WHERE ELEPHANTS WEEP to Have World Premiere in Cambodia 11/28

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 Seán 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.

Him Sophy (Composer) is a professor of music at the Royal University of Fine Arts and the Royal Academy of Cambodia, both in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Born into a musical family in Prey Veng province, Cambodia, Him Sophy began his studies in music in 1972 at the music school of the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with French professors Madame Denos and Monsieur Guy Alain Hayer.  From 1975 to 1979, his musical studies were suspended due to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, under whom he worked in a labor camp.

He resumed his music studies in 1981 at the School of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. In 1985, he received a full scholarship from the former Soviet Union to continue his studies in Moscow, where he lived for the next decade.  He studied piano with Prof. Lvovitch Bogomolov and Anatolievna Rima and composition with Prof. Konstantin Batashow and Prof. Roman Ledeniev.  Him Sophy also studied musicology with famous Russian musicologist Dr. Yri Kholopov.  He earned a Master of Fine Arts in music composition in 1993 and received his doctorate in composition in 1995.  He successfully completed his PhD dissertation in musicology in 1998.  The recipient of a prestigious Asian Cultural Council fellowship, Him Sophy traveled New York as a visiting scholar in 2001 and 2002.

His many compositions include: String quartet for violins, viola and cello (1987); A Memory from Darkness: Trio for violin, cello and piano (1990); Decline of Angkor — for soprano, flute, clarinet, cello, harp and percussion (1992); Symphony for large symphony orchestra (1993); The Mondolkiri Landscape — for cello and recorder (Khmer traditional woodwind khloy) (1998); I walk…and I cry on the island Poulouway – for recorder (the Khmer traditional khloy), flute, alto flute, and bass flute (1998); and The Onomatopoeia of rhythm of ensemble Pin Peat – for recorder, (Khmer traditional woodwind instrument khloy), flute, alto flute, and bass flute (1998). His music for dance includes Apsara — Dancing Stone: Music for contemporary Cambodian dance (1994).  Him Sophy has also written extensively for film, including such compositions as Blood and Life, No Home Too Far, and Cambodia Dreams.

Catherine Filloux’s (Librettist) recent plays include: Killing the Boss (The William Inge Center for the Arts, KS, 2006); Lemkin’s House (McGinn Cazale Theatre & 78th Street Theatre Lab, NYC, 2006; Kamerni Theatre, Sarajevo, Bosnia, 2005); The Beauty Inside (New Georges, NYC, 2005); Eyes of the Heart (National Asian American Theatre Co., NYC, 2004); Silence of God (Contemporary American Theater Festival, WV, New Play Commission, 2002); Mary and Myra (CATF, 2000 & Todd Mountain Theater, NY, 2002); Arthur’s War (Theatreworks/USA, NYC, 2002); Photographs from S-21, a short play which has toured the world; Escuela del Mundo (Commission toured by OSU, Columbus, 2005/6).  The Beauty Inside was translated into Arabic for a workshop at ISADAC in Morocco (2004).

Filloux is currently writing a play about Hurricane Katrina to premiere at Southern Repertory Theater in New Orleans in 2007 (she is collaborating with playwrights Joe Sutton and Tarell McCraney).  Filloux’s other plays have been produced in New York and around the U.S.

Opera librettos that she has written include: The Floating Box (Composer Jason Kao Hwang, Critics Choice, Opera News, 2005, CD New World Records, Premiere Asia Society 2001); Opera libretto commission from Cambodian Living Arts for Where Elephants Weep (Composer Him Sophy, 2007).

Filloux is the recipient of the PeaceWriting Award (Omni Center for Peace), Roger L. Stevens Award (Kennedy Center), Eric Kocher Playwrights Award (O'Neill), and Callaway Award (New Dramatists).  She has been a Fulbright Fellow (Cambodia & Morocco), the Thurber Playwright-In-Residence, Winner of the Nausicaa Franco-American Play Contest, Rockefeller MAP Fund (for Southern Rep project & Floating Box), 5-time Heideman Award Finalist, Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Filloux’s plays are published by Playscripts, Inc., Smith & Kraus, Vintage, Dramatic Publishing, Seagull & Prentice Hall.  She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders, and has been writing plays about Cambodia for over 15 years.  She lives in New York with her husband, John Daggett.

Scot Stafford’s (Music Supervisor) have been featured in films, festivals (Mill Valley Film Festival, 2006), television commercials, and pop recordings (“Most Oustanding Debut” nomination for his rock group 'Applesaucer,' California Music Awards, 2000).  He graduated from the Music Department of the University of Chicago in 1994, where he earned Special Honors for his thesis analyzing polyrhythmic systems of traditional Balinese music.  At Chicago, Stafford studied composition with Andrew imbrie and Jay Alan Yim; musicology with Charles Rosen and Howard Mayer Brown; ethnomusicology with Philip Bohlmann and theory with Richard Cohn and Easley Blackwood.

In November 2002, Stafford founded Studio CLA, an ethnographic recording studio archiving traditional Khmer music and teaching modern audiovisual production arts to aspiring young engineers and filmmakers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Scot and composer Sophy's deep friendship and fertile artistic partnership began nearly five years ago, during a recording session in the studio that led to their collaboration on the opera.  Working with Sophy on Where Elephants Weep has been an incredible experience, bringing most of his diverse passions into one project for the first time: ethnomusicology, composition, music technology and sound design, rock, hip hop and theater.  He currently freelances as composer, music producer, and musicologist, and lives in San Rafael, CA with his wife Monica and son Octavio.

Robert McQueen (Stage Director).  In January 2007, Robert McQueen’s West Coast First Nations inspired production of The Magic Flute played to standing ovations following two and a half years of preparation that engaged a creative team of 16 First Nations and non-First Nations artists.  Other recent opera productions include: La Boheme for The Canadian Opera Company and IL Barbiere di Seviglia for Arizona Opera as well as productions of L’elisir d’Amore and Turandot.  In workshop, Robert recently served as dramaturge during the development of the Vancouver Opera’s adaptation of the Joy Kogawa novel Naomi’s Road.  In the theatre, Robert’s most recent productions have included I Am My Own Wife for The Belfry Theatre in Victoria, As You Like It for Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, The Spitfire Grill for the Grand Theatre in London Ontario, as well as a production of You Can’t Take It With You for the 40th anniversary of his alma mater, Studio 58 Theatre School in Vancouver.  Other recent productions include The Cradle Will Rock, Pal Joey, Hair and Cabaret.

Additionally, Robert was the Associate Director for the Broadway, U.S. nationals, Toronto, and Las Vegas companies of the musical juggernaut Mamma Mia! and was Resident Director on the Hal Prince, Susan Stroman production of Show Boat.  Upcoming productions include Carousel at The Galaxy Theatre in Tokyo, Japan.

Seán Curran (Choreographer).  In 1997, after two seasons at New York City’s Danspace Project where the dancers were paid with subway tokens for rehearsals and dinners after performances, Seán Curran decided it was time to grow up organizationally, to pay the dancers in real money and to create the Seán Curran Company.  Since those modest beginnings the Seán Curran Company has toured throughout the United States and performed in festivals in France and Germany.

The company’s first major commission came in 1997 from Celebrate Brooklyn for the piece Folk Dance For the Future.  Folk Dance for the Future marked the beginning of Seán Curran’s incorporation of his Irish background into his choreographic works.

Other New York appearances soon followed the Celebrate Brooklyn performance, including performances at Dance Theater Workshop, The Joyce Theater and The New Victory Theater.

The company has also had two engagements at Jacob’s Pillow, most recently in 2004 when Art/Song/Dance, a collaboration between Seán Curran and the Broadway composer Ricky Ian Gordon, premiered.

In the fall 2005, the Seán Curran Company premiered Aria, a new work which combines recorded apologies with opera arias by Handel.

He began his dance training with traditional Irish step dancing as a young boy in Boston, Massachusetts.  He went on to make his mark on the dance world as a leading dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.  He received a New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award for his performance in Secret Pastures.

A graduate and guest faculty member of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Curran was an original member of the New York City cast of the Off-Broadway percussion extravaganza Stomp, performing in the show for four years.  He has performed his solo evening of dances at venues throughout the United States as well as at Sweden’s Danstation Theatre and France’s EXIT Festival.

Current and recent projects for Curran include productions of Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for The Shakespeare Theater, the twentieth anniversary production of Nixon in China and Street Scene at Opera Theater of St. Louis; choreography for the New York City Opera productions of L’Etoile, Alcina, Turandot, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Capriccio and Acis and Galetea; the Playwrights Horizons’ production of My Life with Albertine; Shakespeare in the Park’s As You Like It.  He recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut choreographing Romeo and Juliette.  Curran’s work has appeared on Broadway in James Joyce’s The Dead for Playwrights Horizons and The Rivals at Lincoln Center Theater.  He has created works for Trinity Irish Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre’s studio company, Denmark’s Upper Cut Company, Sweden’s Skänes Dance Theater, Irish Modern Dance Theatre, Ririe Woodbury Dance Theater and Dance Alloy, as well as for numerous college and university dance departments.

Curran has taught extensively at the American Dance Festival, Harvard Summer Dance Center, Bates Dance Festival and Boston’s Conservatory of Music.  Irish American Magazine selected Curran as one of its “Top 100” in the year 2000.  Curran was awarded a Choreographer’s Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2002.

Happiest when making new work or performing, Seán Curran hopes to continue being an ambassador for the art of dance by building and educating the dance audiences of tomorrow.

Ieng Sithol (Artistic Advisor) was born in 1959 in Kampong Speu province.  He began his studies in 1971 at the Royal University of Fine Arts, but when the Khmer Rouge took over the country in 1975, his education was interrupted.  After the brutal Khmer Rouge regime fell in 1979, he resumed his studies at the Royal University of Fine Arts and completed his Baccalaureate of Arts in 1983.  In 1986 he was placed in charge of Folkloric Dance at The National Theatre (Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts).  Ieng Sithol became a well-known folk singer and actor and was invited to perform throughout the country.  He has performed extensively for radio and television in Cambodia and has also done recordings with companies inside and outside Cambodia.  In 1982 he won a prestigious playwright’s prize and was invited to teach drama in Laos in 1984.  From 1983 to 1994 he created and directed seven theatre pieces and performed extensively.  He received a medal of honor from the Royal Government of Cambodia in 2003.  He has traveled to perform in countries including: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, India, France, Holland, Belgium, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Canada, Korea and the U.S.

John Burt (Executive Producer) has been producing and directing theater-based projects for community development for over twenty-five years.  He was founding director of the Traveling Artists and Performers Company in 1978, one of the earliest arts-in-education programs in New England.  He founded both a theater development company and the commercial Production Company, John Burt Productions, in 1986.  Commissions and productions include: Changing the Silence: Growing up in the Nuclear Age, national tour; The Slick of ’76: A musical Catastrophe, regional run; Almost September, regional runs (San Francisco Bay Award for Best Musical); THE GARBAGE CANtata, regional run and national tour (musical and education video co-produced by United Nations premiered the first Earth Summit); The Eco-Theater Festival (co-produced by New York State Parks); Cultural Baggage (TV pilot and education video co-produced with Moorhead Kennedy Institute).

Mr. Burt was the executive producer of the Children of War Theater and Film Project under the artistic direction of Obie Award-winning director Lawrence Sacharow of River Arts Repertory and with Academy Award-winning documentary film director Barbara Kopple.  From this project he commissioned and produced the multi-media production The Road Home: Stories of Children of War by James Lescene, which had its world premiere at New York’s Asia Society and featured Yolanda King, daughter of DR. Martin Luther King.  The play was featured at the Global Peace Conference at The Hague and completed its international tour at the International Theater Olympics in Moscow, Russia.  John Burt Productions was the associate producer of the Broadway production of Starmites.  Mr. Burt has been a practicing expressive arts therapist for twenty years, currently serves as Chair Emeritus of Cambodian Living Arts and has served on the boards of the Roberts Foundation, the Threshold Foundation and the Marion Institute.

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