“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

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.

“The stuff that peace is made of…”

As we begin a new year, we would like to share the quote below with all of you, our friends and donors, from an article written by a drama teacher who witnessed our rehearsals and performances with our Cambodian cast in Phnom Penh.

Thank you for making this work possible over the past twelve months. We ask that you support us again in 2017 by making a tax-deductible donation through our website, or by mailing a check to Global Arts Corps at 790 Riverside Dr. #6P, New York, NY 10032.

“On the floor of the black box there are some 20 actors working together forming the play that is: See You Yesterday, they are all from various parts of the country, with more or less unfortunate backgrounds. They work their way through the memories; there is absolute silence, outbursts of laughter and sometimes someone who breaks down crying. The stage is void of props and furniture, the set is their bodies and with intense physical theatre a story with hardly any words is taking form, it is so clear that I find myself completely immersed to the point that I lose my breath.

Together they tell a story of a genocide they didn’t live through, but that they live with everyday, a story of silence and suppressed emotions. Horrible acts of cruelty that shaped the society for generations to come.”
— Sita Ljungholm Verma, Plays to See

To read the rest of the article, please visit: http://playstosee.com/see-you-yesterday/?platform=hootsuite

Wishing you all a peaceful and courageous New Year,
The Global Arts Corps Team

International Premiere of Documentary Film!

Dear Friends,

2014 has been an incredibly busy year so far. We’ve just been invited to premiere our recently completed documentary film on the Truth in Translation project at the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa, which will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s election to the South African presidency. In order to differentiate the film from the theatre production, the documentary has been titled A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake. We will be in touch via our newsletter in the coming weeks with more information on the exact times and locations of the screenings. Until then, you can read more about the festival here.

Global Arts Corps workshop with the Phare Ponleu Selpak, February 2014

Global Arts Corps workshop with the Phare Ponleu Selpak, February 2014

In February, we made our second trip to work with the Phare Circus artists in Battambang, Cambodia in order to cast and continue development on our joint theatre/circus project. Andrew Buckland from our South African cast joined Michael and me for a second time as a trainer, along with Arben Bajraktaraj from Kosovo/France and Robbie Koen, also from South Africa. Arn Chorn Pond, former Khmer Rouge child soldier and founder of Cambodian Living Arts, also joined us to tell the young performers his story as part of the history we will bring into the show.  A new short film on this recent work will be on our website in August, and we’ve already begun preparations to return to Battambang in February 2015.

In May we were honored to be commissioned by the European Foundation Centre and the Robert Bosch Stiftung to make a 10-min film on our work for presentation at the Annual General Assembly of the European Foundation Centre in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The film, which you can watch here, provides a good update on our recent activities and ongoing projects.

We are back in the US with a lot of work ahead of us. Fortunately, we will be working with four young college and graduate student fellows over the next few months. Hallie Sekoff, one of our summer fellows, wrote a reflection on Never Fall Down that we featured in our last newsletter. If you missed it then, you can read it here now.

Please watch out for more updates on the premiere of the film and our summer fellowship in the coming months.

– Jacqueline Lessac

Announcing Our Summer Artistic Programs and Development Fellows

Global Arts Corps is thrilled to announce our summer fellows who hail from around the world and bring a variety of interests and experience to the fellowship.

Sandrayati Fay has lived in Indonesia, the Philippines, and the United States. She studies Theatre Education with a focus on Performance and Directing and minors in Environmental Studies at Emerson College (class of 2016), where she saw a workshop performance of the Northern Irish play, Hold your tongue, Hold your dead and a work-in-progress screening of A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake, this past fall.

Katie Grindeland is from Massachusetts and is currently studying Theatre Education and Acting at Emerson College. During the residency of Hold your tongue, Hold your dead at ArtsEmerson, Katie was working as a Creative Producer in Training and assisted in audience outreach for the production’s workshop performances.

Lucia D’Onofrio, from Rome, Italy, has just completed her third year of undergraduate studies at New York University. She is majoring in International Relations and Economics. Lucia worked as an actress since she was nine until the end of high school, and while she has decided to take a break from being on stage when she moved to college, she is still constantly drawn back to this world.

Hallie Sekoff, originally from Berkeley, California graduated from Bard College in 2012 with a BA in Anthropology and Theater. For her senior thesis at Bard she had the privilege of engaging in conversations with home health caregivers who shared with her depictions of the work they carry out. From these interviews she wrote an ethnography that she adapted into a piece of theater. In the Fall she will attend Columbia University to pursue her MFA in Dramaturgy.

We are very excited about the addition of these four fellows to our office this Summer. Stay tuned for more updates!


A Global Thumbs-Up in Germany!

The screening of a first locked cut of our documentary film, Truth In Translation in Germany, March 2013, marked the beginning of the end of an extensive, but exhilarating editing process. At the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s Annual Forum just outside of Munich, the film was screened to an audience of the foundation’s alumni, world economists and policy leaders. The Robert Bosch Stiftung partly funded the Balkans tour of the Truth In Translation stage production as well as the post-production of this documentary film. This pre-screening had the surprising effect of creating new interest to bring about a revival of the original stage production to play in Germany and other countries in 2014. We are now exploring that possibility and are in discussions about maximizing such a revival to also tour the US and Canada.

Furthermore, the foundation invited GAC to present an added screening of the film at the DNA Galerie in Berlin. There the screening formed part of the framework program of the traveling exhibition SEE New Perspectives: from Balkan Photographers; a joint project of World Press Photo and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, showing twenty photo stories of fifteen different photographers from South-Eastern Europe. Global Arts Corps’ Truth In Translation documentary film was purposefully brought into the photo exhibition to inspire dialogue around the different approaches of dealing with the past in post-conflict regions. The event enjoyed thriving attendance and received overwhelming responses.

Truth In Translation, The Documentary Film


GAC in the Cape of Good Hope, February 2013

Participants at the GAC/Lessac Kinesensics Workshop

Early in 2013 the GAC commissioned a workshop with the Lessac Institute, specialists in Kinesensic Training, which took place in Cape Town, South Africa in February 2013. The Lessac Institute was founded by late Arthur Lessac, founding supporter of Global Arts Corps and father of our Artistic Director, Michael Lessac.   Kinesensics is a creative approach to discovering your true voice in a holistic way, resulting in vocal power and improved expressiveness. It encourages and honours individual personality while providing clear, concrete and organic instruction that applies not only to performing artists, but anyone and everyone.  Apart from the therapeutic benefits of Kinesensics, this valuable training tool can also assist anyone for whom English is a second or third language to reach certain levels of intelligibility without losing their beautiful accents and the natural musicality of their Mother Tongue.

Continue reading

Can you teach me about Pol Pot?

Thembi and Sibu from the Truth in Translation cast with the students at Phare Ponleu Selpak.

Jackie, Nick, and I have just returned from Battambang, Cambodia, where we were invited by an extraordinary collective of artists, themselves former child war orphans, who take care of at-risk kids between the ages of 6 and 23. The village of artists is called Phare Ponleu Selpak (The Brightness of Arts). It is a place of hope. The students we worked with are part of the Phare Ponleu Selpak and have been professionally trained as circus performers.

These children are storytellers; their language is circus. To work with them, we invited Andrew Buckland, Thembi Mtshali-Jones, and Sibu Gcilitshana from the Truth in Translation cast to join us. We were there to teach them acting and to create a story about their recent perceived and imagined history. We were invited because we had experienced such a journey personally and felt we could help these young performers probe into places where, at the moment they are hesitant to go and where their teachers, quite reasonably, might be hesitant to take them.

So all of us were searching for a theme, a question that had to be asked to create this production.

When we started our workshop a young boy asked, “Could you please teach me about Pol Pot?” I think he knew about Pol Pot. Why would he ask this question of a foreigner? Is it because he feels like the story of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge should be clearer in his mind? Is it because of what he’s heard, what he’s pieced together from his elders’ whispers and off-hand references that never made any real sense (eat your rice…we died for that rice)? Is it because these kids feel a kind of shame that he doesn’t understand? Or is it that Pol Pot just wouldn’t make sense to a kid? Continue reading

Global Arts Corps Ongoing Projects

Nick Boraine and Michael Lessac and Truth in Translation cast member Andrew Buckland (far right) working with the students of the Phare circus group in Cambodia

As we move closer to the end of 2012, Global Arts Corps would like to share with you some updates on all of our current projects.

Michael, Jackie, and Nick Boraine, (who came on this year as Michael’s Associate Artistic Director), are currently in Battambang, Cambodia, where they are doing the initial work on a project with Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus (www.phareps.org). Phare is no ordinary circus. It was started by 8 young people who came back to Cambodia from a refugee camp in 1994. They share our vision that art can be an instrument for human development and social change, and they have offered children a way out of poverty. We will be making a joint production over the next 3 years.

In addition, we have been invited to participate in workshops with young people from Youth for Peace (www.yfpcambodia.org) as part of the joint grant we received along with Sites of Conscience (www.sitesofconscience.org) from the Fetzer Foundation. Sites of Conscience use the past to engage people in making a difference in the future…they see Global Arts Corps as a traveling site of conscience.

We are very excited to announce that after a difficult start, we have re-grouped and are close to getting our next production on the boards with a wonderful team of NI talent. We are currently raising funds for the completion of this important project, and have invitations in Dallas and possibly Boston and London to finish the development if we can raise those funds. We are in discussion with a Canadian foundation that is interested in Truth Commissions because of the indigenous issues in Canada. Because there is a large Irish community in Montreal, we have been asked to explore using the Irish production in that pursuit.

Work with children: We feel the work in Northern Ireland has been important in many ways. In addition to our work on the current production, we have been doing, and will continue to do, outreach and sustainability work there with local Protestant and Catholic young people who are part of a group called the Talent Tribe. These children are from the most difficult areas of Belfast and are learning life skills through the arts in addition to the other skills the arts give them. Last June, while we were in Belfast working with our professional NI company, we spent another 3 days with the Talent Tribe and made the following 10-minute video of our work with them (https://vimeo.com/49385225). Some of the actors from our company joined us the last day so you will meet a few of them also. Our work in Northern Ireland has been generously funded by the Embrey Family Foundation. Continue reading