If asked, from 2003 to 2018, what have been accomplished for the past 15 years? I may be able to give the following quantifiable answer. We have worked with hundreds of performing arts masters and artists surviving the Khmer Rouge’s Regime and continued to build a new generation of dozens of artists. We have mounted around 45 productions. We have toured our works and have been part of regional workshops, exchange programs and international tours over 60 times. We have worked in all the 6 continents including producing an on stage performance in a refugee camp in Rwanda, Africa. We have received 5 national and international awards. We have received thousands of local and international audience members. And the list goes on. This quick fact would easily impress the public. But what is more important for all of us at Amrita is the real stories of this 15-year odyssey. I would like to share with you a little bit about this journey as short as this page allows me.
In 2007, Rady Nget was a monkey role dancer of Lakhaon Kaol (Cambodian classical male-masked dance) who was cast for the touring of production of Weyreap’s Battle at the Barbican Center in London. Back then, I noticed that he was a shy boy, small in posture, and would not speak until spoken to, especially if it meant speaking in English. Yet just six years later, in 2013, at the post-show discussion where artists from Japan, Taiwan, India and Cambodia collaborated, Rady, required no translation and spoke confidently to the audience about his own artistic training and creative process. Fred Frumberg (Amrita’s founder and chairman of the board) and I sat in the audience, both stunned and proud at how much our artists had grown into their own.
In January 2017, Rady went to New York City to undertake a 7-month residency funded by the Asian Cultural Council. Upon his arrival, he took no rest. Rady was all over New York, going from the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn to La Mama Theater to the New York City Center in Manhattan, seeing shows, taking classes and meeting people. Two weeks into his residency, Rady gave his solo performance at the Judson Memorial Church. Since then, Rady has worked in numerous projects in Cambodia and in different parts of the world.
The story of Rady’s remarkable journey is one of a new generation of Cambodian artists empowered by a supportive contemporary arts community within the past decade. Other stories of Kethya, Belle, Narim, Sopheap, Davy, Mo, Leak, Borey, Bunny, Boramy, and many others, would be no less significant and are uniquely fascinating. These are the stories of people from being trained by their masters in the classical forms to earning their master’s degrees from international universities, participating regional workshops and exchanges, performing works in Asia, Europe and US, creating their own contemporary works, and being practitioners in associated technical expertise and other areas of arts management.
These stories of hard work, boldness, experimentation, exploration, and transformation go on. These practitioners continue with their works, taking center stage with integrity and dedication to artistic excellence.
Tonight is a special occasion for us to give a snapshot of our odyssey through highlight of works by our artists. You will see the performance and feel the tremendous amount of hard work behind the scene in creative process, negotiation, teamwork, management and leadership to realize it.