If you would like to view just the workshop report, click here.
This week, I’ve started preparing for the final performances on the 3rd and 4th of November. Invitations were printed in English and Tamil, and cut at a printers to save me the time of individually cut out 50+ invites – I wanted each of the children to be able to take home an individualised invitation, so that the parents are more encouraged to send them for the workshops, and the children themselves feel special. Also, I am a late adapter of something Karen said helped her in her recycled crafts workshops in Palestine – sending notes to parents increases support! I am often troubled by how alienated I still feel from the villages, and this is my way of trying to get a little closer.
Menaka Wijenaike, a friend from school – and fellow actress! – joined me for the first time this week, and Irfadha Muzammil also joined me, for the second time. We met at Fort Railway with time to spare – Minky arrived with egg sandwiches, Aunty Ashanthi’s famous brownies, and mineral water. Not too long ago, Vavuniya was Destination Unknown to me, and in a few short months it has become comfortable and familiar – I forget how lucky I am to have this privilege, and how far Vavuniya sits on the margins of what we in Colombo know.
I enlisted Minky’s and Irafadha’s help in pasting the Tamil invites to parents (printed cheaply on white paper) on to pieces of coloured backing board, so that it wouldn’t look cheap, and place each in a separate envelope. We busily glued while lazily watching Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland on the ExpoRail screens. The invites looked quite nice at the end! I also started making notes of all the things I have to do to complete my grad school applications – turns out I have quite a lot of stuff to do, given that I also have to apply for outside scholarships! The train was late again, and I watched Rise of Planet of the Apes and planned, somewhat fitfully and fretfully towards the end. And then we were there. It had been raining in Vavuniya throughout the week, and I happened to slide ungracefully through a small patch of mud outside the station…oops!
We got to the hotel without incident, and I arranged with Mr Premadasa to buy our train tickets for Monday, since we’d be leaving the next day earlier than 7am (which is when the regional ticket booking counter opens in Vavuniya – you can book tickets till 10.30am, or between 3.30pm and 4.30pm). I also enlisted Minky’s and Irfadha’s help (again) in writing out individualised costume lists for the children, so that we could distribute them on Sunday and minimise the possibility of the children forgetting what costume to bring/wear for our Monday rehearsal. By the time we went to sleep it was almost midnight, and I wasn’t really looking forward to waking up at 5.30am! But we did, and we were ready by 6.15am, whereupon I called Kamal. Turned out he’d overslept (!) but he seemed to have hurriedly dressed and arrived by 6.40. Irfadha and I napped nearly all the way to Chiraddikulam, but with all that rattling it didn’t quite feel like a nap.
When we arrived, I was in for a disappointment. Turned out several kids were down with fever, and one of my leads – Thuraichchelvan – appeared to be in Nattankandal. I wasn’t entirely convinced by this story, and Vinodh later told me that Thuraichchelvan didn’t want to be part of the drama workshops. That made me a little sadder than Mayuran pretending to have fever, because I honestly felt like Thuraichchelvan enjoyed being there. Oh well, perhaps I should count my successes – Vinodh has always seemed like he’d been dragged to the workshops, but now he seems a lot more chatty and happy to be there. Anosanth was also missing, which was sad; his comet-like appearances are always made up for by his enthusiasm. Thibadharshini and Vanoja were also amongst the missing, but I was assured by Loheswari that they wanted to come, but they were truly ill. I felt glad that Irfadha and Minks were there – it’s always easier to deal with disappointments when you have friends to help you out. I also hope those children get better soon.
When we arrived in Kakkaiyankulam, we found that while most were there, some parents had still been unwilling to send their children. I don’t know whether it was the rain, or the fast that they’re not sure what the merit of these workshops are, or whether (as in the case of the mother of Asna, Faasil and Sahir) that we’d arrived back late from one workshop – although it didn’t explain why Aasir alone was allowed to come. I wished more than ever that I’d had more of a rapport with the parents, and that I’d implemented a note-system earlier. Next time!
We started off with buns and Milo, for the benefit of those who hadn’t had breakfast, then moved into rehearsal. I gave over the group I’d worked with last week to Minks and Irfadha, and worked with the cast of Looking for Pradeep. I wasn’t sure why, but somehow blocking movements seemed to take a lot longer. Perhaps it’s that I was being a perfectionist. Loheswari kept saying her lines with no expression and a lot of embarrassed giggling, so I had to work a little extra on her. After a while, she started picking things up. Afrin is not an actor, and he’s also not very literate, so he had a lot of difficulty reading out his lines. Meanwhile, Aasir, who had his own lines and Thuraichchelvan’s, did his part with relative success, but kept trying to wander all over the stage as he narrated.
I managed to get about 70% done, but I could tell that by that point, the kids were really tired. I didn’t want to keep pushing them, so we allowed both groups to show what they’d done – during which I realised that Looking for Pradeep is somehow longer, even though it’s the same number of pages! I managed to take two inexpert videos of this bit as well. We then broke for biscuits and played a few games (the standard Fruit Bowl, relays, and Dog and the Bone – I wish I had one more!) before calling it a day.
I started handing out all the invitations, and told them several times that it wasn’t necessary to bring new clothes to the rehearsals/performance, old things would be fine. It started raining as I was instructing them, though, and we tried to wait it out. The children seemed to be fascinated by the invites (Aasir, the only one of the four sibling to be in the workshop today, shouted triumphantly, “I have four invitations!”), though, which was nice. Finally, Irfadha suggested we send the Kakkaiyankulam children home by van, so that they would get home too late or too wet!
For some reason, this workshop was more exhausting than most, so when we dropped the Chiraddikulam children back home, I was unable to do anything except nap all the way back to Thai Hotel, again!
After a shower (unfortunately not warm, but what can you do!), I felt decidedly less grubby, and also tried to call Mr Farhan and Major Edirisinghe several times about the next day’s workshop, but failed. I had to try to comfort myself with the thought that I’d told them I’d be there the next day and that I hoped they would remember. Today was definitely an interesting time to reflect on the many mistakes I’ve made. It’s been difficult getting all the children together at the same time, with the result that workshops have started and ended late (also when drivers arrive late). Parents are also unlike ours – few have ever looked in to see what is happening in the workshops, and attendance amongst the children is uneven. I’d like to see how successful I am when I do some of these things (in no particular order except that in which I am remembering them:
- Be more strict about attendance
- Have workshops only on the weekends (that means no “make-up” classes during the week, but that he children will learn to keep a specific day of the week for workshops)
- Work on language instead of drama
- Find ways to interact with the parents more (even via printed notes sent through the children)
- Send out a calendar of dates at the beginning of the workshops
(I’ll add more when I think of them)
I did a little blogging before we called Mr P to take us back to the town to visit Best Prathap Restaurant for some more delicious Jaffna-style curries for dinner. We set off in the rain, only to be faced with another minor disappointment – Best Prathap was closed! So we decided to dine at the much-fancier White Stone Restaurant, conveniently located next to theVavuniya Cargills (and that Dilsiri had said was quite good. We placed our order, and were told it would take 20 minutes, so we went to Cargills to buy snacks for the kids and for ourselves. We took a little longer than expected, so we rather hoped that by that time that our meal would be ready. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. We suspect they only started making our food when we returned! We had to wait another 20 minutes, and I felt very sorry for Mr Premadasa, who had politely declined to join us, and I was also getting grumpier by the minute seeing everyone around me tucking in to their food while our tabletop remained empty. When our food finally arrived we attacked it like bears – and had to ask for two extra paratha’s, because we were so hungry. The curries were excellent, though (my personal favourite was the cuttlefish) and we thought our Rs. 1500 was well-spent. (We also tipped Mr P generously for having to wait so long for us). Pleasantly – no, uncomfortably – full, and exhausted, I was asleep by 9.30pm.