WHILE moustachioed cowboys and construction workers might spring to mind when you hear the name Village People, a Siem Reap theatre troupe operating under the same moniker has more to offer than just disco hits, according to its organiser, US theatre artist Alex Caron.
Comprised of 75 teenagers and young adults from Ta Yaek commune, an hour outside Siem Reap, The Village People Theatre Troupe is performing a 90-minute self-scripted show at Hotel 1961 this Saturday, which will include a series of comedic skits, songs, dramatic performances and monologues.
“The show is all written by the performers and generated through improv. The performance should be about an hour and a half, divided into two 45-minute acts that are going to be on the stage in the restaurant part of 1961 and in the indoor galleries,” said Caron.
Developed during a seven-week theatre workshop in Ta Yaek which involved local villagers between the ages of 14 and 25, the Village People show is the brainchild of Yale drama student Caron, who says the process was slow going at first.
“At first we just did really basic exercises, involving body rhythm and word association games; getting people comfortable with their bodies and voices. It was very, very difficult to get people to open up in the beginning; no one asks them to make ridiculous noises in their daily lives.”
From there the troupe started developing a number of short plays, scenes and dance numbers, including several improvised comedy skits, all performed in Khmer.
“The performance is broken down into a number of different acts, all generated and written by the members based on their own personal experiences. I don’t want
to give people the impression they’re going to see a Greek tragedy or anything like that,” Caron explained.
Caron described too how he decided to form The Village People Theatre Troupe after working on a similar project in Columbia last year.
“I thought Cambodia would be a great place to do a workshop like this because there’s no theatre scene here and I was interested in seeing what the performers would reveal and what they were willing to share. I’ve been so surprised and impressed by what these students have been doing. It’s all about their lives and deeply personal. I mostly just stand back, trying to give them the energy to keep going.”
The Village People Theatre Troupe will perform at Hotel 1961 this Saturday at 7:30pm.