Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Theater Festival

Now that it's mid-May, NAR's 2010 Theater Festival is in full swing. We've had 5 performances so far, and I'm happy to say that they've all gone really well, with the occasional mishaps that are always expected.

The theater program at NAR is composed of several actors between the ages of 19 and 31 who call themselves "One Family". They're semi-professional-- some have had their acting filmed for the Rwandan Prosecuter's office! They're such dynamic, intelligent people and I'm really lucky to be working with them. I did dance and drama for the majority of my youth (elementary school, high school, and college) and it makes me realize how much I miss both those things. It really is such a huge relief to be able to express yourself in a creative way like that. I also realized how much I miss being around people who regard the arts as something important. Being in Peace Corps, living in Rwanda, forces me to get creative in other ways, but I feel like there are a lot of creative outlets I haven't explored in quite some time. I work, visit neighbors, hang out with friends, but I feel like I need to step up and add something more, or i'm going to make my life very dull and boring.

Enough of my rant. Of the many actors in One Family, 14 of them are involved in the 2010 Theater Festival, and 11 of them are acting in the play. The play is about a Rwandan girl who transfers to a boarding school where she experiences human rights violations by both the administration and her peers. The play was written by two members of One Family and one professional writer. The story isn't particularly complicated but it is well written, well performed and has been well recieved by the audiences. Overall, the troupe will perform at 15 secondary schools. After each performance, each actor holds a small group discussion with members of the audience about human rights, both in the play and in their actual lives. After the discussion the students fill out surveys, which include the questions,"What human rights were violated in this play, Inzitane mu Rugamba, and "Give one example of how you can promote or protect human rights". I'm really pleased to say that so far, the students really like the play and really seem to understand the message. Since this is a play by and for students, it's a release that the students don't normally get. It's a platform for them to express their views and experiences with their peers, who support them and can empathize.

So what's my role in all this? Mostly logistical- I went to the 15 schools, met with the headmasters, and checked out the performance space. I left them with a letter explaining what NAR's theatre program was all about. Some fo the schools already knew us well, since we have youth clubs there. I made the performance schedule, was present at the writing of the play and rehearsals, and gave feedback. I did some directing and stage managing. I go to each performance and make sure everything is running ok. I also collect the surveys and record the answers. I really like my job- I like being able to work partly in the office, partly out and about in the community. I love communicating with the actors and seeing different student's reaction to the play. I'm definitely happy about this.

Before ending this post I should mention that I was able to see my relative, Jean! After a huge headache and hassle with a hotel reservation which wasn't kept, I was able to book him and his collegues a nice room, and I hung out with them for a few hours (they were only in Kigali one night). Amahoro.