The Artist community in Canada I was told works a 10:00am-6:00pm day, six days a week with a mandatory one hour thirty minutes break spread out during that day. For instance Goodness had a 15 minute break in the mid-morning and another 15 minute break in the mid afternoon plus, an hour for lunch. In Uganda, directors employ the same kind of standard when rehearsing more or less; only without the set structure.Some of them only allow a lunch break which can be anything between 30 minutes and one hour.
I anticipated a slipup during the rest of the rehearsals and when it did occur,
"I am sorry about this", Paul Braunstein said,
"They only confirmed our appoitment this morning with my wife."
He arrived twenty minutes late the next day for rehearsal. His wife was almost due to deliver.
The first wednesday in the week that I arrived, I watched Divisadero, a Performance by Necessary Angel Productions in which Amy Ruthersford, one of the cast members in Goodness, was performing. Similar to Paul Braunstein earlier, Amy requested for one hour thirty minutes off to do the dressed rehearsal for the evening's show on that wednesday. She was back at three thirty on the dot to continue with the Goodness rehearsals. Alot of artists in Uganda use this simultaneous engagements in concurrent productions to be inconsistent because they believe their popularity allows it. Most times, it is also used as a bargaining chip to blackmail a director into paying them more for a production that in most cases has no budget. I experienced this with my first production Dawn Of The Pearl in 2006 when some members of the cast believed i should pay them more because they were already celebrities. Never mind that their celebrity status on the show did not lead to a soldout show. I still owe them money because i was broke for a ong while after that first blind attempt at theater production.
Watching Amy perform later that evening alongside the various skillful actresses and actors ranging in age from late twenties to late fifties, maybe; I begun to understand what makes great artists!
It is not the money, or talent most of the time: but, the sheer hard work and comittment to excellence. I think that these qualities and personal commitment supercede any enabling structure or lack of it . I am painfully aware though of the disparate socio-economic and cultural realities that face Canadian and Ugandan artists but, making time work for both the director and actress/actor does not need money but will. Making time work for them and not the other way round.
Lily Franks struggled with a cough even if she could have taken a day or two off sick. Even three days off if she were Ugandan in spirit. Volcano brought in a voice couch to mentor her back to performance excellence. This I found very touching and yet it was just a basic of professional conduct.That level of attention to the experience quality of actors and actresses during the production process is something I still hope to achieve or discover an experience of in Uganda.
The flipside of this professional conduct gone awry dawned on me rather comically. I sat at a dinner table and defended a rather severe character that had been described to me as doing his job! It was tuesday the 21st of February . Ross Manson hosted myself and a couple of other artists to dinner at his house. I sat at that dinner table, impassioned by good wine, great food and delightful company defending what I was beginning to get quite fond of too soon. The strict code of ethic theater spaces employed for their production both process and final show.
Anyhow, Ravi Jain, was stressing the need for flexibility in theatre programming. For instance , his play A Brim Full of Asha which showed at the Tarragon Theatre is based on Indian culture(loud, interractive and expressive) . Because of this, he had to serve samosa's as part of the play and generally chat informaly with the audience. His frustration had been sparked by a serious conversation with the stage manager about wether or not to allow in samosas during the show.
The management person's reasoning was that the seats might get smeared with grease from the samosas by careless consumers or, that crumbs falling off would result in increased cleaning and vacuming expenses. Ravi apparently called his attention to the fact that the theater goers especially for his show are an educated and learned audience.
So, there I was defending this person I did not know on how he was simply doing his job and that society needs such people. That was untill I was one minute late for the same show,A Brim Full of Asha at the Tarragon Theatre that weekend. My defence was set against the backdrop of Uganda where booking and paying for space at the theater does not guarantee you the same hollistic space as stipulated in the contractual agreement you will have signed.That contract shall not secure for you a space that will be respected from sound infiltration and performance activities that have been equally booked for the same time with no thought for quality experience. I had a drill go off in the middle of my workshop production of Celebrating our Differences before a paid audience in the control room because the technician apparently had no other time to fix the air conditioning. The house management thought it okay. I will never forget that experience in 2007.
Did I say I was ONE MINUTE late? Yes! This guy denied me entry to the show saying the show had already begun and that he was beyond the five minute allowance time for "late comers." I told him I could still go in without distracting the audience to which he lied about how the doors open directly onto the stage. On arrival, I had got a tour of the same theatre and its performance spaces. The doors do not open directly onto the stage!
I was gathering a battalion of colorfull words to update him on how uptight he was but thought of a better way to employ that energy. Another audience member with a paid ticket arrived fifteen minutes later off a plane specially to watch this play by his relative and was denied entry as well. I do no know who told him later about who I was or who was hosting me but, he returned, a tripple coyly to profusely apologise and offer to get me entry to the next show.
I told him, "shit happens!"
The general consesus at the end of the show that I never got to watch was; 'See what I meant!'