Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Opening of the Festival

October 2 - in Butare

We awake in Butare. Today the actors will have the day off. Rick, Guillaume and I will prep for our opening tomorrow - retrieving, in particular, the handgun we are borrowing from the Army for our show. We will all attend the opening ceremony in the afternoon, and another show in the evening.

The sign by the front gate of the National University of Rwanda, where we will be performing.

A menu from the restaurant in the Super Market on the main street, where we buy our water, whiskey and wine. It seems the Philly Cheese Steak knows no bounds, geographically.

The view on the walk to the University from downtown.

Kiki Katese (left) and Gloria Magambo (right) join us at our hotel.

We meet a Colonel from the Rwandan Army. He is in charge of the battalion that is stationed in the four southern districts of the country. He is also the man who has arranged to lend us a handgun for use in the show. It's a disabled US Army issue Colt. Gloria, who comes along, has never really seen a gun, and asks about it. The colonel calls the Colt a "stick", and not something for killing. If you want to kill someone, you use one of those, he says, indicating the machine guns the soldiers in the next room are carrying. He shows her bullets from his own handgun, which he carries tucked into his belt.

My first interview on Rwandan television. I speak in English, and Guillaume speaks in French.

The boys that live in a house outside the gate of our hotel. Amy gave them some hats, and a Leafs t-shirt.

Jeanie and Laurette at dinner on the main street in Butare.

The Women Drummers at the opening ceremony. Mind blowing.

Dancers at the opening ceremony. All the dancers were orphaned during the genocide. All were wonderful.

Playwright and poet Pamela Acaye outside our theatre at the National University of Rwanda.

1) The day of the opening ceremony. We see the Rwandan Women Drummers. Drumming was a male preserve before the genocide. Now, women have taken possession of the drum, and they are transcendent. The joy with which they drum, the power of it: beyond words. We see a troop of dancers - all orphans from the genocide, now young adults. We see a dance theatre piece made by a choreographer from France, a music director from Burkina Faso, and our host, Kiki, who wrote the text and performed the role of the mother. The story was that of the lone surveying son of a family killed in the genocide. The other characters are ghosts - played by dancers. Astonishing imagery.

This is an amazing place to be.

2) I realize i should introduce our cast of characters:

The Actors: Lili Francks, Gord Rand, Tara Hughes, Amy Rutherford, Jack Nicholsen, Layne Colemen

The Technical Cohort: Rick Banville, Production Manager; Rebecca Picherack, Lighting Designer; Guillaume Hou√ęt-Brisebois, Stage Manager.

The Rwandans We Know: Gloria Magambo, works with the Festival Arts Azimuts, the woman who is making it all happen for us; Laurette Kabanyana, our translator and guide, a lovely and very bright woman, whom it seems all men in town are smitten with, (i don't blame them); Kiki Katese, the artistic director of the festival, a woman who is bearing a lot of stress these days; Judo, the technical director.

The Ugandan: Pamela Acaye, a playwright and friend of Gloria - special-ness incarnate.

The Belgians: there are two. Carie and Manu. They are the technicians we work with. They are tireless.

The Film Crew: John Westhauser, DOP and co-director of the documentary being made about this tour; Tyler Cook, sound man and the youngest of us all (aka "John Smith" - from the hotel reservation that was made for him before we knew his name!);

The Significant Others: Jeannie Calleja, Gord's wife, and AD for the documentary; Stefan Monnet, Amy's partner, along for the trip, and generally helpful.

These are good people to spend this time with, time that will change us all.