Production Notes: Doi Nang Non
Conceived in January 2019, Doi Nang Non was initially workshopped over two days. In those two days, many things were created -- from puppet prototypes to dance and movement sequences. It was an inspiring process that led to our effort to stage a full production.
Thanks to the Henry Luce Foundation in partnership with the Asia Foundation, Doi Nang Non received a grant to support its development needs. With additional funds raised from a crowd-sourcing campaign, Doi Nang Non launched into rehearsals after a brief, but enriching research trip to the mountains of the same name north of Chiang Rai.
We began with several concepts in mind: who the goddess was, and what her capabilities were, and her role in the rescue efforts of the Wildboars' rescue. We decided to focus on her backstory, and her interactions with the coach which triggered memories of her past life: her lover, her baby she lost, and her life prior to her transformation. We also did not want to minimize the role of the men and women on the outside responsible for the boys' rescue, particularly of the efforts of Sergeant Sam, who died in the process of delivering air-tanks to and from the encampments.
Midway through the process we realized that we had changed directions of our play completely -- as one does with new works. Instead of focusing on the idea of citizenship and the role of Thailand in shaping the goddess' mythology and the boys' fate, we become more preoccupied with the idea of freedom and its cost. While this realization came a little late, it's better late than never! It led to some logistical restructuring of our storyline and revised versions of various sequences.
The breakdown: the play was about 45-50 minutes long (closer to 45 when we are running on high speed!). Divided into six sequences, we flash back and forth from past and present from the goddess' perspective.
Because of the short two weeks of our process (I myself have never worked in such a truncated timeline, nor have I ever directed dance theatre) our focus was largely on constructing a storyline structure. The next phase of development will be to specify movement quality (our performer, P'Thun, plays three characters!) to differentiate between the variety of unique individuals as well as spirit state and corporal state for the goddess. The characters also are moving through earth, water, and air, which will influence several sequences too.
Furthermore, our play might have needed more clarity between present day and flashback. This was mostly conducted with music, but it only became apparent several moments after that the pair were no longer Goddess and coach but Goddess and stable boy. Lastly, while our puppetry was absolutely beautiful, I'd like more interaction between shadow and performer. We had a sequence devised completely based on this concept, but had to cut for time and because of a personnel change.
Overall, Doi Nang Non was an incredibly empowering, exciting process. It marked my Bangkok debut, my first international theatre collaboration, my first dance-theatre play, and my first piece devised wholly from start to finish for a public audience. The play is now back at the drawing board as we prepare for its next iteration and workshop phase.
Until then, video of the performance and photographs are all I have to share. Please enjoy, they'll be uploaded onto the "In Development" section of my portfolio soon.