MORM SOKLY, CAMBODIAN THEATER ARTIST - THE TOOTH OF BUDDHA
This fall CultureHub will have a connection with breakthrough playwright Morm Sokly. Stay tuned for event details!
By Catherine Filloux (Guest Blogger)
The theater artist, Morm Sokly, was born in 1965 in Phnom Penh and began her studies in traditional Khmer theater as well as modern theater, in 1981 at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA). She graduated in 1988 upon which she immediately began to teach acting at RUFA, while working as a professional actress for such organizations as BBC, Friends, Royal Air Cambodge and the National Election Committee. Morm Sokly acted with Annemarie Prins, from the Netherlands, in the play, “3 Years, 8 Months, 20 Days,” and with Singaporean artist, William Teo, in his play “Year Zero”. Sokly has performed the role of the Young Woman in “Photographs from S-21” in Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore. She is the author of the play “The Tooth of Buddha,” written in the traditional Cambodian (Khmer) form of Lakhaon Kamnap, “Poetry Theater,” translated from Khmer to English by Suon Bunrith. She is also the writer and chanter of Khmer poetry, as well a performer and teacher of Yiké, a form of traditional Khmer theater. Sokly directed “The Tooth of Buddha” at the Royal University of Fine Arts, in Phnom Penh and the play was featured in Khmer Voices Rising: An International Freedom-to-Write Literary Festival at Brown University, sponsored by the International Writers Project; directed by Connie Crawford. Sokly is featured in the chapter “Alive on Stage in Cambodia: Time, Histories and Bodies” in Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict, Dr. Cynthia E. Cohen, Roberto Gutiérrez Varea, and Dr. Polly Walker, Editors. Published by New Village Press. More info. Interview Below:
Her work is also seen in the documentary film “Acting Together on the World Stage" co-created by Dr. Cynthia E. Cohen, Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts of Brandeis University, and filmmaker Allison Lund, in collaboration with Theatre Without Borders. More Info.
Sokly’s work as a theater artist is featured in “Ten Gems on a Thread II”; The Drama Review and “Ten Gems on a Thread”; Manoa: In the Shadow of Angkor: Contemporary Writing From Cambodia
The playwright Morm Sokly explains that “The Tooth of Buddha”, adapted as Lakhaon Kamnap, Poem Theater, is a portrait of the miracle of Buddhism: those who do good receive good; those who do evil receive evil. The subject of the relic teeth of Buddha for a stage play is not a common subject in contemporary Cambodia. In Cambodian poetry there are at least 53 types of styles of verses, and at least 60 different ways of reciting. Sokly learned to recite poetry from a series of masters when she started at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) in 1981. She also learned from various “Achas”: laymen who are familiar with Buddhist rituals; when she would hear a new kind of recitation, she would ask to learn it. The masters at RUFA were: Sam Maly; Yan Borin; Yin Yean; Van Son and Sum Sovanny. Sokly is one of the few students who was passionate about this form of theater and carried on the tradition. During training the master chants and the student follows him/her; vocal exercises are used at the beginning.
Sokly directed “The Tooth of Buddha” as her BA project at RUFA. “You have to have a very special voice, and use compassion to chant the verses,” she says. Sokly is a practicing Buddhist; the Buddhist theme in her work helps her strength as a human being. The whole play is in verse. Sometimes the verse is spoken, other times chanted.
The Cambodian dancer Chankethya Chey is the interviewer and translator.
Special thanks to Sarin Chuon, Scot Stafford and Cambodian Living Arts.