“The Emotion is in the Words”. Obehi remarks as she directs her actors in their preparation for the stage reading of Achiro P Olwoch’s “The Surrogate”.
Observing the exercise, you realise that stage reading is not as clear cut as it seems to be. In much of the acting I have witnessed in Uganda, actors are used to expressing themselves physically when acting, and that means they move, they point, they jump, guffaw, bawl. Ugandan acting is very melodramatic.
In this training, Obehi’s statement “The emotion is in the words” recurs a great deal in her directing. The demands are that the emotion is evoked in the words. How they are said, when they are said, their intonation, exclamations; all these make a difference in how emotions are received in the audience.
It’s the third day of preparation for the showing of Achiro’s play which is scheduled for 5pm, Friday 25th November.
There has been a process. Monday started with the actors reading the play between themselves, engaging the writer – Achiro, on different aspects they thought needed to change or make more sense.
Obehi contributed different remarks such as on setting and the differences that must be observed when dealing with screenwriting vis a vis writing a stage play. Achiro is more comfortable in screenwriting given her work in television so suggestions are made to how the text might have to change . It is clear that among artistes, a script is never complete because at the end of the session, Achiro has to make rewrites. In fact she spends much of the afternoon on the first day rewriting her script.
It is not a matter of reading. The challenge with a stage reading is to evoke the emotions with the words and voice and minimal body actions. The actors go through several takes. Obehi is addressing some of the issues that keep recurring. Sometimes she suggests that the script change to accommodate the actor, sometimes that the actor perfect what is being asked.
It is not as simple as I imagined it would be. However, the air among the cast is of accepting challenges. The actors are asked to make notes on their scripts to remember cues and make adjustments. I imagine by the time we finally see “The Surrogate”, none of us will see what it has taken to produce the beauty I predict we shall see, but I hope if there’s one thing you notice, it’s the emotion in the words.