To encourage Thais to learn more about the culture of neighbouring countries, as the start-up date for the AEC (Asean Economic Community) gets ever closer, Bangkok University is hosting an international theatre festival and a series of workshops collectively entitled "World Symposium: Global Encounters in Southeast Asian Performing Arts".
The performances and other events will take place at its Rangsit campus over the weekend of Feb 1 to 3.
"Culture seems to be the best way to learn about others," said Nawarit Rittiyotee, a lecturer at the university's School of Communication Arts and the main driving force behind this festival.
The festival will feature traditional performance art from neighbouring countries plus modernised versions of these as well as contemporary performances from around the world.
Some of the shows will highlight the fact that while some forms of performance art are rapidly disappearing in their countries of origin, they have managed to survive by finding a welcome in foreign lands, one example being Chinese opera and its enduring popularity in Singapore. Another example is a "digital installation" called Thai Tracings.
The creation of Prof Sarah Rubidge from the UK, this melds a traditional Thai dance form called chui chai, now rarely seen, with a digital programme she has dubbed "Isadora". Prof Rubidge will also give a workshop on "Isadora" and illustrate how she used it to produce her show.
Another promising addition to the festival is an installation called Plant Me A Word by Patricia Correa from Portugal. Correa will make herself a part of her art by sitting on a chair, with her feet "grounded" in a pot of soil to imitate a tree, and communicating _ albeit non-verbally _ with visitors who will be asked to write messages to her on fresh salad leaves which Correa will then eat.
Nawarit feels that content is sorely missing in many types of traditional performance art in Asia and that too many performances lack creativity, merely mimicking the form of the particular genre. He singled out Prof Rubidge's installation as a good example of how a traditional art form (chui chai) can be altered to good effect. He hopes that the festival will demonstrate that "traditional arts can be revived by adapting them for a modern audience".
Thailand will be represented by three different shows: Kham Pipaksa (The Judgement) and The Balcony by the Bangkok University Theatre Company and Life After Death Of Norah by Varakorn Pensrinukoon.
Other highlights will include a performance of Dewa Muda by an ensemble from Malaysia, a Cantonese-style Chinese opera show by a Singaporean troupe, marionettes from Myanmar, a puppet show from Laos and a wayang shadow play from Indonesia. More contemporary elements of the festival will include mixed-media performances from the Netherlands and Portugal.
_ Sirinya Wattanasukchai
For a complete festival schedule, visit www.buworldsymposium.com.