After the ten day training and rehearsal period here in Jalalabad with Maiwand Theatre Company both the men and the women have done their first productions, and now are heading back to Kandahar to arrange four more performances each.
Despite losing a day over the recent anti-film protests (not here, as far as I can tell) we accomplished a lot. Having the Kandahar team here 24-7 meant we could have more time with them, and they were motivated enough to train and rehearse on their own some evenings and early mornings. For the men's group, we decided to use a script written by our Nangahar Theatre collaborator, Zhwandoon; and for the women we used the script we developed last year with the Nangahar women's team. The men's show promoted the civil and religious laws that favor the rights of women (forced marriage not allowed, no violence), and the women's show called for unity among women and an end to the "backbiting".
This was a good opportunity to revisit past work. Both shows were previously produced by other teams, and the directors of the previous versions were on hand to help remount the new adaptations. Thus they got to see how we adapt and direct based on the strengths (or, in some cases, the lack thereof) of different actors for the same material. We also could delve a little deeper in acting technique without having to create new material.
The men performed yesterday at the Lincoln Learning Center to 75 appreciative high school and college age students, while the women performed early today at a women's training center (I forgot to get the stats from Joanna, sorry). Both shows went very well, in our humble opinions.
There are a great many new insights and stories associated with the process, and I'll try to get them down in future updates, but here is one from rehearsing the guy's show. Though the basic story line has serious intent, one actor played the clownish nephew, and he was pretty good in the part. The central object in this tale is a government published book on the laws of the rights of women. At one point the nephew is holding the book up by his face as the teacher points out this and that law. His uncle comes up and slaps him on the back, and he closes the book on his nose. Funny comedy bit (if they get the timing right, which is about 65% of the time). Well, in our last rehearsal before the performance, one of the actors points out that the book also has Koranic laws written in it as well (NOW he tells me) and some members of the audience might not think it so funny. Well, I tell them, you guys gotta be the judge on this; if you think it's a problem then we don't have to do the bit, BUT (deep breath here), if the point of the show is to see how much the audience really knows about what is written in the law, this will give you an indication of what they know. I bet most of them never heard of this book, much less know what's in it, that's what you are trying to tell them. So maybe do the bit, and see if indeed you get a reaction. Well, they understood my point, but the consensus was maybe they shouldn't do it.
Of course, come show time and the actors clearly forgot the entire conversation, because they did the bit anyway, and nobody stormed the stage. It didn't get much of a laugh either, despite the timing being pretty good. I think more than anything else the whole concept of live theatre is still new to live audiences, and they don't quite know how to react until the end, when they applauded enthusiastically.
We'll be here in Jalalabad until Friday with some follow-up with our local teams, and then head back to Kabul to check in with the teams there.
Despite whatever is going on around the world, it's still a pretty big world, and it's been safe and sound in our neck of the woods. Still, we'll keep our eyes open and ears close to the ground, and follow the advice of our friends.