Good evening blog readers!
This is Ramy checking in at the end of a very long and exhausting day #4 here in Rwanda working with the KIE drama students. For these purposes, forgive me if this blog entry is unusually short.
Has it really only been 4 days??? Each day feels like a week here in Rwanda. It’s safe to say that all the rich and meaningful work the M.A. students have been doing with KIE this week is beginning to take its toll on our energy levels. At the end of the day, it’s a relief to just sit in the courtyard of our nest at the Civitas Hotel to catch our breath and reflect on the day and share a meal together.
We switched things up today. The blog posts from the last 3 days all mention Forum Theatre and how the current M.A. students created original pieces in collaboration with the KIE level 2 drama students about issues of oppression that are common in Rwanda. We performed them yesterday and they were a huge hit. (See Amy’s post from last night.)
Today we moved on from Forum Theatre and began devising an original play! In the world of applied theatre, we call this process “playbuilding” because we literally build a play from scratch based on the ideas of the participants. In this case, we have used the story of “Romeo & Juliet” as the inspiration for our play. Chris and Helen first read us an adaptation (titled “Zenzele & Djiaka”) and then we spent the entire day crafting key scenes from the story: families feuding, lovers meeting at a party, families responding with horror, lovers running away together, violence escalating between families resulting in death, and a plea for the lovers to come back to their families.
It’s challenging to play a leader and a participant at the same time. We M.A. students are devising from the inside, acting alongside the KIE drama students while trying to create these scenes. Though Helen and Chris did the majority of the directing, we certainly played useful roles in modeling basic theatre techniques: making sure everyone is seen, creating powerful stage pictures, coming up with dialogue, projecting our voices, etc.
We perform “Zenzele & Djiaka” tomorrow at 2pm. That means we will have created a whole play in just 1 day! Isn’t that amazing? I am so impressed by the work these KIE Level 2 students have done this week. They are some of the most talented, joyful, affectionate, open-hearted, and critically conscious people I’ve ever worked with. I am so proud of them and all the dedication and hospitality they’ve shown us. The level of enthusiasm amongst the group for what we’ve created together is undeniable and tomorrow’s performance will undoubtedly be a highlight of our time here.
There has been so much learning going on. For me, especially, but also for the KIE students. In just 4 days, I have already seen significant growth in terms of theatre skill development. I cannot wait to see all my new friends in the morning and make the final tweaks to our play before performing it for an audience (hopefully!) tomorrow afternoon.
Playbuilding tends to be an intense and exhausting experience, but those experiences also tend to be the most rewarding. After the KIE 2 performance, we’ll also be able to see the play Michael & Joey have been working on with the KIE level 4 drama students for the past several days.
After the festival of plays, we’ll be hosting a dinner for the KIE drama students to honor the experience we’ve had together this week. Tomorrow is unfortunately our last day together with KIE. How time flies. The beautiful cultural exchange we’ve engaged in this past week has been deeply profound and life-changing. I don’t even want to think about saying goodbye to these students. This is always a pitfall of the work. How do we maintain the meaningful relationships that we’ve built after we part and leave Rwanda? I just have to say…thank goodness for Facebook.
This entry didn’t turn out to be so short, did it? So much to say, so much to share. I’ve barely scratched the surface. More to come…
For now, I must head to bed because tomorrow is a BIG day. Perhaps the biggest day yet. Wish us luck as we put on our two original plays! I’m sure one of my peers will blog tomorrow night to let you know how it all went.
Peace out, my virtual friends.
With love and praxis,