Thai dictatorship jails theatre makers for play


This video says about itself:

29 December 2014

Two Thai students have admitted insulting royalty in a play they performed about a 1973 uprising.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong, 25, face up to 15 years in jail under lese majeste laws, which protect the royals from any insults.

The play called Wolf Bride featured a fictional king and his advisor.

Thailand’s lese majeste laws are the world’s strictest, but critics say they are often used to settle personal rows or silence political opposition.

The play was performed at Bangkok‘s Thammasat University in October 2013, but the pair were not arrested until August this year.

Both students have been denied bail, and have been held in custody since their arrest.

Several other people involved with the performance are also facing charges.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Two Thais jailed for ‘insulting’ royal family in university play

Activists sentenced to two and half years in jail as the junta intensifies its crackdown on slurs against the royals under controversial lese majeste law

Monday 23 February 2015 01.08 GMT

Two young Thais accused of insulting the monarchy in a university play were jailed for two and a half years on Monday as the ruling junta intensifies its crackdown on perceived royal slurs under the kingdom’s controversial lese majeste law.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Porntip Mankong, 26, were sentenced after admitting defamation after their arrest last August, nearly a year after The Wolf Bride, a satire set in a fictional kingdom, was performed at Bangkok’s Thammasat University.

The pair were originally sentenced to five years in prison each but the term was reduced to two years and six months due to their confessions, said a judge at Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok.

“The court considers their role in the play caused serious damage to the monarchy and sees no reason to suspend their sentences,” he said.

They were each charged with one count of lese majeste linked to the play, which marked the 40th anniversary of a pro-democracy student protest at the university that was crushed by the military regime in October 1973.

Police are hunting for at least six others involved in the performance for allegedly violating “112” – the feared section of the Thai criminal code which carries up to 15 years in jail for each count of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent.

Of those on the wanted list, at least two have fled Thailand, joining dozens of academics, activists and political opponents of the coup in self-exile amid a surge in royal defamation cases since the military seized power in May.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, is revered by many in the country as a demi-god and shielded by one of the world’s most draconian royal defamation laws.

The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights said at least 40 people have been arrested since the coup – seven of them have already been sentenced to between three and 15 years in prison.

Rights activists as well as local and international media are forced to censor discussion of cases as even repeating details of charges risks breaking the law.

Under junta rule Thailand has seen a rapid deterioration in civil rights with the military crushing any criticsm of the coup from banning protests and censoring the media to arresting and detaining opponents.

The Wolf Bride was performed in October 2013, several months before the coup, but the case is just one of many driven through by the junta, which is bolstering its self-designated role as protector of the monarchy.

Critics say the lese majeste law has been used as a tool to suppress political dissent, noting that many of those charged have been linked to the opposition Red Shirt movement.

Before the ruling, Andrea Giorgetta from FIDH said the surge in lese majeste cases looked set to continue.

“We’re expecting a lot more people to go to jail in the next month. Almost all cases have been backdated (for alleged offences) before the coup,” he told AFP. “It’s a very grim situation for rights in Thailand.”

Recent 112 convictions include a taxi driver jailed for two-and-a-half years after his passenger recorded their conversation on a mobile phone, while a student, 24, was sentenced to the same period of time for defaming the monarchy in a message posted on Facebook.

Analysts say the most recent chapter of Thailand’s long-drawn political turmoil is fuelled by anxieties over who will run the country when the more than six-decade reign of the ailing king, the world’s longest-serving monarch, eventually ends.

Discussion on succession is also restricted in Thailand under the lese majeste law.

South African author André Brink dies


This video is called André Brink on Writing #1.

And these two videos are the sequels.

From the Mail & Guardian in South Africa:

Literary giant André Brink dies

07 Feb 2015 11:05

Celebrated South African author, André P. Brink, has passed away at the age of 79.

Renowned South African novelist and playwright, André Brink has died.

According to Books Live, Brink passed away while returning from Amsterdam on Friday, where he had received an honorary doctorate from the Belgian Francophone Université catholique de Louvain (UCL).

Brink was born on 29 May 1935, in Vrede, a small town in the Free State.

He was 79 years old and a literature professor at the University of Cape Town at the time of his death.

Brink wrote in both English and Afrikaans, and was a key figure in the Afrikaans literary movement Die Sestigers in the 1960s – along with Ingrid Jonker and Breyten Breytenbach. The movement sought to use Afrikaans as a language to speak against the apartheid government.

In 1973 his novel Looking on Darkness was banned, this was followed by the banning of another book Kennis van die Aand the following year.

His 1982 novel, A Dry White Season, was turned into a film in 1989 and starred actors such as Marlon Brando, Donald Sutherland, Zakes Mokae and Susan Sarandon.

The novel, set in South Africa in 1976 and focused on the death in detention of a black activist, was also banned by the apartheid government.

English anti-World War I resistance on stage


This video says about itself:

ENGLAND ARISE! – PROMO

A brief promo film of Bent Architect’s research and development project exploring the true story of the Yorkshire Conscientious Objectors of the first world war, at Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield, December, 2013. We are aiming to launch the production in the autumn of 2014 as an alternative commemoration of the centenary.

By Bernadette Horton in Britain:

Theatre review: England, Arise!

Wednesday 19th November 2014

BERNADETTE HORTON highly recommends a powerful dramatisation of working-class resistance to the carnage of WWI

England, Arise!
People’s History Museum, Manchester/Touring
5 stars

FORGET ceramic poppies and sentimentalised dramas about the first world war.

Instead, go and see Bent Architect’s production of England, Arise! about the real lives of political activists Arthur Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Percy Ellis (James Britton) who opposed the war.

Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Ellis (James Britton) lived in Huddersfield in the early 1900s and were part of a vibrant socialist movement which gave them hope as young people that life was only going to get better.

They portray a strong friendship between the two men — in performances which occasionally veer almost into music hall routine — which shows how these young men were confident about the future, determined in their anti-war stance and inspired by the Suffrage movement which at that time was in its 60th year of campaigning for women’s right to vote.

The Suffragette campaign is forcefully represented in the character of Lillian Lenton (Stephanie Butler) who shows the eccentricity and tenacity of the real-life activist who was imprisoned and force-fed and turns up in Huddersfield on her escape from the police.

Local women Sis Timmins (Laura Bonnah) and Lavena Saltonstall (Stephanie Butler again) are shown as complex characters who are learning about being independent women as well as supporting their men when they refuse to serve in the war.

Gardiner and Ellis were both sentenced to military prison and brutalised in much the same way as the soldiers who volunteered to go to war.

Crucial to the power of the play is the use by playwright Mick Martin in Jude Wright’s production of Gardiner’s verbatim defence of his opposition to the war when facing a military tribunal.

Isolated and victimised by their military jailers, both men are inspirational in their determination to maintain their principled response to militarism, whether in refusing to call their warders “sir” or facing their fears as they are separated and put into isolation for long periods.

Outside the prison the campaign to support the two conscientious objectors carries on, spearheaded by the women, even though they face violence at meetings and are often seen as outcasts by sections of their community.

Though only 20,000 people refused to take part in WWI, this small number was seen as a major and direct threat by the government.

This play is thus a reminder of the importance of that courageous anti-war stance and the high price that working-class people have always paid in the war games of the ruling classes.

Next performances at the Rochdale Pioneer’s Museum on November 18 and 19, details: www.rochdalepioneersmuseum.org.

Dinosaurs on stage


This video says about itself:

13 November 2014

A behind-the-scenes look at how the cast and crew of Walking – The Arena Spectacular with Dinosaurs brings life-size dinosaurs to life in an theatrical setting.

From Science Friday:

Nov. 13, 2014

How to Build a Dinosaur

by Julie Leibach

The Brachiosaurus lowers its long neck, creased with wrinkles, and briefly surveys the human crowd staring back at it.

“That thing looks so realistic,” says a young voice from the audience.

The dinosaur settles back on its massive haunches and lets out a low bellow, as if saying, “I sure do.”

This dino is a high-tech puppet and one of the stars of Walking With Dinosaurs, a live production that grew out of a BBC television series by the same name and that’s currently on a six-month North American tour.

In the show, the only human character—based on the British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley—time travels through prehistory, starting with the Triassic period. Over the course of two hours, or the theatrical equivalent of 165 million years of evolution, 10 types of dinosaurs make appearances, from the herbivorous Plateosaurus, to the armored Ankylosaurus, to the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex. (See them in action in the SciFri video.)

“We wanted to find some emblematical, representative creatures in each of the three major periods of dinosaur evolution,” says Sonny Tilders, creative director of The Creature Technology Company, which designed and constructed the puppets.

Totaling 20 dinosaurs in all, the creatures are approximately life-size. While the larger ones are motorized, such as the Allosaurus, suit performers embody the smaller ones, including Utahraptors.

Admittedly, this writer’s mouth dropped a little when a curious Liliensternus stepped out on stage early during a show at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. Granted, no one’s seen a live dinosaur (unless you count birds), but these puppets evoke a convincing “dino-ness.”

“I’ve worked with gators, crocodiles—all manner of beasties,” says Phil Manning, a professor of natural history at the University of Manchester who was invited to see the show in Northern Ireland about a year ago, where he got up close and personal with one of the T-rexes, “and [the puppet] installed the same fear as an 800-pound gator did in me in Florida a few years ago.”

For inspiration, The Creature Technology Company team pored through scientific and popular science literature to understand, generally, what various dinosaurs might have looked like. They also observed the way large, living animals, such as elephants and giraffes, move.

Constructing the puppets required working “from the inside out,” as Tilders puts it. Autopsy one of the behemoths, and you’ll find architecture somewhat similar to a real animal’s. For starters, the larger puppets have a skeleton made of steel, complete with points of articulation that allow their bodies to move in a way that seems natural.

The dino’s bulk consists of a system of custom-made muscle bags, constructed from netting and filled with styrene beads. “They stretch and contract like real muscles would,” says Tilders, “so you get all this subtle movement that transfers through the creature.”

On top of their bulging muscles, the puppets wear a special skin made of lycra, “but with a trick that I can’t tell you about,” adds Tilders. Hand painting lends a prehistoric veneer.

But for these dinosaurs to really convince audiences, they’ve got to walk like they’re flesh and blood. Indeed, the puppets’ lifelike natures are based largely on the success of a critical illusion: a sense of hefty mass. Many of the dinosaurs we know and love weighed tons, so “every puppet has to look balanced and grounded,” says Tilders, otherwise “we would lose that sense of mass.”

In fact, while the dinosaurs appear to plod, their limbs don’t actually bear weight. Rather, in the case of the larger puppets, a sturdy rod anchors each body to a motorized chassis, shaped like a ship’s anchor and painted to match the floor, and a driver inside steers the creature around the stage. The puppets’ steps are preprogrammed to coincide with the speed and direction of the vehicles’ speed and direction.

The drivers communicate via radio with so-called “voodoo puppeteers,” who stand out of sight in a balcony, using several devices to control multiple aspects of dino dynamism (see the video above). For instance, a puppeteer wearing a robotic arm-like instrument can operate up to 25 axes of mobility, while a colleague manipulating a joystick controls finer movements, such as eye blinking or teeth gnashing, as well as sounds. (Meanwhile, the suit performers control their puppets’ movements and sounds and provide the legwork.)

A system of passive hydraulics lends fluidity to the larger puppets’ movements. “You can actually go up to one of our creatures and grab his nose and push [it] out of the way, and [it’ll] slowly come back to position,” says Tilders. In other words, these aren’t your typical amusement park animatronics that shudder and shake. “That’s probably one of the things that I’m proudest of,” says Tilders.

Paleontological nitpickers might quibble with certain dino details. For instance, the puppets roar, growl, and grunt. But scientists can’t definitively say what sounds real dinosaurs made—if they uttered any at all, according to Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences who was hired by the show to promote its educational merits. Birds—which Zanno refers to as living dinosaurs—have a “really sophisticated vocalization system,” she says, “but we don’t know how far down the tree that goes.” But, she adds, “how could they not [make sounds] in a show?”

“You will be able to find a pile of paleontologists who I am sure will give you a list as long as your arm on what is ‘wrong’ with the [puppet] reconstructions,” wrote Manning in a separate email. “However, they would generate equally long lists when comparing their very own ‘scientific’ reconstructions with each other.”

Consensus in the paleontological community did inspire an updated look for some of the puppets for their North American tour—feathers. A combination of real and manmade flair, plumes adorn the T-rexes (there are two), the Liliensternus, and the Utahraptors.

While the new ’dos may look a bit kitschy, they’re a nod to our ever-evolving picture of dinosaurs, based on more than 150 years of research.

Perhaps a few audience members will grow up to add their own discoveries. “I always say dinosaurs are the gateway drug to science,” says Manning. “We need more shows out there that inspire kids about science, evolution, and life on earth.”

*This article was updated on November 13, 2014, to reflect the following corrections: An earlier version stated that the human character in the show depicts an Australian archaeologist. The character is actually based on the British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley. The article also stated that the live show covers 180 million years of evolution. It actually covers 165 million years if birds, which make an appearance at the end, aren’t counted. If they are, then it covers 230 million years, according to paleontologist Lindsay Zanno.