See You Yesterday
In Cambodia, as in other countries emerging from violent conflict, personal experiences of violence, privation, and loss often remain unspoken. “See You Yesterday” is a production developed by Global Arts Corps and young Cambodian artists using world-class circus arts and physical theatre to break this legacy of silence.
In 2012, the Cambodian non-profit Phare Ponleu Selpak (“The Brightness of the Arts”) and their professional performing arts company (PPSE) invited Global Arts Corps to work with their students after witnessing GAC’s first touring theatre production from South Africa, “Truth in Translation.” They asked that GAC begin a related project in Cambodia—strengthening their performers’ acting skills while asking them to delve deeply into their identities to understand a genocide they knew little about, but which overshadowed their daily lives.
Since that initial meeting, Global Arts Corps’ international team of actor/trainers has spent 20 weeks working with this cast of circus performers, themselves second-generation survivors of the genocide, to develop “See You Yesterday”—a theatrical production that explores the memories these young artists have inherited from their parents’ and grandparents’ lives under the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.
After two preview performances in Phnom Penh in March 2016, the World Premiere of “See You Yesterday” occurred on July 17th, 2016 at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Kigali, Rwanda. The cast then traveled to the Kigeme refugee camp in Southern Rwanda, where they played three days for audiences of over 5,000 Congolese refugees each day and conducted workshops and hands-on training with youth. View the visual report from the Rwandan tour of “See You Yesterday”.
In the spring of 2018, in collaboration with a group of local partners, the production was revived with the original cast and toured Battambang, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap with free, open-air performances for the public. Additionally, the corps held post-performance workshops with teachers-in-training, supporting the development of curriculum using theatrical arts to foster perceptual change, dialogue, and understanding around some of the most difficult subjects in their recent history.
The U.S. premiere of “See You Yesterday” was held at the Robert J. Orchard Stage at ArtsEmerson in Boston, May 16-19, 2019.
After more than six years with the project, the cast’s strength and artistry continue to inspire young Cambodians to engage their elders in dialogue, confront their past with empathy and courage, and transform painful memories into something creative and productive within their own society.
We would like to thank Khuon Det, co-founder and director of Phare Performing Arts School at Phare Ponleu Selpak, for inviting us to work with the group he trained, and to all the wonderful people at Phare Ponleu Selpak Association, Phare Performing Social Enterprise, Amrita Performing Arts, Cambodian Living Arts, and the Documentation Center of Cambodia who have provided us with crucial support throughout our time in this extraordinary place of learning. Special thanks to the Robert Bosch Stiftung which has generously supported “See You Yesterday” throughout the project’s development.