remember how i said i was directing some youths? learning experience all around- those youths (age average, 6th-8th grade) damn near killed me, then turned around and told me they love me and i have to come back and direct them again next year. i just ran into one of the gremlins during tech-dinner with a few edward3 cast members (rosie, who it’s good to work with again, and a chick i was briefly in college with).
so, starting late (other schools cast it by december for an early march performance with christmas break in between) with only 6weeks total going into auditions, we originally called 2days of auditions- day1 for general auditions, day2 for conflicts and callbacks.
lesson #1: the audition process is indicative of how the whole production will operate, start to finish.
they said they usually did a “workshop” before auditions, where the auditor would help the determined analyse text and work on their pieces. i said it wasn’t necessary- i wanted to see how quickly they grasped the language on their own and how well they took direction, so i sent out sides on monday for semi-cold readings wednesday-thursday. anybody who didn’t take sides in advance got them when they arrived, and auditioned last so they had some prep time. i just used scenes from midsummer for auditions because i didn’t want to choose a play before i saw the talent pool, so i was simply looking for 22 students who looked like they could handle performing shakespeare for a healthy audience (the folger’s stage limit is 25, and we wanted offer the opportuntity to as many as possible, leaving room for musicians and/or stage crew).
lesson #2: at this age, in urban
america, the confident students seem to be white girls and black boys; overall, white boys and black girls made a poor showing @ auditions.

lesson #3: they are not professionals- if taking on a similar challenge, remember this detail and bring a camera to auditions (so glad i thought of it in advance) because they don’t have standard headshot/resumes so you have no other way to put faces to those names on the pages post-audition. also remember this lack of professionalism applies to timely progress, commitment, and similarly important parts of the process of creating theatre- not that i expect them to be professional @ their age+stage, i’m just saying to recognise the ramifications.
auditions took so much longer than i expected. we could’ve used another day, but couldn’t afford the time, which was the theme of the process.
i racked my brain trying to figure out what shakespeare worked with the audition fallout. i asked for suggestions on the audition form because i wanted to know what they were interested in, but the few who suggested all said midsummer, which i’d suspected since the reason i refused to do it is that every year, way too many @ the festival do- there’s nothing quite as lame as the day’s 4th mediocre half-hour cut of midsummer, featuring an overly-shrill helena-hermia-catfight delivered by non-professionals with no vocal variation, comic timing or real stage combat, no matter how much you like shakespeare or working with youths, or both. i wanted my students to do something different from the rest. i thought about richard3 and would’ve done it with more time, but it didn’t seem wise to try anything requiring too much backstory- 5weeks of rehearsal isn’t enough to explain the relationships and histories. thus, choices were narrowed to a comedy. then i realised the thing to do was the comedy with the right number of characters- i picked as you like it because it had so many characters in it’s simple plot.
i cut it to what i thought was a half-hour script (i’d thought we got 45minutes onstage, but no) which i was to find out too late, was not half-an-hour-long in their hands. i set up a rehearsal schedule, assigned roles, shifted some lines and characters to make best use of what i had, and started working through the text with them, making sure they understood every word, so they could deliver with verisimilitude.
lesson #4: no matter how many times you tell them to ask about anything they don’t understand, they won’t. and then, when you ask them what something means and they can’t tell you, they’ll promise to ask in future, but still won’t. they’re not that smart yet.
it was like pulling teeth. it took forever. i’d eased them up by breaking up rehearsal to only call those i’d need for a limited number of scenes each day, since we were starting @ the top and working our way through, in order, deconstructing language along the way. every day we didn’t get as far we should’ve because those gremlins were always late, in spite of the fact that they didn’t even have to change buildings to get to rehearsal after school, with time accomodation for lockers, bathroom and babble before they had to be ready. i also never had a single rehearsal with every cast member called, literally until the final rehearsal, on the day of the performance @ their school (day before the folger). they drove me to distraction.
lesson #5: do not assume that because they chose to audition for a play they must know that the point of being in a play is acting, and thus it doesn’t matter whether they like each other in real life or not.
lesson #6: do not assume that they can see far enough past who they like/hate this week to recognise that if they don’t come to rehearsal, they’ll be the ones onstage not knowing lines+blocking, and that when they don’t turn up others in their scenes can’t rehearse either.
i damn near killed some of them. repeatedly. there was a point when i genuinely believed that they wouldn’t be ready to go on, and cried. and that’s not even counting shit like the school having to go through
dcps to get a ladder delivered to the premises to hang the backdrop for the performance @ the school, never getting it, and parents having to weight balls of twine and throw them up+over the grid to hang it from the corners without support so it never looked right; or facilities never cleaning up the broken glass offstage right, or the fact that of all the stage lights we only had lamps in a maximum of 7, and sometimes none at all- it was the worst.

but those youths was a best- i had a girl come and tell me she wanted to play jaques because she wanted the “all the world’s a stage…” monologue. i made her audition with it, and she rocked it, so i had a killer jaques (she was awarded for excellence in acting @ the folger)- plus, the youth i cast as touchstone because he had so much damn lip was so amazingly good that he shared the top award of the day with a little feste who looked to be barely 11 but delivered one of the best feste’s i’ve seen, making the day’s other, very good and noticeably older feste look slight by comparison, making me relieved that 2nd-best-feste distinguished herself by closing with such a sweet little a capella solo that everybody went home deservedly rewarded.
and apparently, my touchstone’s mom ran into the mistress of the revels smoking a cigarette outside and the mistress, knowing i’d directed one of the schools, asked who she was there to see, and was told “my boy markus; he’s playing tombstone”…
we had a ball, in spite of glitches like my silvius (dopey sweet, very smart, but seemingly dyslexic) missing an entrance and keeping us waiting for about a minute during the school performance because he thought he had time to go to the bathroom down the hall during a supposedly half-hour performance, then @ the folger, cracking the back of his head on the ground during his stage-fall and scaring the shit out of us, minutes before his mom arrived, late and having missed the whole performance because he ignored my advice to call parents during the break and let them know we’d be going on earlier than previously stated- he went down and just didn’t get back up, which made us all think he’d forgotten his line and was stalling- it took a minute to realise he wasn’t up because he couldn’t. i had to run up onstage and help him up but he insisted on finishing the show- grims got him an ice-pack and he got hugged+kissed and publicly lauded by the mistress and was everybody’s hero in the end, after nearly giving me a couple of low-grade heart-attacks.
they were so good @ the folger, after being so bad. but by the end of the process they were loving the daily warmup, which they’d hated when i instituted it to strengthen+loosen bodies+voices- reminding me if i left out anything (even pelvic isolations, which they’re usually way to embarrassed about @ that age), remembering that nobody goes to theatre to see ordinary people living ordinary lives, using correct stage vocabulary and etiquette, and plus, they somehow found much better manners than they had when i met them. some of them truly learned what actors’, directors’ and writers’ tools are and how to develop them.
i was really proud of all the work they did, their parents were thrilled to bits, and they all want to work with me again, so my standard concept worked: treat them like the young adults they are instead of like children, assume they can rather than can’t, and they’ll live up to the standard you set.
walk good.

this post is also over @ my usual haunt.

Advertisements

Pride & Music Prejudice

March 28, 2007

So I got the opportunity to attend Jazz on the Greens, an annual Jazz event held in Trinidad. It was my first time there and I gazed in awe at the plethora of Caribbean talent and the loyal Jazz-maniacs on their mats, chairs and blankets comfortably placed on the damp grass. The audience lit up in delight at every performance; like no other “Caribbean Jazz” event this festival was laced with pure Jazz music.

After all was absorbed, I got to thinking of how West Indians are musically influenced and socialized (I like to say programmed) I remember listening to the Barbados pop singer Rihanna on a television interview and hearing her say that she was minimally exposed to rock or heavy metal music on her island. I do not know much about Barbados or what Rihanna was exposed to but that fact is sad. Then too I have been the “victim” of snares and stares when my people realize that I listen to everything (yuh know mindin yuh business cruzin in yuh car poundin some ABBAJ ) Being young, black and living in the Caribbean I guess that it is expected that I should only listen to Soca, R&B, Reggae, Dancehall, Dub, Soul, Hip-Hop and Rap, which are all my favorite music genres by the way. But that’s what the popular local radio stations play. Isn’t it? However some of my favorite bands are Linkin Park, Sting, Goo Goo Dolls, The Beatles, ABBA and U2.

So this begs the questions – Who says what we should listen to? Why do some of us believe in the myth that urban black music is the only music, when urban black music was inspired by, (deep breath) Jimmy Hendrix, Little Richard, James Brown, Etta James, Billie Holiday, The Beatles, The Mighty Sparrow, Miles Davis, Winston “Spree” Simon, Celia Cruz, Lord Kitchener, Dizzy Gillespie, Len “Boogsie” Sharp, Tito Puente and yes Bob Marley? Why do we remember some and forget others? Where do you think Reggaeton evolved from?

Yes I know that sounded like a rant, maybe because it is, maybe it’s because it never cease to amaze me of how people so readily accept what is before finding out what was. We could once blame a lack of exposure and education but for the last twenty plus years we have been bombarded by American and Jamaican culture. So, somehow still, I believe we need to be a bit more curious, a bit more interested in history so that we can understand, appreciate and respect what is and not just accept what is.

So meanwhile we ignore Jazz, Calypso, Neo-Soul, Steel pan, Salsa and Heavy Metal these are a part of us. And while the only constant in life in change and the music must evolve, must we forget? Must we ignore the fact that these genres make up the heart that connects to the veins of urban music. We may not like everything-that’s ok- but I implore you to have an open mind. Make an attempt to understand and appreciate music history before you decide or society tells you what you should and should not listen to.

Hairstories

March 27, 2007

So here is my inaugural blog. Initially I thought about calling my ruminations “constructive commess” but I decided against it. While I cannot promise to always be constructive (in fact, many times I am not), I am however frequently creative minded. Now commess is a popular Trinbagonian colloquialism or trini-ism as I like to say. The word commess struck me as totally apt because of the way in which I imagined a space where I could dig into a variety of sometimes random and poignant observations or thoughts on things in my life, all through a Trini-esque lens of course. Sometimes it’s confusion cause I am totally random and that’s the way that my mind works. (Most of the stuff I write in the Junction blog will also be posted in my personal blog: “creative commess” as well, just fyi. Feel free  to look me up there at http://soyluv.wordpress.com/). So the following thoughts deal with black women’s hair. This blog really grew out of me writing a response to a friend’s myspace blog about her thoughts and concerns with wearing her hair natural. She explored the response from men (specifically black men) and their inability to accept that her hair is beautiful. She was constantly being plagued with assertions like, “you’re really pretty BUT…(insert appropriate criticism of Afro-textured unpermed hair here).

Now seeing that she epitomizes the look of the stereotypical mixed race sister, faced framed with a mass of soft, fuzzy curls. And yes, I used the word “soft” there strategically cause you know, REAL black hair supposedly isn’t. All this got me thinking about the ways in which black women’s hair functions as this politicized space. Hair can be political, it totally can and it really doesn’t matter what “type” of black girl you are either. Decisions, decisions. Fraught with so much meaning and imbued symbolism. To straighten or not to straighten? A conscious sister has got to rock dreads or an afro right? It also made me think about how growing up West Indian doesn’t mean that we don’t deal with all this either.

I grew up in the West Indies and I’ve never had a perm in my life, which is really not an anomaly where I come from. Part of this stemmed from my parents and the way I was raised, it just wasn’t something we were swayed to do. My mother wears her hair natural as well and she never indoctrinated me into the world of relaxers and whatnot. Of course women perm there all the time and there are enough people still existing in some post-colonial fog about what constitutes beauty and “good hair” (more on that later). We have all of that. But despite that, it’s still not all that uncommon to see plenty women rocking their natural hair.

So when I came to the states for school, it was amazing the numbers of people on any given week who were befuddled by my hair enough to ask questions and/or touch. First and foremost, people are always amazed that I never had a perm. Especially black people. Most significantly black people. People are always amazed that I am dark skinned female with natural hair that supposedly has some “length” allegedly. This is really what makes it a kind of “good hair” for some people. It’s good because it’s been know to graze the tops and bottom of shoulder blades. That in and of itself apparently boggles the mind. People of African descent have some ill conceived notion that black hair “does not grow.” It’s hair! It grows! This obsession with length and what constitutes length. This obsession with movement and what constitutes movement as if natural hair does not “move.” Oddly enough, these are the same people who don’t seem to connect the use of chemicals with unhealthy hair. If one is so inclined to think obsessively about length and all, then leaving your hair chemical free and natural would probably benefit it tremendously.

Even more mind-boggling are the people who grab a fistful of my hair strands and proclaim something like, “wow, it’s so–soft,” many times in an awe filled voice tinged with surprise. Again, usually but not always limited to people of color. What do they expect? It’s hair. Sigh. As for the popular rationale behind this supposed need for relaxers, as my mother once said to me, something is seriously wrong with a people saying that they cannot deal with their own hair. The psyche must be in crisis. I mean it’s YOUR hair. If you can’t “deal” with it, then who can? Added to which, there seems to be this social construction of black women out there revolving around the beauty industry. It’s true, there is a versatility in black hair that is reflected in the products and possibly the buying power of black women when it comes to hair care products.

We can relax, texturize, color, braid, perm, weave etc. and apparently we do so with enough regularity to support a thriving hair and beauty industry. The array of possibilities and the way in which it is presumed that all black women are predisposed to indulge in this market is everywhere. In my life, it is always other women of color saying, “girl, when you going to do something different?” There is this presupposition that I must somehow eventually get bored with my kind of hair. With MY hair. With my being. I am frequently running into yet another young black woman trying to entice me to change something hair-wise. Straighten it and get some versatility even though it is versatile already in its own way. And to be different. Different as opposed to what though? Me?

First of all I don’t have the desire, time, energy or disposable income to be running around changing weaves and refreshing micros and touching up relaxers on the regular. Second of all no one ever asks my white friends who have had their hair exactly the same for as long as I have known them (a lil trim here and there notwithstanding), just straight and natural all their life to switch it up.

So, hair is complicated. It’s just always been a part of me, like the color of my eyes or the hue of my skin. I didn’t choose one day to cut off a perm and find myself. And it’s okay if someone chooses to go that route or not. It’s always just been, me and this hair. I just think it’s very important to contextualize why we think the way we do and understand where this all comes from. Your hair is not difficult but if someone tells you that long enough from every angle, then you might just think it is. It’s sometimes annoying having to consistently validate to random other black women why it’s okay for me and my hair to have the freedom to just be. According to India.Arie, even though “I am not my hair,” if I was though, I’d be cool with that. Though that is not all that I am, personally I’d prefer that than people trying to make a concerted effort to separate me from well, me.

The Labourer

March 27, 2007

The Labourer

Paintings and Photographs by

Rachel Amy Rochford

March 5 – April 5
2007

Second View March 24th 2007
10am – 1 pm

United Nations House
3 Chancery Lane
Port of Spain
Trinidad

754-0162

“THE WORD”

March 27, 2007

RELEVANT THEATRE PRODUCTIONS
and SONGSHINE
PRESENT
“THE WORD”
A CELEBRATION OF POETRY AND RAPSO
At The STRAND
ON SUNDAY 1ST APRIL 2007 6:30PM

Feat. ATAKLAN, GILLIAN MOOR, OZY MAJIC, AKILAH RILEY, B.C. PIRES,
MUHAMMAD, IVORY, CHIKE PILGRIM, MICHAEL CHERRIE & GABRIELLE HOSEIN

TICKETS $50 INFO. 623-5108, 760-4655, 708-3793

KING LUTA AT TTW!

March 27, 2007

This week’s installment of TTW’s renowned Up Close & Personal Concert Series features 2006 Calypso Monarch, King Luta in concert. Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most prolific calypsonians, KING LUTA this Friday, March 30, 2007 at the Playwrights’ Theatre. Don’t miss this week’s special edition featuring Black Sage as singing MC. Tickets are $100 and, as usual, the Up Close and Personal experience will be all-inclusive, with complimentary drinks at intermission.

This Saturday, March 31st, 2007, TTW’s Film Series features Horace Ove’s cricket comedy, PLAYING AWAY. The 1986 feature tells the story of a West Indian cricket team from South London who are invited to play a charity match in a small English village to mark the conclusion of the village’s “Third World Week” celebration.

Considered by the LA Times as having “abundant humour”, PLAYING AWAY is a must see starring Norman Beaton of 90’s hit series, “Desmond’s”.

All events will be held at the newly refurbished and air-conditioned Playwrights’ Theatre, corner of Jerningham Avenue and Norfolk Street, Belmont. Seating at the Playwrights’ Theatre is extremely limited, so book your tickets early. Security will be provided for cars parked on the street. The After Carnival schedule can be found online at www.ttw.org.tt/nowplaying.html. For further information or to book tickets, please call 624-8502 or 627-8521 or email us at ttw@ttw.org.tt.

Be A Part of SPEAK

March 22, 2007

Be A Part of SPEAK

Poetry TV Show Starts Filming This Friday

March 22, 2007 – Port of Spain, Trinidad…Aya Vision, Trinidad and Tobago’s leading independent film producers, are calling on all interested persons to be a part of the audience at SPEAK, Trinidad and Tobago’s first performance poetry television show. The show will be hosted by rapso man, Wendell Manwarren, of the group 3 Canal.

SPEAK brings mainstream attention to a flourishing underground poetry scene featuring local and regional poets giving their thoughts on a wide range of issues of personal and national importance. Each half hour show will feature new artists alongside established icons of poetry and music, including Leroy Clarke, Brother Resistance, Levi Myaz, King David, Cecelia Salazar, Stanton Kewley and Ceteswayo Murai.

Filming of the 13 part series starts this Friday, March 23 and continues every Friday and Saturday for three consecutive weekends at Woodford Café Carpark, Woodford Street, Newtown.

Audience members should be seated by 6:30 p.m., as taping starts promptly at 7:00 p.m. For more information contact Aya Vision on (868) 624-5562 or (868) 716-0988 or email gfranco@gmail.com

WHAT: SPEAK, a poetry revolution for television

WHO: Emerging artists alongside established icons of poetry and music from the region and local arena, including Leroy Clarke, Brother Resistance, Levi Myaz, King David, Cecelia Salazar, Stanton Kewley and Ceteswayo Murai

WHEN: WEEK 1: March 23rd & 24th

WEEK 2: March 30th & 31st

WEEK 3: April 6th & 7th

WHERE: Woodford Café Carpark, Woodford Street, Newtown