Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts

Monday, April 2, 2012

Vagina Monologues: We Did It!

Some of our fabulous cast
for "The Vagina Monologues"
Pictured left to right: Tara, Demet, Yasemin, me,
Monique, Harika, and Kendra
The play poster

One of my fellow cast members in DreamTree's production of "The Vagina Monologues," remarked at what an amazing feat it was for Donna M.E. Banks, an American and Kendra Tyre, a Canadian to move to Istanbul and within six months start up a theatre production company and put on Eve Ensler's play. These two ladies had known each other as teachers in Korea, and then discovered they were both living in Istanbul. "Why not create a VDay event?" they thought.

VDay is the movement to wake up the world to the gender-based violence women experience. It was started by American Eve Ensler.
The name of our
adorable neighborhood theatre
was Mekan.artı
It was just down the street from the entrance
of the Istanbul Hilton in Harbiye.
As I said in my last post, acting has not ever been one of my dreams. I was in this production because I believed in the cause. I walked away from the experience with new insight and respect for actors and actresses. For one thing, it takes a lot of time to learn dialogue.  As the oldest cast member, I joked that 'act' stood for 'Alzheimer's Cognitive Testing.' It seemed odd to me to devote so much time to something I would use all of three times.  At least if I was studying a school subject - say osmosis, or something, I could use it forever. I also had no idea the amount of time that actors need to devote to rehearsals. My goodness, it's like a part-time job to go to rehearsals every week.
But is this space not endearing?
It's like a little neighborhood clubhouse.
It held just under 100 seats.

As I was whining to a friend about how much more work it is to be in a play than I realized, he said, "yes, but you'll forget all that pain when you perform it." I was scared to death to act in this play, and as we prepared I felt wave after wave of vulnerability engulf me. My friends carried  me through though, and lifted me up with joy and support as I got ready. When we put the tickets on sale, it took less than a week for them to sell out. The last few days before the play all of us in the cast were fielding calls from all kinds of people asking, "please just four more seats?"

Opening night was full of drama for the cast: one member was in the hospital hoping to get discharged by 6 p.m. for our 8:30 curtain time, another went through three or four babysitters before finding one that would commit and stick. The second night, the lights were bright and I flubbed a couple of my lines. I quickly found my way back but it was a bit unnerving. The third night, one cast member forgot to get her suitcase out of the taxi trunk with all the costumes inside. Luckily, the cabbie realized it and brought it around in time for the show. Donna and Kendra goodnaturedly rolled with all of it.

The power of art to transform and cause us to think and grow is incredible. During our rehearsals, I faced my own intolerance of the transgender character in the show, and realized I was repulsed by the ambiguity everytime I heard the monologue. I didn't want to be, but I was. I don't know anyone in that situation. I always have to think, "now, are these the people who dress in the other gender's clothes? Or the people who want sex-change surgery? Or people who have had sex-change surgery?" I can never keep it straight.

"Wow, in real life, people with that issue, are a walking violence target," I realized. If I was repulsed and was doing my best to be compassionate and still struggling, I could imagine there are plenty of people who don't even bother to struggle. I just sat with my own feelings and felt the discomfort of not understanding. The play taught me how damn hard it must be to be one of those people. May they find kindness out there in the world. May I not be indifferent to the hate crimes they experience.

I hope to post more pictures and information about how much money was raised for Turkish nonprofits, but I'll end here saying how amazingly proud I am of my friends. Their biggest accomplishment was to use art to create conversations about difficult subjects. Among the cast we had fascinating discussions about what our mothers and grandmothers had taught us about avoiding gender-based violence, we discussed what monologues we identified with and what ones we did not, we talked about what part of the female experience isn't represented. We were privleged to help create the same kind of conversations among our audiences. I felt wondrous community develop full of love and support among the English-language speakers of Istanbul around this play. It was a privlege to be a part of it - next time though - I'm signing up for the publicity team - anything but acting!

A splendid story in "Today's Zaman" newspaper about our efforts and in "Milliyet" newspaper

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First Rehearsals - Vagina Monologues in Istanbul

Great movements often start in coffee shops.
Vaclav Havel famously met
with his fellow Czech dissidents
in the Cafe Slavia across from
the National Theatre in Prague.

My expatriate American friends,
Donna and Kendra,
newly arrived in Turkey,
had decided to organize a VDay event
with both expatriate and Turkish women.
They decided to produce the play
"The Vagina Monologues"
in Istanbul.
Auditions were over.
Our first rehearsal
was at an Istanbul coffee shop.
We shyly came together,
that day in February.
I was struck by the beauty of the women there.
Each one wanted to help other women
through her own personal participation
in Eve Ensler's famous play.
 I had heard about the "Vagina Monologues" for years
and finally saw them in Madison, Wisconsin.

Eve Ensler, the writer of the play, wants to end
the great global silence
about the ongoing epidemic of violence
perpetrated against women and girls
around the world.

The play represents the experiences of women
all around the globe,
most notably, women in the Congo.
Each year, a new monologue is added
reflecting the news of the day.
I wish that wasn't necessary.
I didn't know about performing a play
like this in a conservative country,
but I took faith from the courage of our
producer/directors and the other women present.
 I have no interest in acting.
I don't have that bug at all.
But I do want to support
everything Eve Ensler does.

Her life's mission is
to wipe out violence against women worldwide.
Yes, I know.
You probably think she's crazy.

Yet the impossible happens every day.
Do you think Vaclav Havel and his Czech friends
believed the Berlin wall would eventually fall?

the NACCP expected they would be so wildly successful
in seeking change that less than 100 years later
there's a black man in the White House?

I am not sure they would have dreamed it.
They just started with the first step.

Can't you just imagine how
hopeless those situations
looked at the time?

I wonder what it will be like for women
100 years from now if all of us just take that first step
toward ending the culture of violence.
VDay believes the reason for the global silence
about what women are experiencing is
 the indifference of authorities worldwide,
 the instinct of denial within families,
 and the lack of public outrage
about the violence
that millions of women experience every day.
But on this first day,
it was just interesting to learn about the play
and to meet the other women.
Kendra, one of our producer/directors
listening intently to a first reading.
V-Day dreams of a world in which
women and girls will be free to thrive,
rather than merely survive.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" Under the Stars at Letní Scéna

As soon as I read that the Prague Shakespeare Festival was going to put on "Romeo and Juliet" under the stars in the medieval open-air Vyšehrad theatre called Letní Scéna, I knew I had to go! "Romeo and Juliet" is, of course, the most romantic play in the English language and Vyšehrad, overlooking the Vltava River, is one of the most romantic places in a city overflowing with romantic places. It was such an inspired idea. And ladies, you don't always need a man in tow to appreciate the romance of the setting! Romance is a state of mind.

I forgot to take a picture of my date, Black Girl in Prague, who was her usual fabulous self.  I waited to meet her at the Vyšehrad Metro Terrace.  Since I forgot to eat before I came, I slipped into the little Thai restaurant there so I would have some food in my stomach.  Who wants their hunger to interrupt the balcony scene? Not me.  I expected no greatness from any restaurant situated within a metro station.  Indeed, the opposite.  After all, the customers are in a hurry, there is graffiti everywhere outside, what could possibly be aesthetically-pleasing about the experience? I even let the waiter pick my food out because I was too lazy to make a choice myself.  OK, so I was wrong. Greatness can reside in a metro restaurant.

Kaeng pet kai, rice, and green tea
at Yam Yam Thai Restaurant.
The open-air theatre
at Vyšehrad.
Can't you picture
all the people and performances
that have taken place here
over hundreds and hundreds of years?

We were lucky to grab one of the seats with a back rest.
Can you find me in the audience?

Prague theater director
Gordon Trufitt and his wife Eva
sat across the aisle.

I used to see my Prague blogging buddy
everywhere in Prague.
This was my first time meeting
Grant Podelco and his fiancee Daisy
 with young Emma.
It was a pleasure!
Grant gave me great blogging tips during intermission.
He writes two blogs: Gusto and Grant's Prague Bike Blog.

Mercutio was played by Guy Roberts.
Guy is the Founder, President and Artistic Director
and he was sooo good in his role as Mercutio.
David Fisher played the Nurse.
You know when you watch someone act
and you can just tell how much fun their having?
David Fisher almost stole the show
with his hilariously bawdy portrayal
of Juliet's Nurse.
Wow, could he project his voice too!
Romeo and Juliet
were played by
Kendrick Ong and
Lenka Fisherová-Novaková
Juliet had wonderful enthusiasm
and Romeo was appropriately dreamy.
We had great seats for
enjoying the ensemble on stage.

I loved the sword fights!

Letní Scéna (Open Air Theatre) was perfect
for balcony scenes.
Thanks so much to Guy Roberts and his artistic company at the Prague Shakespeare Festival for putting on an enchanting evening of theater.  It can't be easy in this funding environment. I for one, appreciated the opportunity to enjoy your gifts!  Prague Shakespeare Festival will put on the play "As You Like It" May 12-22, 2011 in this same theatre next year.  I'm impressed with the ambition for next year: ten days of performances!

Related Posts:

Prague Playwriting Contest Shows Off Three Finalists

Wonderful English Language Theater in Prague

Monday, March 2, 2009

Prague Playwriting Contest Shows Off The Three Finalists

Mom's first night out after having a new baby!
EvaTruefitt and her mom come out
to see the play her husband Gordon directed
Also pictured: Ricky Yates and me

Not pictured: Gordon, who's home taking care of the new baby
and Sybille Yates, our photographer

Over the last two weeks, English speakers have been able to see the final three plays of the Prague Post and Prague Playhouse 3rd Annual Playwriting Contest performed. Over 50 playwriters submitted a half-hour long play per the rules and that giant group of scripts was whittled down to eight and then whittled down again to the three final plays that would actually be performed. The rules require that the writer has lived in or currently lives in Prague.

Gerry Turner after the play

Gerry and his daughter Tanya

Two people from my church, St. Clement's Church in Old Town, were involved in the play "Early Retirement" by David Fisher: director Gordon Trufitt, who had a son born on Valentine's Day, and Gerry Turner, who acted the part of Mr. Matejovsky, which required him to speak both Czech and English. We wanted to attend to support our own!

Another star of the evening was Divadlo Minor, an incredibly imaginative space designed for puppet shows. It was fun to explore the colors, the whimsy, and the hiding places built into the theatre. Pictures below.

The Divadlo Minor suggestion box (notice the little piglets)
You know what pigs eat!

Gorgeous Geometry throughout

Curt Matthew, who recently starred in Glengarry Glen Ross
It's being reprised for two encore shows in March

The Snack Bar

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wonderful English Language Theatre in Prague

One of the nice things about having a large English-speaking population in Prague is that expats have started to create and grow their own institutions. We are like the population of a smaller town within a larger city. We can keep the doors open to special gathering spots like bars, restaurants, and theaters on our own.

This weekend a friend and I went to see Glengarry Glen Ross, the Pulitzer-prize winning play by American David Mamet. It was presented by the Prague Playhouse under the direction of Brian Caspe. The play was held in a cozy theater called Divadlo Inspirace. The theater holds about 70 people in the gothic basement of Malostranske namesti 13, a stunningly beautiful part of town. The whole place, including the foyer where beer was sold, had the feeling of a secret clubhouse. Who else should be there but Blogging Gelle and a whole row of his pals, which was a fun surprise.

When I saw this play as a movie with Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon, I found the language so brutal it was hard to get passed it. But as Mamet said when he wrote his play set in a real estate sales office in Florida, "this is how real estate guys really do talk to each other." This time I was prepared for the language and was able to see the humor and the humanity of the characters.

There is a masterful opening monologue by actor Curtis Mathew, who played Shelly Levene, "the Machine" who tried to persuade his boss that he had just hit a selling dry spell and only needed the best leads to turn it all around. Throughout the play, Curtis did a great job showcasing the ego dejection of his dry spell and the ego inflation of turning it around.

If you've every been around a sales team, or managed a sales team, you will thoroughly enjoy the point-by-point account of how he closed a sale. Who hasn't heard a business war story retold in detail like that in real life? Heck, who hasn't told one!

There is another monologue I love in this play where one man accuses another of "being like a child" but I won't tell you anymore about it. I have to leave some surprises, right?

As usual, the Prague price for this professionally-acted theater is fantastic: 200 kc or $10 a seat. Brian predicts the show will sell out. Click on my title if you are interested in seeing the play on the remaining three dates that have seats available.

I would like to ask Czechs learning English if hearing and seeing an English language play is easier to understand than hearing an English-language movie? What do you think, my dear Czech friends?
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