Friday, October 9, 2009

Opening in Kigali

The Man in the Bar scene in the restaurant in Kigali

Friday, Oct. 9

1) I awake feeling less than good. I think it might be a hangover from the US Embassy reception, and subsequent dinner, but the bad feeling moves down into my stomach soon after breakfast at the Milles Collines. The crew is loading into Heaven today for tonight's opening. I catch up on my blogging, lying in bed. I will need to recover enough to get there for sound levels and LX focus.

Here's hoping...

2) The stomach doesn't seem to be getting better. I spend the rest of the morning in bed, then go to the "theatre" for the afternoon. The "theatre" is Heaven, a restaurant that we are turning into our performance space. It is stunningly beautiful. We will be performing outside on a large covered terrace, set at treetop level. We orient the show so that the audience will face us, and, as our backdrop, they will look out onto Kigali, and the hills of Rwanda. Gord would later say that he found this particular backdrop intense while he was performing. This is why i wanted to orient the show this way: could there be a more meaningful backdrop to this particular play?

The tech is going relatively well. Our two Belgians and Judo, the TD from Butare, are here now with gear. One of our dimmer packs doesn't work, but before we get too worried about this, Judo arrives with another dimmer pack. SO - we will have dimmable lights.

I hang around to position chairs so that Rebecca can focus her lights in the right places. I go through sound levels with Guillaume, then crawl back to the hotel, and fall into bed again.

Gastrointestinal problems in Africa. What one doesn't want.

3) I sleep much of the afternoon, then go to Heaven. It's 8:15pm when we arrive. Outside are parked a row of SUVs. This will be a very different crowd than the one we played to in Butare.

Dinner service at the restaurant is slow finishing. Our curtain time is advertised as 8:30, but we know it will be more like 9:30. As diners finish eating, their tables are struck, and rows of chairs are set out. The place is packed to overflowing. There is - as we'd suspected - a large ex-pat audience. I'd guess that just over half the audience is white. But this is also the biggest audience we've faced, so there are many Rwandans there, too.

4) I do the introductory chat in English - Laurette says this audience doesn't need translation. And then we do the show - Volcano's Kigali premiere. Or rather, the actors do the show. I sit in a little room off to the side, listening, sometimes lying on the floor, drinking gatorade and popping charcoal pills.

It goes well. There are some new things to contend with. Because we hung the lights in daylight, Rebecca couldn't set LX levels. So she designs the show on the fly. This woman is a genius. Her lighting looks tremendous. There is occasional traffic noise - the sound of a diesel Land Cruiser starting up, cars passing. Men walk into the courtyard beside the restaurant to talk on their cell phones, not realizing the sound carries onto the stage. I pop out of my wee sick room about three times to ask for quiet. The talkers are very apologetic. There are occasional loud bangs as something hard is dropped on the roof over the patio (a bird dropping something? a tree releasing a nut?). But - all of this seems inconsequential. The audience is focused and responsive. This crowd speaks English fluently, and I get the feeling they are understanding everything.

At the play's end, the applause starts slowly, then builds. This is the response i like - it signals there's been an effect. Some people rise to their feet. The actors get about six bows.

It went well.

5) I emerge for the talkback, with the actors. It is fascinating. The most interesting comments come from the Rwandans who stay. It is clear that they really received the play. One woman - Carole, an actress i met at the US Embassy the night before - speaks of how impossible simplicity is when dealing with genocide: you can't bring back the dead, you can't jail everyone who took part, you can't satisfy the wants of everyone, you can't have answers. She thought the play beautifully captured this complicated reality. Another man who was not in Rwanda during the genocide spoke about his desire to own the pain that his country went through, to make it part of himself. He was fascinated by the way pain worked in the play - and particularly that the Michael Redhill character could travel from pain to pain - from his divorce to the murder of his mother's people in Poland - from a pain he knew, to one that had occurred before his birth. This hit a chord with the young man, who found himself identifying completely with Michael Redhill.