Sunday, October 24, 2010

Curriculum Design: from Greeks to Geeks

That title is enough to put anyone off. Apologies. I have been from Greece to South Africa today working on how to impart the wonders of Theatre to my two lovely IB theatre groups. How do I make it fun yet focussed? How do I link the Oresteia to the Truth & Reconciliation Committee in South Africa. Because we have to make connexions, you see. One student asked about Jacobean Revenge Tragedy and I was off after Webster. And now the plot summary is in front of me for The White Devils. It is complicated. That is Revenge Tragedy for you. Then to Complicite and 'devising from text'. All great stuff. And a stumble into a blog or two. So there we are on a hot sunday. From Greeks to Geeks. This entry is short and shallow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who is Joe Louis?

According to wikipedia Joe Louis was the Word Heavyweight Boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. That is a long time in Boxing, hence the longevity of his name. Then I arrived at my new school in Thailand and a local teacher told me something else. She told me that Mr Louis was coming to school. I was non-plussed. I read this a bit later: Sakorn Yangkhiawsod, (more widely known as Joe Louis), the founder of the Hun Lakhon Lek Joe Louis Troupe, was one of Thailand's top puppet masters and the country's last 'Grand Master' of small puppet performers. Six months ago someone warned me that there would be no culture in Southern Thailand. Well, Mr Louis' Troupe are coming to school. Will it be the Ramayana? Will it be similar to Japanese Bunraku? I went to Bunraku earlier this year, for the first time, expecting boredom. I nearly wept when the two puppets committed suicide. The three puppet masters evaporated before me. It is time to do some research. Here is a start: The Joe Louis puppet play requires the synchronised efforts of three puppeteers who jointly control and manipulate the one puppet creating highly animated, life-like movements. This enables the puppet to move or dance gracefully. Unlike any other Thai traditional puppet play, the Joe Louis puppets are able to mimic a range of human gestures and through these gestures, express emotion. For example, the puppets are able to move their wrists to 'wai' (a greeting gesture in Thai culture), or embrace (to show affection), point their fingers or clap, shake their heads or nod. The elegant movements of the puppet flow entirely from each motion made by the puppeteer. [ from the website in the link ] It is a beginning. It compares with Bunraku. Time to go here I think:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bunraku at last

Finally. After twelve years of living in the Kanto plains I take myself to the National Theatre of Japan. It is a building I do not like. Like many government buildings in Tokyo it is not friendly to visitors. We are kept outside in freezing conditions while the attendants inside busy themselves with minor work which requires no eye contact with the folks who have paid at least ¥5000 stuck outside. Once inside there is a helpful desk to hire an English translation of the performance. This is helpful and vital. It is not free. However the accompanying guide is in English too. But little else.One would have thought that with an 18% drop in tourists more could be done to welcome non-speakers of Japanese. As I looked around I saw no other foreign person. Of course you wonder. Twelve years in Japan. He has not learnt the language? I know. I know. I am ashamed. I am not a linguist. But to the show. We were lucky to get a guided tour backstage. The puppet was revealed. The master explained the manipulations. We stood where they stand. And saw the gully. And the high shoes for the master so that his two assistants can duck below him. The play was a good one. The Love Suicides at Sonezaki. The Osaka company did not disappoint. The tension was exhausting. Would they do it? The title suggested so. But the final scene stretched the chord of tension tight. What did I learn? The singers change and spin in on a turn table. The main puppeter is visible but the rest wear KKK style black headgear. The story is shared with Kabuki. Japanese audience members require subtitles to understand it. The company is male. It held me. I was captivtaed by the manipulation of each puppet. The tragedy and the prolonged death wish. At one point I found that I had not put my ear piece back in and I was still visually held. I liked it.