A couple days ago my roommate and I were invited to a play. One of our friends who works at the hospital also teaches at a school and his kids were putting on “The Merchant of Venice.” I know! So cultured! He said the play would start at 2pm but Meredith (my roommate) and I told him we wouldn’t be able to get there until between 3 and 4pm. He said “That’s ok, we will find something.” Later at home we were talking about this and thought, “Wait. Did he mean he was going to find something to occupy them until we get there!??!!” The next day I clarified that he wasn’t going to wait to start the play until we got there was he??? He looked at me like I was crazy. Oops….guess not. It sounds like I was being egocentric, but that kind of thing has happened to me before!!
The day of the play arrived. We headed into town to pick up one of Meredith’s friends and go to the play. They were charging 1000 leones to see the play (about $0.25). I had a Le 5000 bill with me so I just paid for the three of us (I know, be amazed at my big spending!) and of course one guy standing nearby started yelling at me that I needed to pay for him too. When I said no he looked completely put out. Didn’t I know that it was my duty to pay for him??? Sheesh Emily.
So. We get to the play. It’s being held in the community center, which is a big open building with a stage at the front. Perfect for a play. We find some seats on the second to last bench in the back. It is now 4:45. We were told the play started at 2. It still hasn’t started. But they’re doing some short skits as a prelude to the play. My Krio is to the point where I can understand a fair amount of what I hear……unless it’s being shouted into a microphone that’s turned up all the way. Unfortunately this was the case for the play, so I wasn’t understanding very much. Fortunately one of my friends showed up and she translated for me.
The skit that we saw went like this. A woman was cheating on her husband with a blind man. When the husband returned, the son told him what was going on and they set a trap to catch the blind guy/boyfriend of the wife. When the guy showed up to meet the woman, the husband pretended to be her. Through a number of awkward gropes, the blind man came to realize that the person he was groping was not in fact the woman he was expecting. The crowd thought it was hilarious. I felt a little bit violated.
Now it’s time for the real show. I know that I read “The Merchant of Venice” when I was in high school, but I didn’t remember the play at all. The only part I remembered was when the guy Shylock (was that is name?) wanted a pound of flesh. Since my friend got wrapped up in the show and stopped translating for me, I kept watching to see if I could pick up the “Pound of flesh” part. While watching for that part, here are some of other highlights that I noticed.
- Kids. They’re the same everywhere. During the marriage scene, when the couple fed each other the marriage supper the audience started ooooohing and aaawwwwing while the actors looked like they wanted to die on the spot. Loved it!
- The curtain. Like most theatres, there was a curtain at the front of the stage. There were two guys who were in charge of opening and closing the curtain. And they really liked their job. They opened and closed the curtain every 30 seconds or so. Unfortunately the rope that held the curtain had a lot of knots in it, so the curtain was always getting stuck while they tried to open it. At one point one of the guys got extra rambunctious about opening the curtain and literally fell off the stage. Ha! Thankfully he was unhurt and eagerly reassumed his position as operator of the curtain. I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much if I say I think about 25% of the play was spent opening and closing the curtain.
|The infamous curtain. Open close, open close. Repeat 35OO times.|
- Photographers. Also, as with most plays, it was videoed and pictures were taken. This one was unique however, because the photographer would call the actors away from their scene to move to the side and pose for a picture. The bride was in the middle of her marriage feast when she stood up, moved to the side, posed like a model for her picture, and then resumed her seat. I was impressed though that none of the other actors broke character when it happened and just kept on with the show! J Very professional.
When we arrived for the show we were in the back of the seating area. There weren’t any more seats, so everyone in the back stood up behind us. And they kept pressing in farther and farther. After about an hour and a half there were so many people and so little air circulation that I wanted to throw up. Meredith and I decided we’d give it about 10 more minutes and then call it. At that minute something happened…I have no idea what, but everyone started standing up and moving forward. We took that as our opportunity and high tailed it out of there.
|I tried to capture just how many people were crowding in, but I couldn't do it justice on film|
All in all it was a great experience and I’m glad I got to go. It took me back to the days of my church “Psalty” plays. Next time I will bring a fan and try to last through the whole show.