a stunning performance that is both beautiful and cathartic.

“In 2013, when we brought our Northern/North of Ireland production ‘Hold your Tongue, Hold your Dead’ to Boston audiences, we witnessed two communities, separated by an ocean and burdened by their own personalized historical memories, find a common healing ground in talk-backs across the footlights,” says
“See You Yesterday” director Michael Lessac. “At a time when we seem to be clinging to what separates us and not what connects us, we wanted to be in the same place again to see what happens when another, totally different, theatrical vision of honesty, tenacity, and imagination takes the ArtsEmerson stage. ‘See You Yesterday’ brings to Boston a cast of young Cambodian circus artists whose culture has forced them to live in silence with a harrowing memory. They have created a performance that shows us how hope can emerge from despair and how truth can emerge out of a powerfully moral and courageously honest imagination. I could not be more proud to be working with David Dower and his extraordinary team, in the namesake space of my old friend, Rob Orchard, as we once again explore together what happens when inherited conflict and unspoken multiple truths are surfaced across continents so that generations can talk to each other again.”
“‘See You Yesterday’ is precisely the kind of experience that ArtsEmerson has become known for over these past nine seasons,” says ArtsEmerson artistic director David Dower. “The show puts one of most vibrant world cultures in the spotlight. Our region hosts one of the largest Cambodian communities in the nation and as with last season’s ‘Bangsokol,’ we are presenting it in deep partnership with that community, both in Boston and in Lowell. This effort to put the world on stage in dialogue with diverse communities delivers that particular synergy between the art and the audience that our supporters have come to count on. ‘See You Yesterday’ also uses a form of storytelling that is entirely ArtsEmerson – sharing its moving search for restorative justice through the tools of circus and dance. We are proud to be working with Michael Lessac and Global Arts Corps to tell this story.”
Tickets for “See You Yesterday” start at just $20 and may be purchased online at www.ArtsEmerson.org, by phone at 617.824.8400, or in person at the box office. Group, student, and senior discounts are also available. Tickets are also available at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre box office in Lowell, MA.
Emerson Paramount Center
Robert J. Orchard Stage
559 Washington Street Boston, MA 02116
Performance Schedule:
Thursday, May 16, 2019; 7:30pm Press Performance
Friday, May 17, 2019; 8:00pm
Saturday, May 18, 2019; 2:00pm
Saturday, May 18, 2019; 8:00pm

Sunday, May 19, 2019; 2:00pm

Produced in partnership with Phare Performing Social Enterprise, Phare Ponleu Selpak Association & Amrita Performing Arts
Directed by: Michael Lessac, Global Arts Corps Artistic Director
in collaboration with Global Arts Corps Associate Artists: Arben Bajraktaraj, Robert Berky, & Andrew Buckland
Director of Circus: Khuon Det, Phare Ponleu Selpak Artistic Director
Choreographer: Chumvan Sodhachivy, SilverBell Dance Group, Amrita Performing Arts
Lighting Design and Technical Direction by: Dave Feldman
Original Score by: Michael Jay
Sound Design by: Scott Lehrer
Costumes by: Vong Vannak
Assistant Choreographer: Nam Narim, Amrita Performing Arts
Stage Manager: Lauren Squier
Assistant Stage Manager: Phounam Pin

Cast: Cheat Sopheap, Choup Kanha, Heng Chhaiya, Houn Sopheap, Huot Heang, Khoun Kimlon, Lai Vireak, Mon Borey, Mony Ratanaksombath, Ney Linna, Nov Sreyleak, Nov Sreyleap, Pai Phirom, Phat Sreyleak, Preab Pouch, San Samdy, Sem Sinak, Sim Chantha, Yam Sopheak

Production Team: Jacqueline Lessac, Global Arts Corps Executive Producer; Huot Dara, Phare Performing Social Enterprise Chief Executive Officer & Tour Company Manager; and Natalie Stringer, Global Arts Corps Program and Development Manager
For production stills and other media kit assets, click here.

About Global Arts Corps:

For the last 17 years, Global Arts Corps (GAC) has been bringing together performing artists from opposite sides of cultural, religious and racial divides to create original theatre productions that encourage a playwriting dialogue between people who fear, disdain, mistrust and even hate each other. The stage becomes a laboratory where each new production finds its own unique way to unpeel these feelings and rehearse a new empathy. These collaborative productions have been performed for over 100,000 audience members in 28 cities in 12 countries on 4 continents. The casts of these productions have facilitated empathy and perceptual change workshops that have brought together close to 20,000 participants. The award-winning film, “A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake,” resulting from our South African project Truth in Translation, has been shown in educational centers and film festivals in 19 cities in nine countries and a new film, based on See You Yesterday, has just completed principle editing. Over these years, the GAC team of directors and actors has accumulated experience across borders. They continue to contribute their talents and experience to each new project and are presently developing a multi-national project that will draw from five continents. The cast of See You Yesterday has recently completed an educational tour in Cambodia, giving workshops to teachers-in-training interested in using GAC’s process of safely approaching an empathic understanding of painful histories and traumatic pasts.

About ArtsEmerson:

ArtsEmerson is Boston’s leading presenter of contemporary world theatre. We are dedicated to engaging all communities through stories that reveal and deepen our connection to each other. By cultivating diversity in the arts and in the audience, we ignite public conversation around our most vexing societal challenges as a catalyst for overcoming them. Founded in 2010 by Robert J. Orchard – the year the U.S. Census confirmed there was no single cultural majority in Boston – we committed to building a cultural institution that reflects the diversity of our city. We program a full season of performances, film and dialogue that invites each of us to engage in a more contemporary narrative of Boston as a truly global city. ArtsEmerson is led by Artistic Director, David Dower and Executive Director, David Howse. For more information, visit ArtsEmerson.org.

About Emerson College:
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has 3,780 undergraduates and 670 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups. Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, the Netherlands, London, China, and the Czech Republic. The College has an active network of 39,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit Emerson.edu.
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ArtsEmerson Media contact: Darren DeLuca


Global Arts Corps Associate Artistic Director Brings Balkans Show to NYC

Photo by Atdhe Mulla

Dear Friends,

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club will present the U.S. Premiere of Kosovo’s Qendra Multimedia in “55 SHADES OF GAY: BALKAN SPRING OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION,” a contemporary burlesque story about LGBT+ politics in the Balkans, written by our dear friend and colleague, Jeton Neziraj, and directed by his wife, Blerta.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Jeton Neziraj for ten years now. We first met in Kosovo when Jackie and I brought our GAC production “Truth in Translation” to the National Theatre of Kosovo. He was the artistic director there at that time, always controversial. He is a man of explosively creative passion, with the theatrical and personal courage to support it. He also has a dramatically delightful disregard for political correctness, combined with the ability to find humor anywhere he looks. Known in Europe as a theatrical provocateur, Jeton will be part of the collaboration team of our next international project, the Festival of Radical Recovery. How ironic that he is bringing his “55 Shades of Gay” to NYC, the progressive mecca of LGBT+, just when the U.S. is pedaling back on gay rights under the Trump administration.

If any of you in NYC has the chance to make it down to La MaMa, I think you would enjoy meeting Jeton after the show. Let us know, and we’ll try to arrange it. He is almost as entertaining as his plays.

All best,


“The play is an explosion of burlesque, music and possibly offensive humor; it is simply a riot. But, in tackling a taboo topic in Kosovo – the legalization of gay marriage – it might also just inadvertently cause one.” — Lura Limani, Prishtina Insight

“55 SHADES OF GAY: BALKAN SPRING OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION” runs March 7 – 17, Thursday – Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm with an additional performance Monday, March 11 at 7pm. Running time is 70 minutes. The Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa is located at 66 East 4th Street, New York City. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101.

Announcing the Festival of Radical Recovery!

Dear Friends,

To continue our end-of-year update on the large, new project called the Festival of Radical Recovery (RR), we are about to gather together a large and inclusive cast of actors from conflict zones around the world, on a single stage where they will all move backward in time to meet their past. They will not know each other. They will all be present in family units created by their country’s underground theatres about the conflicts of the past, some percolating again just beneath the surface, and will morph and shift into their immediate ancestors as they move backwards in time. They will rehearse together, across languages and cultures, to find their differences and their common ground.

The purpose is to use our kaleidoscopic rehearsal process, developed over the last 15 years, to place conflict cultures together where reality prevents them from even knowing about each other. It’s about identity. It’s also about hope and empathy which become the habitat of youth.

In adults, especially in times like these, hope all too often seems like a kind of prayer for help from some outside power. For youth in recovering societies, hope is life itself. In adults, especially in times of perpetual mistrust and imposed reconciliation, empathy is all too often an unwanted moral sanction, someone else’s idea of what is good for us. For youth, it’s a release from inherited enmity; potentially the joy of pure curiosity about others.

Young Cambodian cast members of “See You Yesterday” at the Kigeme Congolese refugee camp, 2016.

We started this large interconnected, global project because we discovered in our previous binary explorations of conflict in single countries or regions that survivors lack the means of communication with counterparts around the world; and miss the opportunity to share personal stories, insights, reconciliation struggles, even rage that would reduce their isolation. Our lens has always been through the youth of conflict nations: the young interpreters of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the ultimate witnesses; the teenagers in Northern Ireland after the Peace Accord who counted among the 60% increase in youth suicides; the orphans and descendants of the Cambodian genocide who found hope in becoming the nation’s “social” youth circus in our current touring production of See You Yesterday,” which is the basis for our new documentary, and which will premiere at ArtsEmerson in May 2019. Our work with youth will now move into a wider global frame through a shared theatre production, rehearsal process, and simulcast to millions from the first-ever Festival of Radical Recovery (RR) over the next three years.

This next production is about connections and intersections. About theatrically connecting our children by going back in time and seeing how we started so pristine and how we came to where we are; connecting youth survivors to each other across time and geography, to their elders and to their past. Theatre is the incubator. Youth is the lens. We should be learning from our children how to survive the future to forgive the past. We have come full circle from our first production “Truth in Translation” to the Festival of Radical Recovery–performed and broadcast from iconic conflict zones across the world.

By traveling through time and across an emotional landscape theatrically, our purpose is to stop killing each other’s children even if we seem incapable to cease killing each other. The trick is: How long can we prolong the kids’ genius for truth before we default to teaching them how to be like us.

For the Festival of Radical Recovery, we have created an incredible Advisory Council of artists, human rights leaders, journalists and scientists; continuing the legacy of our first Institute of Perceptual Change. More about the advisers in our next newsletter. In the meantime, as our constant support group of followers, we want to hear your ideas and any ways that you can help us to launch this bold new GAC Project.

As ever,

“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

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!


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.