Posts tagged KELT

“So you think you can WRITE” (Part III) and my confession about writing

Okay, I don’t see myself as a writer, never have.  I must confess that. Just like I never saw myself as a musician though I grew up in a very musical family.  But I enjoy both. What I’ve done to get other people to play their instrument (if I know they are good) is to start playing the piano or violin and then their bashfulness fades or I’m so pathetic that they MUST take over.  So too, it seems every family has a scribe in their family, someone who writes a lot of letters (like in the old days when we used postage stamps and envelopes) and who reads or experiences a lot in order to have content to write about.

As a writing teacher, I try to get my Kazakh and Kazakhstani students to write instead of me so that I can move over and let them tell me what I think is in their hearts. All my former students (American, Ukrainian) have something to write about because they have thoughts, important thoughts that need to be communicated.  I provide the structure and parameters and away they go….

That’s what writing is about right, to get your point across?  Some people may be eloquent or persuasive speakers, others are comical or have a dry wit which makes me laugh.  Others are erudite and quick on their feet.  Being a good communicator in speech does not necessarily make a good writer though it is beneficial if you possess both skills especially for politicians.  First, you have to win the campaign and then after you win and are elected, you serve your term.  After all the talk, THEN you can write memoirs about it. Memoirs are for those who have earned the “write” to put something on paper and perhaps have a great story to tell to inspire others.

Why have I been writing in a blog almost every day since January of 2006? (I started my first one in Kyiv, Ukraine).  That’s almost 2,000 entries, but I let others write while I showcase their writing, especially my students’ writing.  Why do I expose myself only to have people disagree with my position on politics or my teaching methodologies or whatever else I write about concerning Kazakhstan? I DO know I have detractors in my reading audience.

First, I don’t care what other people think about what my thoughts are, they don’t have to read my blog.  No one is making those who disagree with me read what I write.  Second, I write because it is therapeutic, I vent about what happens to me in this strange culture of Kazakhstan.  In the recent past, my Kazakh employers didn’t like seeing what I wrote however it helped me cope with a difficult and complex situation. So, I might still have Kazakhs or Kazakhstanis with ruffled feathers for what I perceive in their culture.  Fine, they can straighten me out but they just need to know that these are MY perceptions from a western point of view.  Other westerners might come away with other impressions, but are they writing about it? Third, despite the cultural snafus, I want to inform my reading audience about what a GREAT country this unknown land of Kazakhstan is.  The Kazakhs come from an oral culture, so there is not much written for us foreigners to get to know more about this marvelous land.  Therefore, I do the best I can to track what might be of relevance to my ever expanding view on this people group.

My aunt in North Carolina sent me an interesting link about writing in the digital age. The author of this article backtracked to Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence but he did a lot of self-editing and also had outside readers proof his work.  This important document was a joint effort with much input and with many signing below at risk of their lives or livelihood.  Jessica Lewis, KELT director, is quoted as saying that the key to writing good plays is rewriting.  Yes, that is what writing teachers espouse as well. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!!!

However, writing in the digital age, blogs are about self-expression and let everything hang out there, bad spelling, poor grammar, etc.  Yes, wrong thinking as well. I realize there is risk involved in what I write about my perceptions. It’s hazardous to do a once through and not revise and rewrite to get the words JUST right.  I know I need to do more self-editing and tighten up what I write but my guiding principle is to write EVERY DAY!!!  I had a Norwegian relative that I’ve researched (S.A. Olsness) who wrote in a journal or diary for 50 years and English happened to be his second language, Norwegian was his first.  He came up with a lot of excellent content that I’ve culled through.

I would hope that at the end of the day, I would have a blog that is worthy of giving good content in the future to an interested researcher or writer about what happens here in Kazakhstan.  I believe it is a very significant country sandwiched in between China and Russia.  I would also challenge other Kazakhs to check out the website for KELT and write a one-act play in English that would help inform audiences in the U.S. about this extremely important land.  I think you CAN write!!!  (I’ll just move over to watch this happen, PIONEER THE FUTURE!!!)

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“So you think you can WRITE” (Part II) and KELT competition

The following was sent to me by an American friend of mine, Jessica Lewis, who lives in Almaty.  She is the director of KELT (Kazakhstan English Language Theater) and has some amazing good things happening with the energy that is there among the Kazakh young people.  They just put on a production of “Grease” this spring and it was a huge success.  I wish I could have just dropped down from Astana to take in that production.  They had done a GREAT job last fall of “The Grinch that Stole Christmas.” Amazing talent in the expat community along with the Kazakh actors.  Yes, good things are in store for KELT and I do hope they migrate north to Astana to have a permanent theater company here at our new university.

For now with a continuation of my challenge of “So you think you can write” I am putting out the guidelines for a competition that KELT is putting on for one act plays. $800 will go to the Grand Prize winner along with many other prizes for other winners. Please read the following and consider throwing your hat into the ring.  If you have further questions, please go to their website at and get more information.

Kazakhstan English Language Theater Presents

The 2011 KELT National Playwriting Competition


Sponsored by HSBC Bank

We are looking for scripts that explore the fundamental changes in Kazakhstani mentality,

social structure, and way of life, since the formation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.


1. To empower the voices in Kazakhstan of those who lived through and experienced the after-effects of Soviet times.

2. To celebrate and critique the generational differences of those who lived under Soviet rule and those who never knew Soviet lifestyle.

3. To promote and increase international awareness of the Kazakhstani culture from the perspective of Kazakhstani nationals.


1. Plays submitted must be the original work of the playwright and must have never been fully produced previously.

2. Multiple submissions from one applicant will be accepted.

3. Kazakhstani and non-Kazakhstani citizens are eligible; submissions will not be accepted by anyone under the age of eighteen (unless special permission is granted by the KELT Playwriting Competition Committee).

4. Musicals are NOT eligible.


1. Four winners will be chosen. The Grand Prize winner will receive an award of $800.00, First, Second, and Third Place will each receive $300.00.

2. The four winners’ scripts will be performed in Almaty in  April for the 2011 KELT One-Act Festival as well as performed as a part of the 2011 KELT U.S. Summer Tour.


1. Submission deadline is October 31st, 2010.  Winners will be announced in December 2010.

2. If you would like to receive feedback on your script prior to the submission deadline, scripts must be emailed no later than September 1st.

o      Several script re-writes are the main ingredient to writing a good play. Receiving feedback from the KELT Playwriting Committee will have no bearing on whether or not your script is chosen, but it will serve as guidance for your script revisions.

3. The judges’ decisions are final and no communication or correspondence will be entered into regarding the selection or judging of the winning plays. Ten finalists will be notified.

Submission Guidelines


1. Content should be influenced by, but not limited to the interpretation of the competition title and description listed above.

2. Scripts must be performed in a time no less than 20 minutes and no more than 40 minutes.

3. Plays should be written with a Western and International audience in mind. The plays will be performed in the United States where the average American knows little to nothing about the history of Kazakhstan.

4. Plays should be capable of being performed within a simplistic stage setting as the four winners will be performed subsequently on all performance days. Plays should contain simple scene changes and limited lighting, sound, special effects and prop requirements.

5. Script should not contain more than ten characters, unless they can doubled.


1. All scripts must be submitted in the original language AND English. It is the responsibility of the applicant to get the script translated from Russian or Kazakh before submission.

2. Submissions must be sent via e-mail in Microsoft Word to Anatoliy Ogay

3. A 12-point font of Times New Roman and one inch margins must be used.

4. The applicant’s name must only appear on the Entry Form and not anywhere in the document of the script itself. The scripts are judged anonymously.

5. The 2011 KELT National Playwriting Competition Entry Form must be submitted along with the script. (Either attach or copy and paste it into the body of the e-mail.)

6. Scripts should have a clear separation between different characters speaking. (See the example below.)

SORIN. Do you know, my boy, I like literary men. I once

passionately desired two things: to marry, and to become an

author. I have succeeded in neither. It must be pleasant to be

even an insignificant author.

TREPLIEFF. [Listening] I hear footsteps! [He embraces his uncle]

I cannot live without her; even the sound of her footsteps is

music to me. I am madly happy. [He goes quickly to meet NINA, who

comes in at that moment] My enchantress! My girl of dreams!


The panel of judges will assess each script independently and anonymously, taking into consideration the criteria set out below.

1. Criteria

o      PLOT (Structure)

Creativity of plot development , originality of plot idea


Raises challenging issues and questions relevant to Kazakhstani culture today

o      CHARACTERIZATION (Development of characters)

Empathy with characters

o      DIALOGUE (Economy of language)

Relevance to plot, relevance to characters, dialogue flow

o      PLAY OVERALL (Audience appeal)

*Any further inquiry or questions may be addressed to Anatoliy Ogay and sent to

**For additional information about Kazakhstan English Language Theater, please visit

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KELT presents “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

I’m in the Christmas mood after last weekend when I enjoyed watching my “Who” friends and others in the Grinch play put on by KELT.  KELT stands for “Kazakhstan English Language Theater” and has a long and proud history of very good quality plays presented in English.  This theater was started by American Nathan Fleming years ago, it has been continued by Jessica Lewis, as their director.  Next spring they will put on the ambitious, musical production of “Grease.”  Anatoliy Ogay did a superb job acting as the Grinch, better than Hollywood’s version done by Jim Carey.  Also Selbi Durdiyeva played the obedient dog Max, she did an excellent job of being the kicked around mutt.  An American mother related how her little 3 year old girl started crying in the audience because she was so sensitive as to how badly Max was treated by the Grinch.  That’s believably good acting. Lots of laughs with a good moral in the end, thanks to Dr. Seuss. Thanks KELT!!!

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“It’s a Dog’s Life” – Easter Weekend Recap

p41101981Khristos vos Kres!” Good Friday was a BEAUTIFUL spring day!!! So different from what transpired 2,000 years ago, a dismal day Christians choose to remember and I decided to fast to be reminded of the cross. (Horrid flashbacks of Mel Gibson’s horribly bloody movie “The Passion” reappear in my mind) After a morning class with my students and being interviewed by a former student in journalism with a big camera taping it, time for a much needed walk down hill to the Green Bazaar. My favorite places to shop (by necessity because of my meager budget) are the Second Hand stores just north of the Green Bazaar and I discovered there is a new one that just sprouted up. I bought several tablecloths, one is a perfect linen one for only $6. I found a dress my color and then as I was checking out the fourth store, my friend Brenda called. She wanted me to join her for pizza at Ramstor. I declined but once I finished shopping I hopped on a bus and told her I’d be there in 15 minutes to meet up with her after all. Once we met, we went shopping for foodstuffs at Ramstor and then parted ways. Good to catch up even if for just 20 minutes.

Walked up my five flights of stairs to dump off my loot from shopping and walk downhill to our university where the KELT play was about to begin at 7:00. “David and Lisa” had been much advertised. With a busy week, I hadn’t figured out who would go with me, so I went solo figuring I’d meet up with someone I’d know. I was pleasantly surprised to see the heavy marketing paid off, the Great Hall was almost full and I seated myself in the fourth row in order to hear the actors’ lines better. A cast of 20, mostly Kazakh university students or other nonnative speakers necessitates being close to stage in order to not miss any words. I’ve learned this from past experience of attending other KELT productions.

Other native speakers of English who are professionals in the city of Almaty and who enjoy community theater were also in the cast of characters for “David and Lisa.” However, the articulation and volume of most all actors was very good. I thought the best job was done by an Australian lady who sounded VERY American in her role as a doting, overbearing mother. Also, Elina who played the lead role of Lisa did a superb job, she was supposed to sound nonsensical in her rhyming sentences and her boundless energy was phenomenal. She had split personalities, one that was hyperactive Lisa, the other was morose Muriel who was gloomy, almost scary. The other lead who played David did a great job too, I think he had the most lines to memorize.

What was funny about the start of the evening was as I was shutting off my cellphone before the performance I noticed I had missed one call. It was my French friend Benedicte who lives near me. She too had decided to go to the play on her own at the last minute but I didn’t know that so when I returned her call I told her where I was. She said, “turn around.” I did and then five rows back she waved. After intermission we sat together and watched the second half of the intense play. The play ended well and so Benedicte and I walked up the hill together talking about the amazingly complicated play we had just witnessed. She had been fasting too, so we both ended our Good Friday on a good note.

Saturday I had invited the opthamologist’s daughter over to find out about her Kazakh family background. (tomorrow I’ll share what I learned from Leila) Before that I had bought an Easter lily for Brenda whom I’d see the next day for our Easter meal at her home. I then prepared Mexican tacos for my students who were coming for my final “make-up” class Saturday evening and we watched “Emperor’s Club” with English subtitles. We had a lot to discuss afterwards because it was about teacher-students relationships and integrity, character and honor codes. This movie deals with cheating and dishonesty which we unfortunately have to deal with all the time at our university.

Sunday morning was a very special Easter service where we sang all the usual Wesley hymns starting with “Up from the Grave He Arose!” An extra treat was having an African American woman, who is a professional jazz singer, do a rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” The worship team had some added brass, a sax and drums along with the guitar. Peyton’s sermon was wonderful and I’ll long remember the story about his wife’s Uncle Billy. At the beginning he told of Uncle Billy’s part of the D-Day operation in WWII where he was the pilot of one of the many American boats that brought Americans to French soil to fight and die for freedom. However, Uncle Billy’s boat was bombed even before they got to shore and recovering all the dead bodies, they were all put in a morgue. By the end of the sermon, Peyton finished the story about Uncle Billy waking up in the midst of all these dead bodies, having only been knocked unconscious. He was spared, he revived to live his life. Jesus whose death we honor and memorialize on Good Friday was dead, dead, dead. What we celebrate on Easter Sunday is that He is alive! It’s not a dog’s life after all but God’s LIFE!p4120213


What fun to go with my two university friends to finish off my Easter weekend at Brenda and Thom’s place. I played her piano, ate good food and mingled with new people and “old” friends over a ham, an actual sit down meal with carrot cake made by Julia to top it off. Thanks Molly and Zoey (dog’s names) for having us. It’s a dog’s life.


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