The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Bangkok Theatre Network An organization sparked by a Thai version of Akaoni
Bangkok Theatre Network An organization sparked by a Thai version of Akaoni
Bangkok Theatre Festival 2008
Bangkok Theatre Festival
Bangkok Theatre Festival
Bangkok Theatre Festival
Both Akaoni and Nogyo Shojo will be on the program for your Bangkok Theatre Festival this time.
They will be one of the highlights of the festival. Because we had the intention of promoting exchange between the theater people themselves in our festival, we had concentrated performances in theater spaces in the Banglumphu area until about two or three years ago. But recently we have been mounting performances in other districts too, and this time Akaoni will be performed at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok and Nogyo Shojo will be at the Thailand Culture Centre.

Could you tell us about the Bangkok Theatre Festival in a bit more detail?
The festival was launched in 2002 as the Bangkok Theatre Season and the name was changed the following year to Bangkok Theatre Festival. Today, the festival’s main sponsors are the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and the municipality of Bangkok. They provide us not only with funding but also performances venues and assistance in publicity.
 This year’s is the festival’s 8th holding and the scope of activities has grown considerably. Presently there are three or four BTN member companies that run their own small theater spaces and we use these small spaces as much as possible for the festival too. This is because we want this festival to be an opportunity for the public to see our companies’ productions and activities. This year about 50 works will be performed in these smaller spaces. And when you consider that last year the festival had a total of 110 works on the program, you will see that 50 works is not necessarily a large number for us. Festival participants pay a space use fee of 500 baht (approx. 15USD) for an outdoor venue, 1,000 baht (approx. 30USD) for a theater performance, 1,500 baht (approx. 45USD) for a special venue. Also the rule is that 10% of the ticket sales for each performance on the festival program is donated to BTN.

What do you think the major issues are for the small-theater scene in Thailand?
The biggest issue is the lack of paid professional artists. The actors of Makhampom are paid and work in the studio full-time, but most of the actors in the other companies have a day job that they earn a living at and then come to the studio to rehearse with the other company members only at night after work, so they all get tired. However, with Akaoni this time it is a likay version that requires people with special skills in the acting and song, dance, music and technical staff, and these people can only come to the company part-time. So this has also become a case where the rehearsals are being done after work in the evenings.
 The other big issue is ongoing funding support from the government. Our hope is to convince people of the importance of maintaining our theaters and get the kind of ongoing financial support that requires. We have talked with the current government and it is mostly decided that we will be getting support from next year for a minimum of three years. If this support continues, things like drama contests will become possible and that should be an effective stimulus for the development of the Thai theater world. Of course we also need funds to increase the number of performances and to spend on the production of quality works, but most immediate is the need to maintain the theaters and companies.
 The Thai government has shown a lot of interest in Nogyo Shojo. Because this project has clearly shown that the Japanese are interested in contemporary Thai theater. It is proof that Thai theater, and even contemporary theater, can have value as productions and can be exported to foreign countries. We were able to put actual numbers on the amount of income that exporting five productions a year would bring, and showing those numbers to government officials convinced them of the value. And we also pointed out to them that in spite of the fact that Thailand also has many commercial productions performed at larger theaters that are popular, none of those productions are being exported.
 In the future we want to take Akaoni and Nogyo Shojo to other foreign audiences besides just Japan. For March of 2010 there is a plan to hold a theater festival organized by the Ministry of Culture that will gather works with the potential we being exported to other countries. I plan to select and introduce from five to ten Thai productions that have been performed overseas in the past few years. I believe that doing this will create interest in Thai theater among the population and foster better understanding of it. Twelve years ago Akaoni had a big influence of the Thai theater world, and now this year Akaoni and Nogyo Shojo will inspire the Thai theater world in new ways.

As the final question, I would like to ask you what your dream is.
I have done so much work until now that I could die tomorrow with no regrets (laughs). A person who has continued to give me warm support over the past ten years, a Mr. Polat, recently said to me, “Mr. Pradit, look at the children of the Banglumphu district (where the Bangkok Theater Festival is held). Those children have grown up surrounded by theater, and now they have come to the point where they are creating plays of their own. You have played a very important role in this. Don’t you feel proud of what you have done?” A festival that didn’t exist ten years ago is now providing dreams for the children of Thailand.
 The Bangkok Theatre Festival now has a program for presenting plays created by children, and now there are children whose dream is being able to perform their works in the festival, because it means that they have been accepted as actors or directors. The festival has also come to serve as an arts market where interesting works from the festival program can be shown to prospective presenters from at home and abroad.
 My dream today is that in the future we can create more theaters in Thailand, actors will have a place of their own and the government will establish a foundation to support those who are active in the theater world so that they can make their living as theater people.
 When I was applying for a visa to go to Japan in 1998 for Akaoni, I was uncertain what to write in the “occupation” space of the application form. The coordinator from Japan who was with me at that moment said, “Write artist.” I will never forget how happy it made me to write “artist” with pride as my occupation that day. I want to continue to work so that, not commercial theater, but the kind of artistic theater that shapes people’s souls will win praise from Thai society and be widely accepted.

Thank you very much for your time and informative words.
And I thank you.
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