Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day in the Life: Jalalabad Update 7

Michael writes (and photographs!) from the Theatre for Social Development project with Nangarhar Provincial Theatre in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

So here is a photo entry that will give you a rough idea of a day in the lives of some a-typical Americans and Afghans in the city of Jalalabad.

Firstly: Joanna boarding the embassy arranged flight from Kabul to Jalalabad.  Okay, we don't do that everyday, but it did start our adventure here.

The Bond Street Theatre team: Joanna, Jamail - our Pashto-speaking translator from Kabul, and Sahar, our native New Yorker actress and Dari speaker.
And me - working hard at the Yellow House, our rehearsal space for the Nangarhar Provincial Theater men's company.  
The Yellow House is an oasis for the Nangarhar artists, founded and supported by the Australian filmmaker George Gittoes and the actress Hellen Rose.  Hellen tells a fascinating tale of their work in Jalalabad here: 
As for the artists themselves, check out:

Also in residency at the Yellow House, an interspecies collaboration between Ezmarai the dog and Dali the monkey.

In the mornings we have been training a new team of young women -- 14 in the workshops, of which six are creating a new show. 

Yeah, the picture looks pretty static -  chairs, lecture, blah blah - but that has NOT been typical of the work.  The morning starts with a vigorous warm up by your's truly, followed by various exercises and techniques in physical theatre and forum theatre by the three of us (with translations by Sahar and Jamail).  
Though they were a bit shy and unsure at first, they quickly warmed to the work and have a great time.   As you may have gathered by the other entries here, photographs are a BIG problem for them-- the proliferation of Facebook and the internet and the misuse and abuse of photos of women in the past makes this very conservative culture very wary of cameras.   Hence, the best we could do above was the back of their heads.   So it goes.

The culture is not shy about photos of the guys, so here are two from our afternoon sessions with them:


Since April 12 Joanna and Sahar have been directing the six women in a new show, by the women and exclusively for women. Titled "Women Against Women, Women for Women" the show deals with how some women in the community can actually be the cause of problems for other women with the spread of false rumors, innuendo, and "back-biting". Performances starting next week will be at three women's centers, a safe house for children, and the Nangarhar Women’s Prison. 

 Here the women proudly display their certificates for completing the training part of our program:


I have not been so involved in creating the women's show, concentrating on getting the guy's act together.   Their show is called "Da Zangal Qanoon", Pashto for "The Law of the Jungle", wherein an auto-rickshaw driver and a lawyer get lost in the jungle, a metaphor for Afghanistan and a lesson in the virtues of the rule of law in a potentially lawless society.  It's pretty funny and serious at the same time:

The Jungle - and the Tiger about to eat a hapless Hunter
The Turtle, on left, wins the race because the corrupt official wasted the rabbit's time in demanding a bribe. The Lawyer rejoices with the Turtle - because, in fact, the rabbit was trying to cheat the poor old Turtle anyway. See, it can be pretty strange and complicated here in Afghanistan.

So complicated in fact, that I sometimes don't know what's going on, a challenge for directing.  Actually, I get enough translation and most of the actors speak some English, so communication has been pretty direct.
Here the Lawyer, on left played by Shams, is trying to avoid getting eaten by the Tiger, Hideri on the right.  No, he doesn't get eaten, he's actually a good lawyer (I told you it was strange in Afghanistan).

After the rehearsals, the tech savvy get crackin' with the wireless internet connection here at the Yellow House, sometimes past sundown before heading back to the Hotel - a 5 minute auto rickshaw drive away.



A surprise birthday party for Sahar thrown by the Nangahar men's team.

Nice shot of J at a lovely family park outside of Jalalabad the women's team took us one afternoon.   The park was actually next to a Hydro-Electric dam on the Kabul-Jalalabad river.  That's the rushing melting snow behind me.

And that's it for this entry.  Performances start next week.

Watch this space.

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