Friday, October 9, 2009

Heaven and America

We vist the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide

Inside the offices of the CNLG

The front gate of our venue in Kigali - Heaven - a wonderful restaurant owned by Americans Josh and Alissa Ruxin

Rehearsal on the terrace of Heaven. Goodness becomes an outdoor theatre experience, for the first time in its performance history.

Rushing from rehearsal to a coffee meeting - I hop on a motorcycle taxi. It's about 60 cents CDN to get from Heaven to the Bourbon Cafe.

Coffee with Gloria Macambo and Pam Acaye. Above, Gloria, the Ugandan-raised Rwandan tries on a Canadian theatre director's Berlin-bought sunglasses in Kigali.

A sumptuous party for us at the US Ambassador's residence. Above, Rwandan co-founder of the Centre for Arts and Culture in Butare, Alice Rwamasirabo, American Carol Tambor, founder of the Best of Edinburgh Award, and one of our benefactors, and US Deputy Chief of Mission, Anne Casper.

Pam Acaye writes at the US Ambasador's residence

Dinner at Heaven. A lovely end to an enormous day.

Thursday, Oct 8

1) We are up early to go meet with Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the head of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide. This is a meeting set up by Lili Matabishi, who is donating her services as a publicist in Kigali for us. Lili has printed and distributed flyers for us, visited universities, and has contacted embassies. Lili thinks it important that the right Rwandans see Goodness - especially young Rwandans. We are both worried that the crowd we will attract in Kigali may be largely an ex-pat crowd. So Lili is hoping that Jean de Dieu will be taken with the project, and may suggest it to some of his many contacts. Jean de Dieu is a lovely man - himself a survivor, and picked to head up this organization at its founding in 2007. He tells us of their work, we tell him of ours. He promises to do what he can, and says he looks forward to seeing our play. He seems to me to be a very good man.

2) Rehearsal at Heaven. We go through the show in an "acting optional" run, to finesse spacing. I am treated to a range of accents - English, Scottish, and various American drawls. At one point, Gord seems to be possessed by Gary Busey. It is not pretty. Jack does the whole run with his camera - photographing his scene partners. The gremlins have come out, but damn, it's fun.

3) Coffee at the Bourbon Cafe with Pamela Acaye and Gloria Macambo.

4) Off we go to the American Ambassador's house for the reception in our honour. WHAT a party! The yanks are gracious and welcoming and articulate. The Deputy Chief of Mission, Anne Casper, is our host (the Ambassador himself is out of the country). There are delegates from the South African embassy, the German embassy, USAID, the Centres for Disease Control. There are a great many US Embassy staff. There are a great many Rwandan government officials and artists - the Head of the Rwanda Film Festival, a young documentary maker and his subject (a survivor), actors, directors, writers. Jean de Dieu is there, from the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide. It is a high-calibre crowd in a sumptuously appointed estate, with magnificent catering. Canada is represented by a single, very young junior staffer, Karolina Guay. She has only been in Rwanda for a couple of weeks. She looks barely over 25. She is lovely, but I can't help but think that she is a visible metaphor for Canada's commitment to its Artists abroad.

The speeches begin. The guest of honour - Kiki - is unable to attend, as she is in meetings in Butare concerning funding for her festival. In her place is Alice Rwamasirabo. Alice has just returned from Japan, where her husband served as Rwandan ambassador. She was a co-founder of the Centre for Arts and Culture in Butare, where the festival is hosted. She and her husband were responsible for sending Kiki to L'Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, years ago. She now works for the Culture and Conflict Management Centre. Anne Casper leads off with a wonderful speech about the place of art in international relations. It is heartfelt, articulate, and intelligent. Alice speaks of the role of art in Rwanda. She is grace itself - a shimmering speaker. Compelling, articulate, poetic in her support of Kiki, and the role of art in her country, and the world. I go up (a hard act to follow), and further the theme of how crucial artistic exchange is, since the conversation that peoples can have through art is unique, and is not touched upon by any other sphere, be it politics, finance, development, or journalism. May thanks are given and received. I present Gloria Macambo with a copy of Goodness signed by all of us, and she shrieks in surprise at being so publicly honoured. She gets the warmest hand of the night.

Carol Tambor - whose name graces the "Best of Edinburgh" prize that Goodness won in 2006, speaks last. She and her husband, Kent Lawson, have arranged this reception in conjunction with the US Embassy. Carol and Kent have helped fund our tour, and have flown all the way from New York to Kigali to be at our opening here tomorrow. Carol is also a lovely speaker - a woman whose passion for theatre has shaped her life.

It is an amazing night.

5) We all go the Heaven to eat. The food is superb. So is the conversation.