Friday, October 21, 2005

Donkoi Clowns

My 2006's new year wish:

to visit them again!

The Children's Circus of Donkoi is born!

by Xuyen Dangers

The biggest ‘repertoire’ to be added to Donkoi Little Theatre since the beginning of the Ramayana (Ramakien) in 2000 is the Donkoi Children circus. This is another dream that came true at DONKOI DCDC on Saturday, April 9, 2005. It will be interesting to talk about the process and how we got to the realization of the Donkoi children circus and writing the history of this children’s show for Donkoi children and their parents.

The children were inspired by the elephant show of the Belgium Clowns without borders who came here at the beginning of March. After the Belgium Troupe left, we picked up the most familiar, the dearest to Laos, and the funniest to Lao children, the Lao national animal – the Elephant. We bought the water pipe, got some old rags, threw them on the two children who made one elephant with four legs. Only after a week, the Donkoi Little Theatre got an invitation to the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th at the French language center. Perfect timing we said “let’s try the elephant show!” The audience found it amusing and gave a big applause and they were given certificates. Thanks Ms. Vilama for thinking of Donkoi!

This was followed with the Lao Youth Union Anniversary celebration day at the National Cultural Hall a week later. Again, Donkoi children brought the elephant with some other acts to the celebration. We also heard some good feedback afterward!

We performed another time at the Sunshine school fair on April 2nd. The same morning, the traveling elephant went to Tammakhung Center at Phiavat Village and did a street show to promote garbage collection. The Donkoi’s three little children, 4th and 5th grade students, did the whole show 5 times. Two were the elephant show and one was as manhood. We do ‘copy’ the simplicity of costumes, props of the Belgium clowns – the clothes, the ears, the trunk, etc.

The children loved the elephant, especially when the elephant went around friendly shaking her trunk and touching the children when they chanted in chorus “chang oi!” calling the elephant to make her stand up so the children from the audience could ride on the elephant. The whole elephant show lasted about 2 minutes, but the children and adults all liked it.

With the elephant we think we can create a circus because we also have the ‘naughty monkeys’ from our well known Ramakien show that can dance and jump around teasing the audience. We just need some small bicycles and we are ready for the monkey show.

The third, came the lion whose costume was well made by Me Pouvin from a piece of cloth that Xuyen had saved for many years just for the right occasion. Just the costume now and we will worry about the taming Lion act later.

The rest of the shows are the jumping cats and the hula-hoop stars and the jugglers that were inspired from Mr. Jason, a volunteer from USA introduced by Didi, Sunshine school’s director. Jason came to Donkoi to do the juggling show and taught Sili some techniques of juggling.

Amanda from Trent University in Canada came as a intern at DCDC and she was used to be involved in the circus before. So that gave a push to our show planning. Amanda accepted to be with Sili to help the children practice two days per week when she was not working at other centers. We also planned for the tight rope walking or climbing, but that did not work out as we did not feel safe having children walk above the cement ground. The children’s safety comes first.

The last one was the dragon dance. That was the ‘left over’ from the Chinese Vietnamese New Year show in February. The costume is copied from VIS dragon costume by Me Pouvin as well.
Of course, in between are the clown acts, as we are already all clowns we are not too concerned about this. It turned out that the little clowns were too busy studying extra courses on Saturday and the ‘farang’ clown Daniel and MCC English teacher volunteer practiced with us a few times. They could not come on the show day, so we had no clowns, but again the whole circus is like clowns anyway.

On April 9th, the show day, Phoun mit (FRIENDS organization) street children center, then Nahay center, and Udomphone center, VIS expat friends, teachers, parent of Donkoi children were there. It must have been about 200 people. They all joined the parade with musical instruments in their hands, anything that could make a sound. The children in their festive costumes, hair dresses, painted faces, with the banner paraded around the neighborhood and then ended up outdoors at the cement circle stage in The DONKOI School compound. It was still cool and just right for the atmosphere.

The monkeys are the clowns that run around to the shops and to people’s homes to ‘steal’ bananas and anything they could reach. That made some shop owners have worried faces if they were not familiar with our naughty, but honest monkeys. They always returned what they stole, only sometimes to the wrong owners.

We then decided to do the show right there in the circus stage outdoors. We forgot the program board “MEET the stars board beautifully made by Sili and the children actors and the program board as back prop, also the banner DONKOI LITTLE THEATRE” they could not find at the last minute. Xuyen was in charge of the circus music, but she failed to do so (she still requested whoever reads this NEWS, if you find circus cassette tape or CD please send her one, Thank You!) The audiences still cheered enthusiastically and then the Children Circus began. Sili’s, was the children director as the ring master elegantly in his new designed costume mixed western with a Lao flavor.

The show lasted only 45 minutes. The best was the little star hula-hoop boy, Thao Tu, only 6 years old, first grade, whom we just discovered could do the hula-hoop without taking lessons, a natural performer. All the beautiful girls danced around him. They all got a chance to be a star one by one.

Then the elephant and the dragon came. The jugglers led by Sili who was cleverly throwing the ball to the audience to engage them in the show worked wonders. Later Xuyen got the Phuon mit street children team to be in the dragon show. The most support expatriate man from VIS, Mr. Paul Cohen, was so fast he was right in the middle with the dragon before Xuyen invited him. What a volunteer! Thanks Paul, Annie, Jess, and Davis. You are always around us!

Among them we saw Catherine from Vientiane College, a dedicated mother with her children, Dr. Hanah with her boys were also there. They all generously donated a lot of kips for the circus troupe. Thank you all.

We also received the donation of 100,000 kip from Mr. Khamla, the owner of Green View Guest House and Pakeo Food Garden restaurant. Thank you so much Mr. Khamla. All together we made 290,000 ki (29.00 US Dollars).

The children had a great day! We invited the guests to come inside afterward for a look at the decoration – the new curtain for the big stage and then all the colorful strips of bright colored material dropped down from the ceiling to make it like a pretend traveling tent.

Then a spontaneous New Year celebration ‘Lot nam for Pimai Lao.’ Sili did a demonstration on how the traditional ‘lot nam’ was done and then the group of children began to do the Lao ‘suong’ chanting poem of Lao New Year followed by the rhythm of Sili, the drummer. Then Mme Sompone brought in the silver bowl with perfume water and frangipani branch of flowers dripping water to everyone’s shoulders. Then they sang and the Lamvong bean spontaneously. All that lasted another 20 minutes and visitors had a feeling of a nice and meaningful Pimai celebration at Donkoi Center.

Thank you all for your support of the children’s work and play.

The result of the circus was still at the first stage, but it was their biggest debut at Donkoi. Still so much to be improved, but the process, the participation from all of them, their enthusiasm, their discipline, their responsibility, their chances to talk, and to work together during this whole process. All that counted!

“Happy Lao New Year! Sabaidee Pimai thuc thuc khon!”

The circus of Donkoi Little Theatre was nicely born. Let’s nurture it to be a healthy ‘baby’ and grow nicely like we did with the Classic repertoire – the Ramakien Forever! Our first big theatre. We hope to bring this circus around as a traveling circus or traveling elephant one day.

Donkoi Children Development Center (DCDC), Laos

Initiated by Church World Services in 1998 With after school activities, CWS hopes to help making the school more fun and help keeping children in school longer. DCDC also helps promote practical education with new teaching methods and creative activities.


Regular about 70 children ages: 6 to 20. Most children came to participate in creative arts activities and small livelihood development projects. They mostly are from Donkoi primary school. Some are from high schools nearby. Some are drop outs and former migrant children to Thailand.


Children form smaller groups for livelihood activities - weaving , mat making, carpentry, barbers, rice planting and gardening
Theater, puppetry, dance, and writing


Run by a volunteer teacher with support of CWS and other NGOs
Children plan out and implement activities with the volunteer

1 comment:

youme said...

I am happy to say that I was in the audience with a group of children and volunteers from my naighborhood, ban piawat-we were representing the "sung tammakhoung"(green papaya salad center). It was a marvelous joyous event, as is every Donkoi activity.

Everyone should know that they can purchase a book by Xuyen Dangers "Tammakhoung Forever!" which shares some of the wonderful worldchanging work going on at Donkoi.

sabaidee tuk khon,derr