Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of her adult life in a nonviolent struggle to bring democracy to her home country of Burma. In exchange for her valiant efforts on behalf of her fellow citizens, the military dictatorship in charge of that nation has repeatedly thrown her in jail.
The Nobel Peace Prize she received in 1991 provided little consolation for her. Thankfully, large numbers of nonviolent activists both within and outside Burma have assisted her in her struggle every step of the way.
One of her most dedicated supporters is Alan Clements, a former Buddhist monk, war correspondent and human rights activist based in Vancouver who collaborated with Aung San Suu Kyi on the acclaimed book The Voice of Hope. Clements operates a nonprofit project that produces various events, books, films, articles and lecture programs designed to spread awareness of Aung San Suu Kyi's cause.
Clements' latest production is Spiritually Incorrect, an improvisational monologue he's currently touring around the globe. It's coming to the KiMo Theatre this Friday evening.
The inspiration for Spiritually Incorrect came directly from his work with Aung San Suu Kyi. "I spent six months with her back in 1996 working on this book (The Voice of Hope)," says Clements. "During that process, I saw her and many of her colleagues and followers take daily risks that often led to long prison terms and torture. ... I thought, what am I doing to take that kind of risk in my own life in America? When I got back, I went to a theater here in Vancouver, stood on the empty stage and imagined if I were wired to the world and I had 90 minutes before I was imprisoned, what would I say? What would I say before I was thrown in jail or shot?"
Spiritually Incorrect provides Clements' improvised answer. It might come out different every night but the spirit of that answer is always the same. Aung San Suu Kyi's plight made Clements wonder how we, as individuals or collectively, can possibly overcome the cancers of war and corruption.
"How can I disengage from any complicity at all in the perpetuation of violence in this world and in my heart?" Clements asks. "Is it possible to be in a violent universe and live in a nonviolent way?"
For Clements, the only way to explore these themes in an honest way is to use comedy, satire and improvisation, so that's exactly what he's done. In the 100-odd performances he's done so far, no two have ever been the same.
"It's not my style to memorize my stories," he says. "I want to give a human response to an incredibly human circumstance. This is reality theater, and the one overarching theme is human rights and freedom of the spirit."