It has been another long stretch out of the country, but I find myself coming back to America with a lot of great new experiences, friends, and ideas. In January I found myself in Chiang Mai, Thailand (after a wild series of plane flights and layovers in December—airspace is an interesting place to celebrate Christmas!). I was part of a learning and production workshop environment designed by scenographer and wonderful puppet supporter Manuel Lutgenhorst. This pulled together artists from Thailand, the USA, and Myanmar to simultaneously learn about and train under the traditional system of Burmese string puppetry, while creating a new contemporary production which sought to integrate our 21st century work with the centuries old foundation of the Burmese marionettes. We performed this new show—an adaptation of a Burmese short story about a puppet master’s conflicted son and his four puppets—in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok, and the process was a really intricate, compelling, and eye-opening process of intercultural theater and the mixing of different ideas, values, and aesthetics. American designer and director Amy Trompetter headed the project alongside Lutgenhorst and Khin Maung Htwe, the artistic director of Htwe Oo Myanmar and the wonderful Burmese puppeteers who conditioned us into their artform. Later on, I was able to share some of these experiences in India on World Puppet Day 2010, where I gave a public talk at India International Center on the fundamentals of Burmese string puppetry and gave a small performance demonstration of my new marionette companion—the mountain mystic Zawgyi.
My heartfelt thanks to Naan, Aung, and Baba Gyi for their care, generosity, unparalleled skills, and invaluable guidance.