Archive for July, 2005

Spice Root – my first puppets in South Africa

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

This past Friday I went and saw a show at the Baxter Theatre, called Spice Root. It was a piece about the colonization on Java, and the subsequent slave route between Java and the Cape of Good Hope. The piece employed all sorts of traditional Javanese performance: music, dance, food, and shadow puppets! Between studying Javanese shadow puppetry, and the fact that there is a Gamelan (a Javanese music tradition) at Sarah Lawrence, I know far more about Javanese culture than your average American, who doesn’t even know where Java is. That being said, I was really excited to see the show.

I was not disappointed. The group employed traditional puppetry techniques to tell the story of the war between the Dutch and the Javanese. They used three screens in the shape of waves/sails, which echoed against the repeated images of the boats. The center screen was the largest, and told most of the story, with the two smaller screens flanked the stage with details. For example, while the large screen showed the Dutch army firing cannons on the Javanese, and the Javanese returning fire with arrows, the two smaller screens would show an individual Dutchman battling an individual Javanese. It was really powerful.

The show as a whole was really inspiring. A lot of performance I have seen strives to involved audiences through multiple senses. This is maybe the first I’ve seen where it worked. Throughout the show a woman sat to one side of the stage cooking. As a result, but 20 minutes into the show the theater was full of wonderful smells that I could not recognize. Then at the end of the show they fed up what she had been cooking. It was wonderful.

I left the whole show feeling inspired and reminded of why I love theater so much. And I was further pleased by the fact that my friend I brought along who “doesn’t like theater” enjoyed it greatly. While I was reveling in the intellectual things like the puppeteers use of traditional forms, he kept saying, “Well, I didn’t understand any of it, but I know I liked it. I liked it a lot.”

Table Mountain

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Table Mountain

There you have it, Table Mountain. That is a photo I took when we hiked up Mountains Head (the smallest of the mountains in the area) as the sun was setting. The peak in the center of the photo is Devil’s Peak. UCT, where I’m living now, is just on the other side of that. Then Table Mountain is actually the one on the right. So many people commented about how beautiful is was here before I left that I sort of stopped listening. But, they were right. It is really beautiful. Everywhere I turn there seems to be beautiful panoramas of mountains and ocean. Of course being new here its really striking, while all of the other UCT students seem unfazed by it.

UCT is built right at the base of Devil’s Peak, which is beautiful, but means that everything is uphill. In Boston we have a joke that if you ask for directions the answer will always be “go to the Dunkin’ Donuts and take a left till you see the next Dunkin’ Donuts.” At UCT the answer seems to be “Go up the stairs, around the corner and up the next set of stairs.” It really changes the way you think about walking around campus. Not to mention that the campus is many 20 times bigger than my campus back home. All things to get used to.

here I am.

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Well, I made it. Sitting in the computer lab at UCT, just finished with two weeks of orientation, and am finally ready to go here in Cape Town. I have yet to get my computer hooked up to the system here, so pictures will be coming later (prepare yourself for a lot of pictures of Table Mountain!). So far the most exciting things about being here have been getting my UCT student ID and going to Robbin Island this morning. The most frustrating thing has been sifting through the paranoia/advice about safty issues. Of course there will be much much more to come, but for now I’m going to scurry off to get paperwork signed and go grocery shopping (where last week I bought “Black Cat Peanut Butter” – reminds me of the Black Panthers).

the things I carry

Monday, July 4th, 2005

I leave in about a half an hour, and so the bags are down stairs and by the door.


The small backpack is open because I had to take out my camera in order to do this. Other than that, everything is set. I’ve been wavering back and forth between feeling really proud of how little I’m taking, and thinking I’m taking way too much. So, you can vote now. Does it look like a lot of stuff for a year??

Yard Sale find

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

What my mother and I were doing stopping at a yard sale just two weeks after we finished having our yard sale, I don’t know. But we stopped anyway. Low and behold, I found something I’ve been wanting since January!

backpack-1 backpack-2

This is the frame of a hiking backpack (it came with the pack part, but I don’t need that, and it came off easily). It’s what I’ve been looking for to mount parade puppets like the Phoenix I built. I had a conversation with a friend about how the puppet would be much more secure if there were two points of contact between the puppet and the person. The Phoenix only had the one rod which held the puppet in the air. If there were two I think it would wobble less. The other plus is that then, when the puppeteer moved, the puppet would move more closely in response (similar to the relationship between marionette and airplane). Generally with the Phoenix, there is so much give and take, that its hard to know where the puppet will end up.


Anyway, those are my thoughts. I’m really pleased with this find. Not that I’ll be using it anytime soon. I leave for Cape Town tomorrow afternoon, so the frame is going into my parents attic. The small picture is my passport upon it’s return from getting my student visa, with a note that says “With Compliments of the South African Consulate.” I couldn’t resist keeping it.