Preparing a Performance in One Day!!

This is Linda:
Today we spent the day devising in preparation for a performance tomorrow by CUNY and KIE Level 2 students in the Main Hall at 2pm. We had a morning and afternoon session and spent 7 hours working in two separate groups to create a piece of theatre.. Helen and Chris, our professors, decided to playbuild using a story as a foundation and picked a story called THE DRUMMER which they found in a children’s textbook used in primary schools in Rwanda. The story, which reminds me of THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN which I was told as a child, tells the story of a rich village. The inhabitants are content and happy. They have ample milk, cows and chickens. The land gives them vegetables. The villagers work and play and dance and sing. The children run about and laugh and play and the villagers are content indeed. But soon they grow lazy, idle and careless. They leave garbage on the ground and pay no attention to their tasks and leave latrines in disrepair. Piles of rubbish collect and millions of flies appear. They torment the villagers.. They torment the cows, the chickens and the children. The villagers are at their wit’s end. But suddenly a drummer appears. The drummer promises to solve their problem and get rid of the flies but says that there will be a price. The villagers must promise to build a house for the drummer. The villagers promise all that and more. They will give him anything if the drummer gets rid of the flies. The drummer plays the drum and the flies disappear. But once the villagers are freed from the flies, they forget their promises and refuse to give the drummer the house. The drummer is angry and tells the villagers that they will be sorry. The drummer plays again. This time the urgent call of the drums lure all of the village children away and they disappear forever into a mountain.

We are 39 in all. For the first hour, we created a scene that includes all of us. We each created parts of a village—the farmers, the animals, the women planting, the men hoeing– and Helen shaped all of our separate actions into an opening scene. Here, we incorporated some Rwandan songs Hoze Umgawna (a lullaby) and a work song about a leopard that the KIE students taught us earlier in the week.

Then, we were split into two groups. One group, led by Chris, created the scenes that affect the villagers. These spoken scenes include English and Kinyarawanda. The other group, led by Helen, created the drummer, flies and children scenes. These scenes are filled with movement and a powerful drummer ensemble. At 4pm today, we put the separate scenes together and managed to run the entire show from start to finish. Tomorrow, we still have a great deal to refine, but there are already moments of breathtaking theatrical beauty and the show truly belongs to all of us. It is a performance that only this particular mix of talents and cultures could create. We are so lucky to be a part of this cultural exchange. Each moment of the day is filled with new insights.

Tomorrow, Helen and Chris will give a lecture and this will be followed by our performance. When the story ends, Helen and Chris plan to ask the audience to participate in finding a solution for the villagers using Forum Theatre techniques originally created by Augusto Boal. Forum is a form of theatre that allows the audience to become active participants in the outcome of the story and its protagonists. The end of this performance will be exciting as we do not quite know what to expect. We will be responding to audience suggestions, in role, as villagers and drummers. I am sure that the blog tomorrow will let you know what we discover there. Peace out.



About hkwmaat

Faculty member for the MA in Applied Theatre at the City University of New York School of Professional Studies. Also the Director of the CAT Youth Theatre at the Creative Arts Team.
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One Response to Preparing a Performance in One Day!!

  1. Sounds like beautiful work, guys. Wish I could be there! Sherry

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