Archive for October, 2005

Rain in A Dead Man’s Footprints

Saturday, October 29th, 2005


Yesterday I went to the UCT arts library and watched a video of the show for an exam I have next week. Its a piece about a linguistic group of the Western Cape that no longer exists and the German anthropologists who tried to preserve their language and culture in the 1800s. It’s totally amazing, and after writing my long paper about issues of oral and literary traditions, it was unbelievable to see those issues presented on stage. I really recommend looking at the pictures, some of them are really cool.

p.s. Tuesday I leave for a whirlwind trip to Namibia. Just to keep things interesting. There should be some good pictures and stories when I get back.

Gibson Kente and analogous structures

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Last week I spend the majority of the week writing a paper for my African Studies class about African theatre. In the midst of this process I found myself searching for a word I knew existed but I couldn’t remember. I had this memory of my AP biology textbook in high school that had a picture of a dinosaur and a dolphin which had evolved to fill a similar nitch and so looked almost exactly the same. With some help from my dad over the internet, we tracked down this term. Analogous structures are when two different species evolve similar structures to deal with similar problems. Like wings, or eyes…

I used this term to talk about Commedia del Arte and the work of Gibson Kente in the South African townships. Gibson Kente developed a style now called the township musical, which toured all over South Africa during the 1960′s and 70′s. A vast number of the black artists who are defining South African theatre seemed to have worked with him at some point. He developed a style and pattern for his plays specifically to deal with the challenges and needs of his audiences. His plays were melodrama’s of township life based in African Christian morality. In many ways the similarities between him and Commedia are interesting because it shows the way in which two very different circumstances can result in similar styles. Both needed to support themselves from an audience base of poor or working class people, resulting in the traveling troupes. Kente’s plays were over the top using stylistic acting and stock characters which reflected the experiences of township life. The characters became recognizable to the audience, who would return to see Kente’s shows over and over again. And the use of slapstick comedy just seems to come because everyone likes slapstick comedy! But its important to note, that even if Commedia was developed long before Kente was born, the work that Kente did was still truely innovative and original. And personally I find it hard to believe that Kente had ever heard of Commedia until after the fact.

if your interested, the movie Sarafina! with Woopi Goldberg is modeled after Kente’s style. I haven’t actually watched the whole film, but the parts I’ve seen are really cool. And, the film has some really important big names from South African theatre in it, like John Kani, Mbongeni Ngema, and Miriam Makeba.

I don’t like Exams.

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Please excuse this brief relaxing of my rule about not whining on my blog.

Its a beautiful day out there, and I am stuck in the library for the fourth day in a row. It makes me sad.

But on the flip side, I think I’m writing a really interesting paper on the concept of orature in African Theatre. It includes a section on the value of creating theatre the oral form rather than in literary form. If nothing else, I think it makes me sounds smart.

books I’ve been reading

Friday, October 14th, 2005

I’ve been consuming the contents of the library with an almost frightening passion. Every now and then I just wander into the Arts library and come out with at least two books to read. Here’s some of the ones that I’ve really enjoyed:

Theatre and Cultural Struggle in South Africa by Robert Kavanagh
this is a Marxist analysis of theatre in South Africa written in the 1980′s. Really interesting slant on stuff I have been reading about in other places.

Making People’s Theatre also by Robert Kavanagh
a hands on ‘how to’ theatre book, only Marxist. And with an African slant. Really fun. Has sections like ‘how to run a democratic rehearsal’

The new Radical theatre notebook by Arthur Sainer.
this was my concession to my interests in American theatre. Its a big fat book on the theatre of the 1960′s and 70′s. It was fun to read…. lots of conversations about sex and death. Oh, and a mention of John Dillon, my dept. head back in the states. Some of these people were kind of nuts, but as one of my professors said, you have to understand the legacy you live with. And I do think that these people are part of the legacy I live with – people like Bread and Puppet and the SanFransico Mime Troupe.

Towards the Poor Theatre
AH! Grotowski!! okay, I had to read at some point, why not now, right?

Community Theatre: Global Perspectives by Eugene van Erven
This was for a class, but its really good. I totally recommend it. I particularly enjoyed the section on a women’s theatre group in rural Kenya. That gave me a lot to think about.

okay, thats all for now. Maybe more of my reading list later.

Mother Tongue Project

Friday, October 14th, 2005


I’m starting to prepare for my exams, which is a strange concept for me. I haven’t taken a real exam since the AP Calculus test my senior year of high school. Once of my exams requires me to write a prepared essay about two pieces of South African theater, one before 1994 and one after 1994. For that I’m doing some work on the Mother Tongue Project. This is a really interesting women’s theatre collective group, and their work is amazing. The woman who created Spice Root, which I wrote about before, is one of the founder members.

The piece I’m working on for my exam – half of it took place in two taxi vans. The audience members were piled in, unaware that this was part of the show, and actors in the vans with them would begin to talk, tell stories, and argue with this captive audience in the moving vehicle. Its a totally amazing idea. When we were told in lecture that there were 3 hours of raw video footage of the show I almost flipped my lid. So, on of my plans for next week is to go watch it. All of it!