In June 2013, I was still studying undergraduate. After the selection of the colleges and universities, five of our students went to the Qingdao Life Theatre in Thailand to participate in the 12-day “Green Backpack” drama public welfare project. That was the first time I stepped out of the country to taste the feelings of witnessing, feeling, participating, and integrating into local life.
After a lapse of six years, the memory is still fresh.
Past and present life theater
Richard Barber, who is close to one-nine-thousand tall, is a 40-year-old Australian with a flat head. Our first meeting with him was at Chiang Mai Airport.
At first sight, Richard wore beige pants and a pink loose T-shirt. He spoke fluent Thai to the staff. His expression management was in place. He was always smiling and patient. He never blamed or angered people because of trivial matters.
Richard led us from Chiang Mai Airport across the city of Chiang Mai and then to the Chiang Dao town, 75 km north of Chiang Mai – that is our destination for five people: Makhampom Living Theatre, Chiang Dao Living Theatre.
The establishment of the Qingdao Life Theater was the concept and design of the Thai Pongjit in 1994. Pongjit is Richard’s wife and director of the Chiang Dao Life Theatre. Since 1996, Richard has also joined the design and construction of the Qingdao Life Theater.
In 2005, the Qingdao Life Theater was completed.
Today, Richard and Pongjit have a daughter, and a family of three lives in the theater. They lived together with the actors of the Qingdao Life Theatre and conducted immersive training.
The Qingdao Life Theatre is located at the foot of Dulang Mountain in Qingdao Town. The word “Qingdao” is taken from the place name – Qingdao Town – it is located in the northwest of Thailand, not far from Myanmar and Yunnan. There are many ethnic minorities, mountain tribe indigenous groups, and stateless wanderers.
The location of the theater is related to the functions and purposes of the living theater. “Life Theater”, as its name implies, has the function of aatrical performances. In fact, in many parts of Southeast Asia, the local troupe will carry out periodic rehearsal rehearsals in order to expand the influence of traditional drama; when the rehearsal is completed, it will go to the world to tour.
A model like “resident rehearsal + world tour” has long been popular. It began in the mid-1990s and was originally designed to establish links with Western developed countries in order to attract more economic and cultural support for traditional drama. In recent years, the scope of the tour has continued to expand.
In terms of the purpose of the establishment of the living theater, after receiving the help from the world, the theater will also give back to the station that nurtures itself. The way to give back is through the “Green Backpack” project – an invitation to the tour countries to let the young people come to the living theater, share their life experiences, participate in drama studies, and help poor schools in the Qing dynasty to teach – use practical actions to promote the border mountains Communication and identity with the world will contribute to the local community culture.
Before the event was officially launched, none of us could have expected what would be waiting for ourselves, or even what the relationship between drama and public welfare was, and wondered what the life theater was. Richard answered this question. He told us that the concept of the Qingdao Life Theater is actually very simple, that is, helping each other, but in the process of participation, it can gain multiple experiences.
In retrospect, we have indeed witnessed the many qualities of the Living Theatre – it began with a full range of cultural pleasures, fostering a sense of identity for theatrical and theatrical performances in the process, integrating overseas living experiences with local Thai characteristics, and ultimately The sense of accomplishment stems from the visible changes that have been made to the local community.
Walking routes and cute people
The living theater at the foot of Mount Dulang is not large, it is located between the fields and the mountains. Richard said that the rice paddy at the door was planted with the farmer. When the rain passes, the rainbow appears, which is a local landscape.
The wooden gates of the Living Theater are lined with orchids. This is a typical landscape of the Thai countryside. At first glance, it is no different from ordinary farmhouses. From the gate to the road all the way, on the right side of the road is the workshop (workshop), which is a common hanging wooden building in the tropics – wooden frame, the lower layer is hollow, square, easy to organize group activities, drama rehearsal.
There is a sign on the side of the field, it is a humorous “night order”: Caution! Furious CAT!
There is cornfield on one side of the road. Richard said that recently they were bothered by a stubborn orange cat, the plants were messed up by it, and it was also dedicated to scratching people. We took a closer look and there was a sign on the edge of the field. It was a humorous “wanted order”: Caution! Furious CAT!
Going inside, the first floor on the left hand side is the kitchen, open dining area and wash basin. From the rear of the stairs, you can reach the double-storey brick building for the members of the troupe and international students.
Continue along the straight road, which is a round puppet theatre located behind the dormitory area. In the afternoon and evening, Richard will teach the next day’s arrangements, organize the production of environmentally friendly products, and summarize the activities of the day.
The members of the troupe danced and danced and welcomed us into the workshop. I don’t know when my hand was occupied by the teaching assistant, Ai Pula. During the push and push, several people in the same group were “trapped” in the center of the circle surrounded by everyone, “forced” with handmade cowhide drums. The rhythm twists the body.
The actors kept laughing, the boys were back flipped in place, the girls knocked on the tambourine, and the movements were not neat, but they were full of appeal. Within ten minutes, we, the urbanites who came from the “civilized society” and could not do anything, also went to the country to follow the customs, let go of their worries and burdens, and celebrate the arrival of each other with them.
Under the guidance of Richard, more than 30 people present were surrounded by a big circle. I discovered that there were three types of groups that participated in the “Green Backpack” project. In addition to our students from all over the world (composed of 14 university students from Sichuan University, Zhejiang University and the National University of Singapore), there are also local Thai drama actors. They come from all over Thailand and belong to different theatre groups. They come to the living theater rehearsal from May to June every year and will tour the world in the second half of the year.
The last group is the staff and service staff of the organizer’s living theater, in addition to the Richards and several teaching assistants who are resident in the theater, as well as volunteers from Bangkok and Singapore.
The slightly chaotic scene is also in the hands of these staff. In order to help everyone quickly become familiar with each other, after a simple self-introduction, they organized a drum-and-can “can” game. Within ten minutes, under the control of winning and losing, everyone remembered each other’s names, countries and hobbies. .
Among the staff of the Living Theatre, in addition to the Richards and Epp, I was most impressed by Bogo and Chef Uncle from Singapore.
Bogo graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in International Politics and is fluent in Chinese and English. Every year, he only works for 8 months, and he has been to the Qing Dynasty for volunteers for more than 3 months. In 2013, he was the third time to visit Qing Dao. He knows the climate of Dulang Mountain very well. At this time, at the foot of Mount Dulang, every afternoon, there will be a torrential rainstorm. This natural scenery with periodic rhythm makes him enjoy.
Uncle’s uncle chef is a mysterious person. Every meal, he makes Thai food in the kitchen alone. In the afternoon tea time, he will prepare Thai milk tea and handle all kinds of mangoes. But none of our 14 people had spoken to him.
Before the last dinner before the departure, I took the initiative to apply for the chef to make fried chicken. Only then did I find out that the uncle was an old friend whom Richard had known for many years. This low-key chef, who will stay in the theater for two months each year, helps Richard, is purely voluntary. Recalling his daily state, while playing a little song, while relaxing, he really enjoyed it.
Contemporary class teacher meets stateless wanderer
Coming to the living theater, watching theatrical performances and learning the performance of the drama, is only a small part of it. Two days ago, Richard led us to watch the live drama of the members of the troupe. The theme of the play is “Panda”. The actors are dressed in black and express their emotions throughout the body without a line.
At first, everyone looked confused, but when Nam (Nam) appeared in a pink gold-plated costume, the audience was boiling. They combine the exaggerated modern stage performance approach with traditional Thai dance, and the gorgeous eye dresses stand in stark contrast to the plain black.
Epp said that this is what the panda looks like in the eyes of Thais. Thai people really love pandas and even open a 24-hour online channel to live the life of the pandas.
For the 14 of us, the most important part of the engagement was obtained through “community services”. The previous study on drama knowledge and performance methods was intended to be applied to the follow-up “community service” public welfare activities.
From the fifth day, we began to prepare lessons and make props. From the morning of the sixth day to the morning of the seventh day, 14 people were divided into two groups, each going to a different rural primary school to communicate with local middle and upper grade students.
Palong people are poor and white, do not belong to any country or region, and life is not guaranteed.
In advance, we made handicrafts using recycled environmentally friendly materials.
During the two classes, we taught students how to make environmentally friendly crafts, Reduce/reuse/recycle (reduce usage/reuse/recycle) English and Chinese pronunciation, and wrote environmental songs.
Finally, we organized the students to rehearse the drama on the environmental theme. They mapped the transition pictures or acted as actors. Our “substitute teachers” were responsible for on-site scheduling.
In the preparation and teaching process, the biggest gains are those of us. Since then, the three words Reduce/reuse/recycle have been engraved into my heart. The Thai people have used practical actions to prove that environmental protection can’t just stay in the concept of renewal, but also need to practice.
In addition, what surprised me the most is the health of the Thai countryside. Whether it is a wild village or a township trail, I have never seen the shadow of peel, paper scraps and plastic garbage.
As a participant in the “Green Backpack” project, the last stop on our trip was Pang Daeng, which is famous in Southeast Asia. The name sounds great, but it is actually a small village north of the Qingdao.
Interestingly, the inhabitants of this small village are the “Palong people” who have turned to the borders of China, Myanmar and Thailand. They are stateless wanderers. They have a unique cultural habit because they live in the mountains for a long time and live by grazing. In general, the Palong people are poor and white, do not belong to any country or region, and life is not guaranteed.
Our last stop was to go to the huge German, stay overnight at the local residents’ home, and make environmentally friendly handicrafts in the village center community the next day. The yellow tricycle bumped for more than an hour, and Richard and Ep reached the destination with 14 fearful urbanites. In the face of a run-down environment, Singapore’s classmates are very uncomfortable. They privately admit that they can’t imagine the scene of staying here. Every Palong person receives two people, sleeps on the floor, can’t take a bath, food hygiene is not guaranteed, and Palong people are not at all. Can speak English.
The “Green Backpack” project was carried out for 12 days. We helped 14 people to help each other, and finally broke through the difficulties.