Kampala International Theatre Festival opens to the public on Wednesday 23rd, November. However, it never starts when the curtains open. There is a lot of labour that goes into a festival before it is accessible to all. Part of this labour is the workshops that bring together the playwrights, the actors, the directors and other players into producing some memorable work when the festival opens.
The first workshop of the festival is being led by Obehi Janice, who with six actors are reading and discussing Achiro P Olwoch’s story “The Surrogate”. If you don’t know Achiro, she’s the creator of Urban TV’s “The Coffee Shop”. She describes herself as a writer who at the moment is trying out new forms. Her forte is screenwriting but at KITF this year, she is coursing into playwriting.
“The Surrogate” is built on a very dramatic premise: A homosexual couple that desires the help of a surrogate mother whose getting pregnant out of wedlock puts all the three in trouble. The thing that intrigues me about the actors discussing the play is how they own the story. Each of the six strips down into their character and informs Achiro’s proceeding rewrites.
I get the feeling acting is a form of surrogacy. Bearing that which is not ours. Inasmuch as I believe this, Kemi feels different.
Kemiyondo Coutinho is facilitating a workshop entitled “Stripping Acting from Acting”. A small chat with her before the workshop starts, she explains that in a lot of Ugandan acting, instead of harnessing our experience with our multidimensional emotional scape,we instead dress up with lies and end up being easily identified as merely acting. In her point of view, actors need to “be real”. Her workshop for that matter delved into how to extract the most raw and authentic performance from her actors.
Getting into this workshop, there was a tension I did not expect. I witnessed four couples at different times all respond differently to Kemi’s mostly consistent prompts. For one of the couples, there was a palpable sexual tension that put the audience on edge. Another couple displayed a very comical exchange that had the audience guffawing; and then one was awkward it put the audience at odds.
I vote surrogacy although Kemi votes stripping down.
Obehi Janice sounds larger than life. In addition to directing Achiro’s play, she’s sharing skills in storytelling. From her session, you appreciate the fact that acting is not a mental exertion alone. It involves very physical things like how to breathe, move, shout, scream, dance, fight and more. As she interacts with her “students” you learn how these simple things help strip down the person into their “realest” form.
Day One’s Workshops also had the actors rehearsing for another play “The Most Wretched of the Earth”.
The 3 days, Monday to Wednesday to me are like an elaborate artistic pregnancy. From the experiences in the three sessions on Monday, you understand actors get to carry and feel things we the audience are afraid to feel. The playwrights bear ideas that we the audience are afraid to think. Follow the blog to understand more of what we mean. For now, we hope to see you on Wednesday!