Tag Archives: theatre

#14 ~ Dating your Dissertation

Last Friday I took myself on a date. The usual time of empty cupboards had come back around (these things don’t change that quickly, but progress is being made). I figured I had two options:

1) Go to sleep

2) Drink water and go to sleep

The only problem with aforementioned options was that I was meant to watch a show that night with a friend.  I knew if my head touched the pillow I wouldn’t even make the curtain call. So I threw on a jacket, straightened my outfit, applied some lipstick (hey why not) and cycled into town. The local Chinese restaurant was the joint I was to grace with my presence, wonton noodles the lucky dish that was to nourish my somewhat lethargic body. Sat by the window, order given, the laptop lid was flipped open and headphones encased my ears.

I like spending time with people. I do. I mean, I can make myself laugh (I have a wicked sense of humour that only I seem to get), but sometimes other people’s banter does the job too. I enjoy listening to people, even giving advice, but deep down I’m a closet introvert. I need space, partly because I live in close proximity to the multitude of thoughts that swarm across my mind and sometimes seep out of my mouth when i’m sleeping. I’m an active daydreamer, my mind slipping from reality to possibility (today I walked directly into an oncoming van totally oblivious to its steam-roller capacities). So there I sat, wonton noodles on my right, a glass of water directly in front, my laptop and the audio track I was transcribing from at the tips of my (somewhat sprained) fingers. For the first time in a long time I felt quiet.

Still.

The noise began to recede. And I live in a lot of noise. The noise of emails, Facebook notifications, the constant, often mindless updates on Twitter. The noise of pressure, obligation, of commitments. The noise of fear and anxieties. The noise of desire, a deep longing, of jealousy, insecurity – it’s a bloody cacophony of sound, exacerbated by the people or messages that carry that noise like a body, weighty, loaded and ever-spreading.

But there, alone, I was quiet. My mind at times was unfocused – silly desires would take my attention from my screen to the window and back again – but for a few moments I was oblivious to the world. Inconsequential (except perhaps to the staff who knew my presence was more money in the coffers), but I was small, remote, petite even. Quiet.

I miss that. The stillness. Sometimes you can find it amongst people. The ability to sit, gently, and not speak. Too often though we’re afraid of the noise that roils off our bodies even when our lips are sealed – so we unseal our lips and let incessant chatter ramble forth.

But what I liked more was the focus.

As a creative person my focus can be intense, but often fleeting. Even in the course of writing this i’ve switched direction, pondered a few months into my future, worried about an upcoming competition, grazed a bit of the avocado lying on my table and considered re-logging into Facebook. And those are only the distractions I can remember. In the 90mins when I chowed down most of my meal (then spent the next 20mins recovering from indigestion and the after burn of the chilli oil I had carelessly poured across the entire dish) I was focused on my work. I had streams of thoughts linking arguments I hadn’t even fully articulated (I told you, I flip quickly), and a narrative arc that even got me excited for the viver. But my focus is fleeting, and therefore my conviction lacking. Unlike my sister who is a completer, i’m a spitfire. When the spirit leaves me, my hands stop moving, the punches stop falling, my eyes go dead and next thing – i’m out. I’ve lost. Lost focus, lost my drive, lost my engagement with life. It happens. I feel my body and mind drifting apart and then I want to give up. To just sit down and float, and breathe, and be still once again. To be intimate with me and my thoughts.

And that’s the thing. To do ANYTHING in life, to even complete my dissertation, I have to be PRO-ACTIVE. Sure i’m active, i’ll make grand plans, and sometimes, if the timing is right i’ll get to the end of them (while letting almost everything else fall to the wayside), but a lot of the time i’m not the initiator.

In sparring I have really good timing. I have a strong punch. But i’m afraid of hurting the other person, and of failing myself, so I often don’t leap into the danger zone, and when I do, apparently I don’t commit. So I don’t win, and weaker fighters get the point, because they were proactive.

I want to lose this fear of failure. To banish it to the darkest corners of existence. To be brazen. I’ve been socked in the eye, winded, jabbed in my gut, had my tendons ripped and shins bruised – I can take pain, but I take it from a defensive position, not from offence. I’d like to try being offensive for a while (not the insulting type). I’d like to try sticking my neck out and seeing what happens. Of being a completer.

Maybe then the piles of work that are growing each day would start to diminish.

Maybe then I’d batter my opponents

Maybe then that acquaintance would start being a friend.

Maybe then i’d stop being afraid, because i’d look up and realise  – i’d done it. I’d made it happen.

Who knew such thoughts could occur when one went on a date with their dissertation?

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#5 ~ For Colored Girls: Production

This can be summed up perfectly in the FCG journey: No matter how prepared you are, be prepared.

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#1 ~ For Colored Girls London

Image by Rosa Johan Uddoh

Image by Rosa Johan Uddoh

November 2012. 11pm. Cambridge. An audience of 50 people, predominantly made up of student journalists and hard-core late night theatre-goers sat in the Fitzpatrick Hall of Queen’s College and waited as an arpeggio in A minor played out to setting blue lights. My production of Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Colored Girls [who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf]’, had landed. Directing, co-producing and acting in the show had many challenges. Yet, when the four and five-star reviews rained in, and the seats filled up to maximum capacity, I could only smile and get ready for three more nights of incredible action as we made theatrical history.

The first time an all black all female cast had ever graced a Cambridge stage, the play follows the lives of seven women identified solely by the colour of their clothing. A combination of spoken word poetry, physical theatre, music and dance ‘For Colored Girls’ is an evocative social critique that gives a piercingly authentic look at urban life through the brash lens of beautifully unrefined poetry. Tackling experiences of rape, domestic violence, infidelity and sisterhood ‘For Colored Girls’  takes its characters and audience on a liberating journey to the end of their rainbows, all the while coloured by a saucy wink of humour and sass, powerful music, dance and that ephemeral attribute referred to as ‘soul’.

So, with all that underway and with people asking for more, I crazily got the idea to take the show to London, my home city. Why not go for gold? Sadly, though I am a creative at heart, a production requires more than just an artistic eye – it requires financing and budgeting. Teaming up with one of the actress, Ifeyinwa Frederick, we sat up till 4am one  night in March and planned this next step in the story – For Colored Girls…London.

For over 6 months we have been planning, contacting, hustling, designing, straining our eyes at computer screens, sending rapid fire emails, lamenting over Nokia 100 phones that don’t have MultiMedia Messaging, all to bring us to this point: the promotional Launch date of For Colored Girls London.

I know I’ve been quiet for a few months since ending the 365 blog, but today, i’d like to invite you to journey with me once again as I direct, act and co-produce in Ntozake Shange’s phenomenal piece of theatre. It’s going to be raw, bloody, exhilarating, exhausting and inspiring – but we’ve done it before.

So welcome to the Death of the Writer, the Death of the Director, Co-Producer and Actress and the Birth of…For Colored Girls London 2013.

Get Excited.

Follow us on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FCGLondon

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FCGLondon

Or : http://www.twitter.com/Justina_Kehinde

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#276 ~ The Watcher at the Threshold

The Creature at the Door, The Bogeyman, The Presence, however it’s phrased these ominous beings have one thing in common – you can’t see them, but they can see you. We strive and strive to penetrate the darkness that Simon and Garfunkel seek to communicate with, yet it is far too elusive, far too…tricksy…and so we give up. We believe we are alone, no one can see us, no one knows us, no one is aware.

Life, I have come to realise is a performance. We speak to be recognised. As we dress ourselves in the morning, however (un)conscious our decisions are, they are decisions, seeking in their own either explicit or implicit way to elicit a response, an acknowledgement, in the least, a thought process.When that doesn’t happen, the sense of our own perceived insignificance can be overwhelming.

I write to be read. I write to be understood. Deep down in the pride filled holes of my heart I hope someone, somewhere cares about my work. I hope it either makes them laugh (where appropriate), or cry. Makes them think, wonder, be inspired, maybe even impressed. So we seek this affirmation, this recognition.

Social media dictates that we deserve not only to perform surgery on ourselves, but let our friends be trainee doctors and bear witness to us systematically removing our innards and splaying them on the stainless steel theatre tables of the World Wide Web. As we partake in this ritual, we are hoping for some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ to escape pursed lips. That fervent scribbling salutes our aural faculties as people write down our updates our posts in the memory bank of their minds. That, they might even venture to ask a question, to drop a comment.

Yet in my experience, often this isn’t the case. We perform to an Asian audience. That is to say, we perform to people who may not applaud at every twirl, but watch, critically until the final curtain call before rising from their seats in rapturous applause and screams. The dancer must keep dancing, even if it is to a silent cavern. If they stop mid twirl, then the comments will never fall, the applause will never be born as hands are kept by their sides, maybe in disappointment, or disinterestedness.

Today I realised, one never knows who their audience is. They may never comment, or like, but they may be methodically and systematically reading, watching, a lurking presence that sees you even when you don’t see them.

As they say in theatre, regardless of anything, the show must go on. The performance only ends at that final curtain call.

So dance.

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