BB9b: rusty thespians

Today I woke up a little disoriented in my new room. I feel like usually I know exactly what I need to do, but today I found myself staring at a notebook struggling to figure out everything I needed to do before the workshop, and I had a feeling of unease and unreadiness because I struggled so much to figure out my schedule. Apart from that, though, Indrans seemed to be a decent find. There is a mosquito net, and I realise I’m just so used to sleeping with a net that I like the cocoon-y feeling it gives – I know other people feel claustrophobic when using it, though. I also just get really irritable when I can hear a mosquito singing in my ear, and I’m glad I won’t have those issues at Indrans. The place is really nice and clean, and I’m so tempted to stay at a different place every week, just to be able to sample Vavuniya’s limited attractions, and write a review of each one. I feel as though I really want to write a guide to Vavuniya, even though I’m in the town for such a limited space of time, simply because all the connections I’ve made are simply so interesting and I want everyone else to know that Vavuniya’s charm is not necessarily in its sights and delights, but in its small-town people.

After a breakfast of bread and omelette (he didn’t realise I wanted a fried egg!) and coconut sambol, I put-putted into the town with Mr Premadasa. I wanted to photocopy the script, but didn’t have a lot of time, so I left the scripts in the photocopying place with instructions and hoped for the best. We went in search of a place to get print-outs (the photocopying place didn’t do prints) and we found a little place in the building behind the bus depot. It was incredibly expensive, and I am certainly never getting printouts from that place ever again. I will go all the way to the little communications shop on Uma Maheshwaran Road if necessary. I also managed to get a few plastic items I needed for props for the children, from the bazaar. I stopped at Sin Bon bakery (housed on the ground floor of White Stone) to buy short eats for the children – Mr Premadasa thought they would have things there but it turned out they don’t sell things in the kinds of bulk quantities I wanted (or else I should have been there at 8am). So we trekked over to the bakery near Thai Hotel, which happened to have a motley assortment of buns, rolls, samosas and other items. I like to be able to give each child the same thing, but today I had very little choice. While I was at Thai Hotel, I didn’t realise how useful it is to have the bakery – it’s an amazingly well-stocked place!

After that, though, it felt as though it was one hiccup after another. I got back to pick up the photocopies, only to discover that they’d lost power and only half the copies had been done (i:e: one of the two scripts). That is definitely a possible obstacle that had never occurred to me. Gajan was late again, and apologised profusely when he came, explaining that he had to eat lunch. He managed to ensure we got to Kakkaiyankulam on time, but the kids weren’t ready – some had to be picked up from their homes. Because of this, we got to Chiraddikulam 25 minutes late, and it was immediately obvious that the army hadn’t passed on any of my messages to the children. There was a small and motley crew of children, many of whom were incredibly young and I’d never seen before – most of mine were missing. By the time my lot was rounded up and herded into the community centre it must have been an hour later than I’d meant to start.

Most had misplaced their scripts (as I feared) and the ones who had them had left them at home and had to be sent to get them. It couldn’t be helped, really. The last time I’d rehearsed with them was over a month ago, so today’s rehearsal was to get everything in order. Despite the chaos, I was lucky that most children were present – Thuraichelvan and Mayuran were both back, although some of the smaller children (Thihalvannan, Sarujan, and Kumanadas) confessed they were too scared to take part in a play. Unfortunate but understandable. I realised that Thuraichelvan was worried about learning his many lines as the narrator (although I have to note that Aasir has done an incredible job of familiarising himself with his lines), so I assured him that he could read off his lines for the performance if he wanted. Hopefully he’ll stay with us – he’s a good narrator and one of the best in Chiraddikulam! I’d be sorry if he decided not to take part in the final performance.

It was incredibly chaotic teaching two groups alone, and today was the very first time that within a few hours, I was exhausted and my throat hurt from shouting over the distracted children. However, I count this as a success – this is, after all, my 22nd workshop! It took 22 workshops to get to one that was unmanageable! If that’s not lucky I don’t know what is. Having such an unmanageable workshop also reminded me how easy it is to work with these children, usually. Also, this was my longest, boringest (by what I believe are my children’s standards) workshop of rigorous rehearsals – 2.45pm to 6pm! And no playing time! If the kids come back tomorrow I’ll take it to mean they love me and they actually do have fun even though I yell at them. The children have a really difficult time concentrating as it is (even amongst the older Chiraddikulam children, especially Pavithra – I’m sometimes a little concerned, but I don’t know if I’m holding them to too-high standards), and I knew they were wearing thin when someone pulled out a bag of woodapples from somewhere and soon bits of woodapple were flying all over the floor. It was also the first time we’d practised in the small community centre, and I missed the airy classroom at Kakkaiyankulam. In retrospect, however, I got a LOT done – we re-rehearsed Taking Seeya to Hospital (Muththata Pol Kiri) twice, and managed to rehearse Looking for Pradeep (Abdul Soyamu – and the weaker of the two plays) almost twice. It was uphill work with only Gajan to help (but I’m grateful he was there!) and I often felt a dejected by the general state of affairs…I hoped fervently that the next day would be better! I also hope this will be the last time I have to re-shuffle characters – the Chiraddikulam children are not as good about attendance as the Kakkaiyankulam children, which is sad.

Gowry happened to pop in briefly in the middle of the rehearsal, which was nice, but I’m really worried about the state of the children’s health. She had fever again, and her O Levels are starting on the 11th! She and Vinodh are BOTH not well, and I think I should take this issue to CI.

I felt too tired to think on the way home – it was a beautiful night, though, and the sky was incredibly clear. I also had an incredibly long conversation about education and child psychology and grad school applications with Munch when I got to Indrans. I was so absorbed in our conversation that when I discovered a cockroach crawling into my room through the space under the door (I’m petrified of the loathsome creatures!) I thwacked it almost absent-mindedly, only realising afterwards that my usual response is to yell and run. However, I admit that after this little incident I was extra grateful for the mosquito net when I went to sleep.

PS: I was so frazzled that I didn’t take any pictures today – the featured image is from the next day’s workshop!

One Comment on “BB9b: rusty thespians”

  1. great. these are just great blog posts. Don’t let em work too hard though on those rehearsals if you can help it. You DO know that they will struggle due to their deep traumatic experiences and lack of room for expression at an early age and no one will know how they really feel not even they. Play intervals and keeping things light may bring out the best in em and make for more joy transmitting through … it’s the process not the end product that matters. Always. Also for you. One day you will look back and see how special all this was, how no one could have entered their world at this stage raw after war with so much broken down … such as you have done. It’s BIG. One day you will go to these villages and they will remember you. That’s what matters. That Nushelle came… every weekend for some strange play and craft and so on. That Nushelle cared which drink they drank and which treat they got, whether they cut things properly or not. But what really matters is that you will never be too impatient with them and make em feel that they are not good enough. For here will reinforce their defencelessness against the internal displacement, the issues they and parents face from events beyond their control. Give em that reassuarance that Nushelle believed in them and that s why she came . Not for the end product. Love love love Aunt G

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