Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Phnom Penh Hosting New Work of Music-Theater

This is pretty fascinating. Glad I got the press release as this is both a theatre and a politics story.

NOVEMBER 28, 2008


Cambodia’s first-ever modern music theater work, Where Elephants Weep, will have its official world premiere in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this November, it was announced by John Burt, the show’s Executive Producer. With a libretto by Catherine Filloux, a score by Him Sophy, musical supervision by Scot Stafford, direction by Robert McQueen and choreography by Se├ín Curran, Where Elephants Weep will play the Chenla Theater from November 28 – December 7, 2008 produced in association with Amrita Performing Arts. The show played a successful preview engagement in Lowell, MA, home of one of the largest Cambodian refugee communities in the United States. It is expected to return to the U.S. in its current incarnation after playing several Asian cities in the autumn of 2010.

Inspired by a traditional Cambodian “Romeo and Juliet” story, Where Elephants Weep tells the tale of Sam, a refugee from the Khmer Rouge genocide who leaves America and returns to his homeland of Cambodia. Committed to finding his roots in his native culture, he unexpectedly falls in love with Bopha, a homegrown pop star. Where Elephants Weep weaves 12th century musical styles and traditional Cambodian instruments with a contemporary, Western-style rock band to reinterpret traditional Khmer music for a new era.

Where Elephants Weep brings an eclectic group of principal U.S. performers, most with Broadway credits, together with a Cambodian company of actors, singers, dancers and musicians, most of whom have never left the country and have had minimal opportunity to perform in public. The musical ensemble is comprised of the country’s leading musicians in both ancient traditional forms and contemporary pop music. The synthesis between Him Sophy’s own western, classically trained background (13 years in Russia at the Moscow Conservatory), highly trained western singers and their Cambodian counterparts promises to create an unprecedented theatrical event.

This international collaboration will be celebrated next week when the U.S. Embassy hosts a welcome reception for the entire company of Where Elephants Weep. The U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms. Piper Campbell, will host the event at her official residence to celebrate this culture-spanning effort.

Where Elephants Weep is a new commission by Cambodian Living Arts whose mission is to support the revival of traditional Cambodian performing arts and inspire contemporary artistic expression. As part of the fulfillment of its mission, CLA commissions artists to create new works that dovetail traditional and contemporary styles, bringing new life to ancient forms.

Where Elephants Weep is CLA’s most ambitious new commission to date. Prior commissions have included a hip hop/traditional Khmer fusion CD by the U.S.-based Khmer trio SEASIA and a new shadow puppet production and nation-wide tour by the Phnom Penh-based theater company Sovanna Phum, in which traditional shadow puppet theater was used as a forum to educate about HIV/AIDS.

Founded by Arn Chorn-Pond and now a project of the international NGO World Education, CLA works with the vision that Cambodia in the year 2020 will be a country experiencing a cultural renaissance so dynamic that the arts - and not the Killing Fields - will have become Cambodia's international signature. A vibrant practice of Khmer traditional arts will thrive alongside flourishing contemporary arts, both inspired by worldwide collaborations of Khmer people and their friends. Khmer people of all ages around the world will share ownership and pride in their common cultural heritage. Khmer arts will have become a wellspring of Cambodian strength and resiliency, and a vital source of healing and reconciliation.

For more information, visit www.whereelephantsweep.net.

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