Rehearsals week 3

posted in: Teaching in Lesvos | 1

A rollercoaster of a week.  We still had three big scenes to translate – hard, slow, tedious work, but necessary.  Deborah had sent me along a regular helper/interpreter – Isaq Ali, one of her more advanced students – but his English is a little shaky.  We struggled, therefore, with the text, and it did not help that Ali, my storyteller, decided he did not need to be there and left the rehearsal.  It was all a bit depressing, though did improve when we finished the wedding scene and were able to “stand it up”.

I woke feeling very worried about all aspects of the show, and very anxious.  It is a regular condition for me, but no less depressing for all that. We had two scenes to be translated, including the most difficult one of all, the final trial scene – long, complicated, but vital. And when Ali did not turn up, despite the fact that the storyteller becomes Azdak, at the heart of this scene, I whatsapped him, and he replied immediately, to say he was withdrawing from the production. Hm!

I turned to Isaq Ali – would he take it on?  “Of course.” And so we could get on with the rehearsal – translating, then putting it on its feet.  And suddenly things came to life.  Everyone was involved in the scene, and my new Azdak was a massive improvement on the old one.

The next day Isaq Ali and the two others involved in the final scene we had to work on came in early, and we were able to work on the text in the privacy of a classroom, without distractions.  The play is now complete – some lines in Farsi, some in English, enough, we hope for everyone to be able to follow the story.  A weight was lifted from my shoulders.

When everyone else arrived, I informed them that, as a reward for their patience and forbearance over the past two days, we would put the scripts away for the day and have fun.  They were predictably pleased.  And fun was what followed.  Some of you will know – a few from bitter experience – that I am a big fan of the game Zip Zap Boing, and I have now taught it on four continents.  But maybe this is the group who have embraced it with the greatest enthusiasm and sense of fun that I have ever met.  There was so much laughter that there were people curled up on the floor in hysterics.  And other games too.

Then we reminded ourselves of the joy of slow-motion, and how it allows time – time to use the face, for reactions, for slowly dawning realisation.  We finished with a popular improvisation structure: the Park Bench. Someone arrives, another person joins them, the first person leaves, another one comes, etc. A mini-scene with each encounter.  This was the first time I had ever used silence and slow-motion, and without a second of pre-planning there was the most fantastic theatre: funny, clever, imaginative.  As I told them afterwards, it was times like this that reminded me why I love my job so much.

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