On 6 March I had a first rehearsal for an original theatre piece with 12 Theatre and Film students at Kenyatta University. The idea for the show was hatched in February. And now, ‘It’s the Day of the Show, Y’all.’ Don’t worry, the students in Kenya do not use our silly American expression.
The show is called KUMI NA MBILI, the Kiswahili words for 12 (10 plus 2). We will perform in the round in Harambee Hall at 7pm tonight for an audience.
Rehearsals for this project have been an amazing experience. I am alone as the organizer of the project, with no stage manager or support from the department. I have drafted a student assistant, Bryan Ngugi, who has saved this project and made it possible. We will not perform on a stage, we will have no lighting cues, and the actors are wearing their own clothes. We created the script and staging together. We have not run the show in the performance space yet, as we keep getting double-booked, sending us to rehearse outdoors with the basketball players and security guard training in Bishop Square. We use 4 chairs and 3 plastic cups of water. We have 2 sound cues. I hope an audience comes to see our work. It is a Kenyan/American fusion and it is unique in the world. I know the students have learned a great deal from working with me, just like they have taught me a great deal.
Making theatre in Kenya, even in a department like ours at Kenyatta University, is an uphill battle. Nothing has been easy. Nothing works as planned. Never does A link to B without 12 detours through C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N, and before I know it I have not arrived at B but at O. It is a daily lesson, including today.
It’s the day of the show y’all. Something will happen tonight in Harambee Hall at Kenyatta University. Tomorrow, the cast will drive to an arts venue in Nairobi and the show will be filmed by a documentary film-maker on the roof of the building with the Nairobi skyline behind us. Stay tuned . . .
KUMI NA MBILI!