Wanderlust: Expat Life & Style in Thailand The Relationships Issue - Page 27


It ’ s a challenging , dialogue-heavy piece of theater , and inevitably during a few performances one actor would struggle momentarily to remember his next line . Right away , Archilla says , the other actors would sense the problem and one would step in to assist .
He found the experience surprisingly familiar — not unlike the sense of brotherhood he found serving in the U . S . Air Force in Iraq .
Doing a show with other actors who really commit to a play , “ you establish that camaraderie . If you mess up your part , you know that other person ’ s got your back ,” Archilla says . “ The crowd doesn ’ t know you messed up , but he knows , and he ’ ll pick it up .”
Cherene Knop found a similar sense of community during another recent Culture Collective show , “ The Vagina Monologues .” She and Subramaniam both appeared in the show and worked closely with each other . The hours were long : For three full weeks , they rehearsed for four hours every weeknight .
Through those experiences , “ groups of theater people often function like families ,” Knop says . “ It ’ s instant community .”
Knop has done theater in her native South Africa and elsewhere , and she knew when she arrived in Bangkok that auditioning for a show was a path to finding a community . Knop is a teacher here , so everyone else she knows “ is a bloody teacher .”
“ A friend of mine came to Bangkok and looked for a church ,” she says . But she opted to seek out a theater in her search for a community and ended up finding two that she now calls home . Knop works regularly with Culture Collective and BCT , and she assists backstage or sells tickets when she ’ s not appearing in a show .
I knew no one in the cast of “ Almost , Maine ” when I walked into my first meeting with the director and the producer , P . V . Kitchumnongpan and Sea Thaicharoen , respectively . Our time was limited , so on that first day I dove in and explained how my character ’ s main conflict was strikingly like my own experience during my brief first marriage . That ’ s not something I generally discuss with non-theater colleagues I ’ ve just met .
My openness didn ’ t surprise them . It ’ s something the theater pros both treasure in their own experience as actors .
“ Theater and story are always about relationships ,” Kitchumnongpan says , and sometimes those real-world relationships are as powerful as the fictional ones we create to entertain audiences . He and Thaicharoen actually fell in love doing theater together , something that isn ’ t uncommon .
Stage actors have to build as much of an actual connection as possible , and quickly . In the process … friendships are born .
“ That ’ s the elephant in the room . Very often you feel an attraction to people you work with ,” Kumar says . “ People are generally good-looking … you ’ re emotionally investing . It very likely builds into attractions .”
Performances can change you , too . Kumar and Archilla both felt echoes of their “ 12 Angry Men ” characters popping up in their daily lives during the run of that show . Archilla found himself using words that his buttoned-up , intellectual character would favor ; Kumar temporarily shed some of his usual sarcastic , joke-cracking demeanor .
“ Every role ,” Kumar says , “ leaves a little bit of it in you .”
Theater teaches you to ask questions and discover motivations . Those skills , applied to your own life , can fuel epiphanies . As we take on our characters ’ habits and behaviors during rehearsal and performance , these new ways of living can broaden our own existences . “ It definitely helped me open up , especially as I get older ,” Thaicharoen says . “ I feel like I don ’ t have to be that shy girl in public anymore .”
It ’ s easy to assume that Bangkok offers a ripe landscape for embracing who you are , expressing yourself and finding friends and lovers . But as social as this city may be , it isn ’ t always the easiest place in which to forge deep connections . Many expats come here for a year or two and then they ’ re gone . Even the friendliest among us may not dive deep with people we know aren ’ t likely to stick around .
In addition to transience , most of us find that our obligations and habits don ’ t melt away in a new city , further complicating efforts to meet people . Personally , I spent too much of my first two years in Bangkok focused on raising my kids and helping them embrace their lives here . When I wasn ’ t focused on motherhood , I was working on assignments for clients outside Thailand . I was here , but I wasn ’ t .
Then , last year , I finally chose to plunge in . I ’ ve done one play so far , and I ’ ve already begun building friendships with gifted actors I ’ d never have met otherwise . I have made a dozen more acquaintances , and I ’ m curious to know these people better .
I spent more than a decade working as an actress before moves to new cities and the birth of my kids led me toward other challenges . Now my stage life has begun to flourish once again ; and once again it is echoing in my real life . When pretending becomes serious business , it ’ s pretty amazing how real things get .