Monday, September 28, 2009

Between the closing and the leaving

Goodbyes after the last show in Toronto: Amy and her mutt and Amy's mutt's new best friend - Gord's son Jeremy

Jeremy feeds me some ice cream after the show

Our final audience in Toronto: Sept 27, 2009

The real Michael Redhill at the Midpoint (the local post-show hang out)

Parting is such sweet sorrow:

1) Meredith (Volcano's General Manager) calls the Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali to confirm our airport pickup. The front desk says they have no record of our staying there. 14 people. Meredith's first heart attack of the day. They subsequently find the booking.

2) Experienced international traveller Ross (that's me) realizes he's booked onto flights to Kenya and Nigeria after the tour (research for the Africa Trilogy - the next big project), but somehow neglected to get visas for either country. This lack of visas has managed to escape the attention of all of us: AD, GM, travel agent. Volcano - the international touring company! Our excuse is that we've been entirely focused on the logistic s of the Rwanda tour. In any case - this touches off a hectic day. Heart attack number two.

3) The visa hunt. After failing to reach the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa (i don't think anyone actually works there) for HOURS; after discovering there is no Nigerian embassy in Rwanda (online, at least - no record); after talking to Nigerian friends in Canada (only way in now would be bribery!); it is determined that i need to change all my travel plans. So - the day before he leaves - Ross gets booked on an entirely different flight from the rest of the team (cheapest way to do it). I now will fly Air France through Paris. I will meet everyone else (they're on KLM through Amsterdam) in Nairobi. We will all arrive in Kigali together - a couple days from now! No more Nigeria. But Kenya is still on: a wayward Canadian can buy a visa at the Jomo Kenyatta airport.

4) Our stage manager - Guillaume - gets a call from the dry cleaner on King St. in Toronto: he is told that the men's suits have been damaged in the dry cleaning process. Heart attack number three. How are they damaged? Faded. But information is not solid as there is a considerable language barrier (neither party speaks the other's native tongue). Practice for the tour? It turns out there is no perceivable damage in one suit - and they didn't clean the other, for fear of damaging it. We still have costumes. We will not use that dry cleaner again.

Off we go...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Toronto Before Departure

Lili Francks and Gord Rand in Goodness. Photo by John Lauener

This is the story of a Canadian play traveling to Rwanda to take part in a theatre and music festival. The play is Goodness, by Michael Redhill. The festival is Arts Azimuts, organised by Odile Gakire Katesi (aka "Kiki"). 2009 is the 15th anniversary year of the Rwandan genocide, and Kiki's theme for programming is "Culture and Conflicts: genocide, slavery and apartheid". Goodness is a play about genocide, but we have only ever played this story in the West (Toronto, Edinburgh, New York, Vancouver). We have no idea what the Rwandan audience will think of us...

1) We open in Toronto on Sept 16, 2009 for a tune-up run before we travel to Africa. The reviews are strong:

NOW Magazine (5 / 5 stars):
"a passionate, enthralling production, not to be missed"

The Globe and Mail (3.5 / 4 stars):
"Stories might not be enough, but this story comes close"
"a play that fearlessly throws itself at the thorniest questions posed by the violent last century and leaves no audience member unscratched"
"under Ross Manson's skillful, simple direction, Goodness works on all its levels"

The Toronto Star (3.5 / 4 stars)
"smoulderingly intense"
"gut-wrenchingly convincing"
"you won't find it easy to forget"

The Toronto Sun (4.5 / 5 stars)
"Goodness reigns supreme"
"play about genocide brought to dizzying new heights with tremendous cast and inspired direction"
"it is a work that demands to be seen"

The National Post
"the personal and political... collide and explode"

Mooney on Theatre
"the perfect balance is kept and the work is seemless"
"a marvel to watch"
"if you want a moving piece of theatre, go see it"

Classical 96
"a triumph"

2) We are all getting organized. There have been many emails back and forth to Rwanda about accommodation, transportation, venue, equipment etc. We are coordinating the tour with Rwandans, Belgians, Americans and Canadians on the ground in Butare and Kigali. There have been vaccinations and malaria pill prescriptions filled. We have learned that plastic bags are not allowed in Rwanda (an eco-law), so we are organizing our luggage appropriately. We are buying bug spray and sun block.

We are beginning to believe that we are really going...