From Slums to Stage, CORPUS in Cambodia
In a country where schooling is a luxury, playing and artistic activities are a rarity. Against all odds, in 2002, Phymean Noun founded the NGO People Improvement Organization (PIO) to bring education and training to the most impoverished communities in Cambodia, with a specific attention paid to girls, orphans and street kids. PIO specifically directs its efforts towards public garbage dump areas where the government has been relocating hundreds of families with no public structure. In the past eight years, PIO has built three schools and serves over 800 kids. The organization is working with the Cambodian Ministries of Education and Women Affairs and offers, in addition to general education, specific training in cooking, hairdressing, dressmaking and beauty care. PIO is committed to comply with United Nations’ goal to reduce poverty. Phymean Noun was a 2010 CNN heroes. Touched by her work, CORPUS initiated and produced "From Slums to Stage" to facilitate PIO's students access to arts education.
In November 2011, CORPUS performed Les moutons in one of PIO's schools.
Les moutons is a CORPUS' classic which has been performed all over the world in renowned street theatre festivals and children festivals. In addition to these performances, Carolin Lindner, a German theatre educator, taught a two-week workshop to PIO children creating a short play that was performed alongside CORPUS' Les moutons. The workshop’s concept based on Object Theatre was to ask each kid to bring one object found at the dump (an empty coke can, a comb, a shoe, etc.) and imagine a story about the object’s history, desires, and thoughts. The story is to be told from the point of view of the object. Not only the students explored acting and dancing, but scriptwriting, set designing and making also. CORPUS performers also offered a series of initiation classes: vocals, hip hop and contemporary dance.
While in Phnom Penh, CORPUS also performed at the Bophana Centre, an audiovisual resource centre honoring Cambodian culture. The company also traveled to Kep where we performed in an orphanage, as well as Kampot where we performed for the students of a traditional music and dance school. All together, CORPUS performed for about 800 kids and adults.
Finally, CORPUS brought along one youth, Maysam Ghani, from The Esplanade (Toronto) for a very unique experience. She participated in the workshops with PIO children, assisted artistic director with performances of Les moutons, connected with local kids and discovered Cambodian culture. Her "mission" was to share her experience with her classmates and her community when back in Toronto.