Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lisa Null's Ballad Sing at Kefa Cafe a Great Success!

Although a damp and rainy evening, Kefa Cafe was PACKED with folk singers, professional folklorists and just singers :) last Friday.

There was hardly time for a Q and A because -- as Lisa Null, Silver Spring resident who planned and hosted the show said, "Everyone wants to sing, not talk."

Thank you Lisa, Amy, Tom, Lene and Ababe and everyone who worked many months to make this a success.

It just shows the great power of music. Lisa Null sang many songs in a deep rich voice, as did several guest singers.

My favorite was a traditional ballad with the refrain "Don't go down to the broom again." I understand "broom" is a small yellow flowered plant. The ballad is about incest -- the princess in the ballad is pregnant by her brother!

Copyright Kyi May Kaung
Founder and Facilitator -- Dr. Kaung's Salon at Space 7-10, Kefa Cafe, Silver Spring MD.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The play Cabaret at Arena Stage in DC -- & Burma.

Being originally from Rangoon, Burma, sometimes I have an advantage over others who were born and brought up in the free world -- I'm not so jaded. As the human equivalent of ET, I can look at things in a fresh new way. This was the case on Thursday, when I received tickets to see a matinee production of Joe Masteroff's Cabaret, at the Arena Stage in Washington DC.

I asked three or four close friends if they could accompany me. But they were all busy. One or two of them mumured "Joel Grey" as soon as I said "Cabaret." I thought the expression on their faces might be saying -- "This is just a musical about being gay, in pre-World War II Berlin." Indeed, all I could recall myself was seeing short clips on TV of Joel Grey singing and dancing bizarrely in the cabaret sequence. So it must be a play about the cabaret.

In fact, I don't see why everyone's emphasis seems so much on the emcee (Master of Ceremonies, M.C.) character in Cabaret. He's important, and there's a surprise ending where he's concerned. But he is "only" the equivalent of the Greek chorus. In the end, the master manipulator also cannot control the story and he becomes a victim too. (Sorry if this is a "spoiler.")

The musical is based on the play by John Van Druten, which in turn is based on a collection of short stories by Christopher Isherwood. The naive young man who arrives by train in Berlin in 1931, with a Remington typewriter, on which he has yet to start writing his novel, seems modeled on Isherwood himself, who came from a rich family.

Sally Bowles, the cabaret's star, gets ejected by one of her lovers, and moves in with the young man. I was wondering about this "Bowles" and just today, read in a book about Paul and Jane Bowles that Isherwood named his main female character Sally Bowles after famous short story writer and composer Paul Bowles. Ah!

How much this adds to our appreciation of Sally Bowles, who's American but "loves Berlin" and -- well -- I will avoid another spoiler and not tell you what she decides to do, at the end of the second act.

I've known of Paul Bowles and his rivetting short stories ever since James Rahn, a writing mentor and the leader of the Rittenhouse Writers Group handed out The Delicate Prey in class in the mid 1990s in Philadelphia. Since then, I've found an old copy of Bowles' collected short stories in the Olsen's Book Store in Bethesda, MD., that has now been torn down to make way for an high end condominium building.

And yet, no one, and I really mean no one, of my American-born group members/aspiring writers who were in my writing groups last year had heard of Bowles before I mentioned him. Isn't that appalling? About as appalling as writers who wish to write without reading.

In any case, I found the Arena Stage production of Cabaret excellent.

I thought the writing excellent, the casting, directing, acting and singing -- superb.

I am a great fan of Broadway musicals, especially the ones with a political context. Being from Burma, I found the frenetic money making and other activity of the first act realistic as well as the suddeness of the oppression once the Nazis came into power.

I really liked the actors who played the older couple -- the song, So What, the gift of the pineapple etc. Their diction was excellent -- beautiful voice control. I liked the exquisite clothes -- especially the violet colored crushed velvet dress Fraulein Schneider wore at her wedding party.

And Sally Bowle's flashy fur coat, that plays such an important role in the end.

About the only thing critical I have to say is, the women's rest rooms at the Arena Stage were crowded and difficult, with narrow, steep stairs -- while the matinee audience is mostly physically challenged seniors. The men had a rest room on the ground floor, with no steps.

Copyright -- Kyi May Kaung.

Monday, October 23, 2006



Oct 23rd. 2006.

Now I try to see how easy or difficult it is to post new "blogs." The self portrait I posted is still not there.

It took some time to figure this out. How to write a new blog and post it.

Meanwhile there are riots in Budapest.

Everyone I know now seems to watch BBC rather than U.S. news. "News here too local!" the Korean grocer who has BBC on tells me.

Meanwhile I have discovered MHz.

Kyi May

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Why I set up this Blog.

I am originally from Rangoon, Burma.

I am a poet/fiction writer and visual artist, a professional "Burma Watcher."

The reason I set up this Blog is because so much of what I write goes unpublished.

This is not good for material which is copyrighted at the moment I create it, but which I would like others to read.

This is especially true of political commentary. (I have a doctorate in Political Economy from the University of Pennsylvania and have worked 3 years in international radio).

I want my work of this nature to be available to web browsers internationally and to spark debate.

Kyi May
Oct 21- 2006

My archive at IISH, Amsterdam--