Youth film and play on Karen culture

By Tim Montgomery

Karen culture"The Karen Project", a film presentation followed by a play about Karen culture and recent history performed by members of the Blank Slate Theater at First Baptist Church of St. Paul.

The project was reminiscent of the way Poj Siab Hmoob Theatre allowed Hmong teens to act out the trama while telling the story of their flight from war-torn Laos and resettlement in the U.S. back in the 1980s and 1990s. In this presentation, the documentary film "Don't Fence Me In" set the stage, so to speak, for commentary in the play using the medium of a young Karen school girl opening up to a therapist about what she remembered of the fun times with her brother in their youth and the horror of watching as he was killed by Burmese troops who burned her village. Most of the words spoken in the play, according to producer Adam Arnold, came from actual stories that were common to many Karen here in the U.S.

Pastor Bill England said it was "the kind of project that helps teenagers work through their angst," but I think it did even more for Karen immigrants as a whole in trying to convey their experience to the general community to encourage understanding and acceptance. Parents of the cast members were very proud of the performance.

There was a question and answer session afterwards where the cast discussed elements of Karen culture in the production and explained how the project and collaboration with First Baptist Church developed. Perhaps you saw one of the performances.

This story, published in Published in Asian American Press was accompanied by 4 photos by Tim Montgomery. Photo above shows stage portrayal of traditional kite flying by Karen children.