Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008


The actors performed their 4th performance September 4 at the Maison de la Culture in Bejaia. Typical N—I called at 8:05 to see how far away she was: “I’m coming! But Taous you didn’t give me a precise time to arrive, you said 8pm.”

So of course rolled her eyes at the idea of warm ups and F apologized for having been a snot at the Ait Smail performance last Friday.

They had a very full house at the Maison de la Culture. It was the first play performed in the new small theatre. Energy was low as well as volume but they have started to own the show, started to be able to move smoothly through it…I feel quite proud of them. They want to continue so I sent Sa home with all the set pieces (there isn’t much) and fabric. We’ll see if they manage to organize themselves. I think they will.

Many poet types, older men generally, have insisted on sharing their poems written in Tamazigh with me, not understanding that I don’t really understand the language. Last night a man brought me a play he wrote in Tamazigh, and another tried to drag me into his office in the Maison de la Culture to share something he’d written with me.

Then there are the folktale purists who come and tell me: “But that’s not how that story goes! That’s not the REAL version.”

We spent a month exploring different styles of play, improvisation and creating characters. We collected about 20 different folktales tales and in three weeks created an hour-long show from three. Lots of wonderful people have popped up here in Bejaia these past few months, I will miss them. I will definitely miss looking at Ymma Gouraya and the sea everyday. And even though they drove me MAD I know in a week or so I will start to miss I, Sa, So, N, A, F and L.

Thank you all for following along on this journey. I’m going on vacation now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Bouzalouf is a dish that is made from parts of a sheep's head. Like the cheeks and tongue. I got all geared up to eat it last night, as I was famished from having fasted all day (it's Ramadan now) and I just couldn't do it. The part of the tongue flipped up towards me, the same consistency as my own tongue! I felt bad and rude and went to make an omelette. I was a vegetarian from age 9 to 23 and I think I still am one at heart...

I am wondering how the girls are going to handle a Ramadan performance. On a normal day they like to complain about not having much energy because of the imagine that mixed in with Ramadan...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Show's Up

31 August

2 performances at the theatre in Bejaia. The first performance was really high energy with a very supportive audience. Because they were not used to such a rambunceous audience the show felt choppy. There is this problem in theatre in Algeria of the INVITATION. Theatres all around Algeria have instigated this invitation policy where the theatre hands out invitations for every seat in the theatre and often times only let people in who have invitation. This means of course your audience is preselected and people who are not priveledged enough to receive an invitation think that going to the theatre is some sort of elitiste HIGH art event. So when a play is open to the public potential audience members don’t even think to come. And the invitation seems to be a sign of prestige. I gave a couple of invitations to the guys who work at my usual lunch restaurant and they let me eat for free that day…for the shows at the TRB I made the invitations at the insistence of the TRB but I let anyone who wanted to come into the theatre.

Friday we all piled into the TRB’s van and drove an hour and a half to the commune of Ait Smail. After lunch the light tech set up the lights and we did a long warm up. Then I said

Ok now we are going to do a run thru. “Normally we don’t do a run thru” says the lighting tech. And the actors “yeah!” And I said “we are in a new space we need do to a run thru!” Especially since volume has been a problem and the theatre was much bigger than the small theatre at the TRB. During the run thru N said something in an improv that was apparently inappropriate. She had said something during a TRB performance and the girls had something to me and I had completely forgot to talk to her. So in the middle of the run thru Sa just walked off the stage. And L followed. And the others tried to cover and somehow made it through to the bow. A couple of talks later we seemed to smooth out the problem. Then right before the show I went backstage to do a final short energy warm up. And I was met with rolling eyes and sagging shoulders and huffing and puffing. So I just said “ok. See you after the show.”

And it was their best performance yet for a couple of reasons—we spent a lot of time checking volume before the show, they are now allowing the show to breath, and the audience was tough—the house was packed, mainly with rather frustrated young people who were hooting and hollering as soon as the lights went to black. The actors had to step up their energy in order to pull in all that chaotic energy and they did it. After the show the cultural association that had invited us treated us all like rock stars, another newspaper interview, light bulbs flashing, the mayor sat in on the interview…

One more performance to go—on Thursday night at the Maison de la Culture in Bejaia as part of their Ramadan program. And today I’m back to Madame’s house until my departure…my lovely apartment was only rented until today…

Sunday, August 24, 2008


24 August

Lunch break. First tech through. Slowly making our way. Lots of things left to tighten but we will have 6 run thrus under our belt by the time Wednesday comes round. They are worried and stressed and I want to keep them that way. Wanting to work more so that they get more efficient during rehearsal time. It's not adding more hours and getting exhausted and frayed that will make a better show--it's learning how to be present in the time we have that will make the most difference. So I am trying to manage how to keep encouraging them but also letting them get a little freaked out at the same time. The light fellow is not very sensible--not so good at feeling the beats and timing things with feeling. But again. 6 more run thrus to go.

23 August

Before starting a stop and start run thru for the lighting tech I said to the group:

Being a professional doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid for your work. It’s state of mind, a way of carrying yourself and interacting with others. Many of you have told me that you are professionals or have had professional experience. I have yet to see it. Show me. Don’t tell me. And if there is one more fight I rip up the posters, call the papers to print a little something that says the show is cancelled, and we pack up and go.

And the day went really well.