HOW FALLEN LEAVES WAS BORN
June 2006. Alex Arokiam, the founder of a drug rehabilitation and HIV/Aids Hospice based in Batu Arang invited Cloudbreak Creative Development Centre to design and run a short course of drama therapy sessions for a group of its Positive Living Community residents.
The weekly workshops appeared to instantly spark the imaginations of those involved and soon an inspired writers group had grown from the initial sessions.
Drawing from their personal life experiences, these ‘first time writers’ quickly found their stride. Following a theatre trip (none from the group had ever witnessed live theatre before) theatre director Bryn Jones suggested that their personal stories be developed into a play that would bear witness to these ordinary lives lived in the face of extraordinary adversity. The play would be a way of raising awareness of HIV/Aids and to stimulate discussion around the dangers of drug use.
FALLEN LEAVES AND BEYOND…
In 2007, the devised theatre production Fallen Leaves, with support from HSBC completed a series of sell-out runs of public performances in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2008, we toured the country running workshops and performing in schools, universities and more to 3500 people.
So unfolded an extraordinary journey resulting in a Malaysian first! The first theatrical production written and performed by people recovering from addiction and living with HIV/AIDS – none of whom had ever written or performed before!
Fallen Leaves premiered at The Actors Studio, Bangsar to a packed house on 8 December 2006. The performance has since played at venues throughout Kuala Lumpur , Kota Kinabalu , Melaka and Penang.
It has met with a positive and enthusiastic response from Malaysian audiences; raising awareness, provoking debate and highlighting critical issues that affect our society at large.
“…It’s like these fallen leaves. We think they’re useless so we quickly brush them up and burn them. But these ordinary leaves are special too. They hold precious nutrients and give moisture and shade from the sun, to help new seeds to grow – strong and healthy.”
In 2008, FLTC performed and workshoped with over 3000 people, averaging over an hour with each individual, highlighting and discussing the dangers and issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and addiction. This is far more than the average person would spend studying these issues in class, on television, or in a shopping mall based event.
HOW ARE WE GROWING?
This initiative has now developed into the Fallen Leaves Theatre Company. Under the guidance of the new Director, George Wielgus, the Fallen Leaves Theatre Company or FLTC is still focused on the recovery process of the cast members. Through this process we have now developed new scenes to address particular and pressing issues of concern to high risk groups.
We have devised two strategies to explore these themes with our target groups. First is to perform to mass audience of fifty and above followed by open Q & A forum. Second is to work with smaller groups through our creative workshop programme. These interactive workshops will allow seemingly dysfunctional rejects of society to work alongside the young hopes of our nation, creating opportunities to de-mystify the fears and stigma, and more importantly for our young people to learn directly from our FLTC members. What would they learn? Definitely crucial life lessons born of hard won experiences and maybe even some life-saving ones.
We are encouraged by Malaysia AIDS Council for its recognisation of our work and appreciative of MAC’s support. In 2008 FLTC went on a National Awareness Raising Tour in collaboration with Malaysia AIDS Council to perform and debate the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in colleges, Serenti centres, prisons, factories and youth centres.
OUR NEXT STEP…
To independently produce and manage events and performances. To do this we have two goals. One is to renovate our training studio. The other is to embark on an active Outreach programme to partners, ‘empathisers’, the medical, arts, media, NGOs and other welfare communities to support and help us.