We are the champions

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Pretty much all schools have an annual event like this: the public acknowledgment of its students’, pupils’, learners’ achievements. At first, the proceedings at DCS were familiar: a procession of young people marching onto stage for a handshake and a book or certificate. Rather like the nations entering the stadium at the Olympic opening ceremony – vital, but you sit through it to get to the fun part.

The subtle differences began to emerge with the announcement of the Head Boy and Girl. The latter was clearly an immensely popular choice, announced by half the audience leaping to its feet for sustained cheering.

Then came the choir, and the increasing Africanisation of the whole event, culminating in the final song which had most of the school on its feet joining in.  If only all speech days were like this…

Sisters (are doing it for themselves)…

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First full rehearsal, and it was slow going.  I’d hoped to 1. read through the Three Sisters play, 2. try out some cast created sound effects, and 3. maybe divide the cast into the three families in the play… but as it happened we didn’t even finish 1.

There were various reasons – a few of the cast weren’t there, or had dropped out, or both; not all of the chosen cast were as focused as one would want; but mostly, I had been over-ambitious, and hadn’t organised enough for everyone to do.

Early days and all that, and maybe not the worst thing to remind myself that putting on a play, any play, is not a piece of cake; and that a complex play, like this one, is an even more difficult piece of confectionery.

Reflections – a fortnight in Africa

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First rehearsal proper today, called for just the main speaking roles in the first two plays.  They were late arriving – as noted before, some things are the same the world over – but once we began, everything clicked.

The characters I had imagined in my head came alive on stage: the devious spider, the sinister leopard, the flighty fairy, the cannibal and his wife… and, pictured, the lost twins: Hansel and Gretel’s African cousins.

Ideas, rather like the hornets in the first play and the bees in the second, are a-buzzing…

 

And they’re off!

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First rehearsal proper today, called for just the main speaking roles in the first two plays.  They were late arriving – as noted before, some things are the same the world over – but once we began, everything clicked.

The characters I had imagined in my head came alive on stage: the devious spider, the sinister leopard, the flighty fairy, the cannibal and his wife… and, pictured, the lost twins: Hansel and Gretel’s African cousins.

Ideas, rather like the hornets in the first play and the bees in the second, are a-buzzing…

Happy Feast day

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Thursday is the day that the whole school, from tiny two year olds up, processes across the road to St Anne’s, the local Catholic church. It is quite a logistical exercise, especially the “across the road” section, stewarded by hordes of hi-viz jacketed learners, and involves stopping the traffic for minutes at a time with the aid of whistles and portable STOP signs.

Today was notable for being the feast day of St Thomas Aquinas, one of the patron saints of DCS – hence the special staff contribution.  Needless to say, once we’d started I forgot all the words, and moves, I thought I knew.  Guess I’d better brush up me Zulu.

 

Lentswe lea Bua…

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(No staff were injured in the making of this video.)

Wandered into the staffroom at breaktime to discover a rehearsal, led by Rosa Motha, the DCS choirmistress, in full swing; it was the staff’s turn to run tomorrow’s church service.  It took some coaxing for me to join in – a seSotho song with accompanying movement was a little outside my comfort zone – but a Drama teacher can hardly claim he doesn’t do that sort of thing.

We were, however, seriously distracted by Lucky Ratlhagane (off-camera), the dance, drumming and marimba teacher, who was demonstrating some highly inappropriate movement.  And I was not about to assault Rosa (though that’s what it looks like.)

 

Audition!

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They say that great drama springs from constraints; so we are clearly destined for quite a show, as the constraints on this first audition were considerable.  On the plus side, it was great to have so many people there (more girls than boys though; some things are apparently universal.) On the other hand, the Hall was being used by the Junior School choir and any outdoor space was rendered impossible when the heavens opened. So we piled up the desks and squeezed into the Drama classroom.

There was scarcely room to swing a cat (English colloquial expression), but they took to their audition task enthusiastically, constructing a short scene based on a strict choice between the story of Adam, Eve and the Snake… and anything else they fancied. The results were hugely entertaining, and took me right back to the equivalent opening sessions with Thame Youth Theatre (if that means anything to you), when we would have a lot of fun… before getting down to work.

The braai…

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Parents’ meetings here at Dominican are a little different.

The formal consultation took place on Saturday morning, then at lunchtime there was a braai (a South African barbecue) for all – parents, teachers, and learners alike.  Everyone got a box of meat – in our case, that was a huge steak, an enormous sausage, and a relatively normal-sized lamb chop… each.  Then you either cooked it yourself at one of ten or so oil-drum barbecues, or one of Dayle’s team did it for you. Dayle is the guy in green.  De- (with apologies to the vegetarians out there) -licious.

The atmosphere was terrific – warm, friendly, and punctuated by gales of laughter.  We’ve been here a week now, and already have been made to feel part of the DCS family.

 

Highbrow? Hardly…

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An encounter with a learner (the charming term they use here for a pupil) during a lesson today: she raises her hand, and I make my way to her through the somewhat crowded classroom.

“Yes?  How can I help?”

“Please sir, this is not Drama-related, but your eyebrows are rather long.  How long are they?”

“Do you know, I have no idea.”

New kid on the block

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With Viloshni having to undergo her latest bout of chemo, I had to cover a couple of her lessons on my own…  In other words, teach!  It’s a bit like riding a bike – not the bit about not forgetting so much as you wobble quite a bit until sheer momentum gets you heading more or less in the right direction.

If any of you out there have ever had the experience of being taught by me, they would have recognised the lesson on spontaneous improvisation, starting with Crossing the Circle.  Only five in that particular class, meaning. I had to join in as well (just try and stop me).