Leaving New York City on May 28, 1914, “the Orphan Train” carried nine children to towns searching for homes for the orphaned and unwanted children.
They rode the train with hopes of finding parents to love them, warm beds and enough food to fill their hungry bellies. They rode the Orphan Train because the foundling homes – homes for homeless children – were packed, with the city rejecting the homeless, dirty children who wandered the streets in search of comfort.
This is the storyline of The Orphan Train, a play by American writer Aurand Harris – the latest play to be performed by the Cambodian theatre group the Phnom Penh Players.
They will bring the audience back to a dark history when hundreds of thousands of children were abandoned, dependent or living on the streets because parents had died or could no longer feed them.
“The production offers a talented and diverse cast of child leads to be showcased in the general community. Child actors from different backgrounds, ethnicities and schools come together in a celebration of the resilience of children,” a Phnom Penh Players press release said of the production.
The release continued that Chelsea Middendorf and Jo-Ann Lim, co-producers of The Orphan Train, decided to work together to produce the play because they wanted to give the children of Phnom Penh an opportunity to star in a play for and about children.
Many of the cast are performing in a play for the first time. The youngest of the cast members, who are both children and adults, is eight years old.
The Phnom Penh Players consists of amateur performers who have other professions. They are an informal group who gather to host charitable performances.
The performers said that since the adoptions and orphans are not spoken about often in Cambodia, the play gives people the opportunity to see these issues and discuss them.
In Cambodia, as of last year, there were some 16,000 orphans staying in 264 orphanages. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, there are 600 disabled children among them.
“Opening Night is in one week! The cast and crew of The Orphan Train have been working so hard to get our production ready. We are so looking forward to seeing you all,” Phnom Penh Players wrote on their Facebook page on Friday.
All proceeds raised from the production will go to support the Cambodian Organisation for Living and Temporary Care (COLT), an organisation that works to support community based care of children in Cambodia.
COLT uses donations received to fund many different efforts to support and reintegrate children back into their communities by providing education and social services for marginalised families, according to the Phnom Penh Players.
The Orphan Train will be performed at Sovannaphum Arts Association on Street 99 in Phnom Penh on Friday and Saturday at 7PM and on Sunday at 5PM.
Tickets are $10 per person, while those who come as a school group of 10 or more students will get a discount.
Tickets are available at The Box Office - Phnom Penh, Lot 369 Cafe & Bar - TTP, Lot 369 Cafe & Bar - BKK and Kwest Restaurant.