Saturday, May 2, 2009

3 Saturdays

I think when we decided two and one half years ago to stage "Jungle Books" as our family show we had dreams of it having some viability and some lasting values. I know we never dreamed of it doing what it is now. Think of it this way -- three Saturdays, three cities, two countries in consecutive order.

On Saturday April 18th we found ourselves in the Lansburgh Theatre at home in Washington, DC performing two shows, the first at 1pm and the second at 4pm. We had a cast of 25. Our Baby Birds premiered, four insanely adorable tykes who stole the show from the grown ups.

On Saturday April 25th we found ourselves in Baltimore, Maryland, in the Meyerhof Symphony Hall, guests of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. There were 1,500 kids in the audience for an 11am show. At the back of the stage, on a raised platform, sat five musicians, all but one veterans of the band Board Member Matt Jones founded, Bottomland. The music was Clifton Brockington at his crazy, creative best. The cast was almost completely different in their roles. Jason was stil Mowgli, Maleek was still Baloo. But everyone else was shifting around, literally on the fly. Daniel Zook, of CD2, played as many roles as one person cum animal could.

At 6pm we were on a plane.

On Saturday, May 2 were are here, in Ramallah in the West Bank. We upended almost the entire program, spent the day trying to ramp up a narrator to step into my role as Rudyard Kipling because the show text had been very roughly translated into Arabic. The cast couldn't understand the narrator. The narrator had no experience with dance. He spoke almost no english, so the only way we could communicate with one another was through Dina Ghandour, who we ultimately put on a headset wired to the booth just so we could cue him as to when to come up to the stage. We were changing entrances and exits for him at 5:30 for a 6pm curtain, and rehearsing him in the kitchen backstage till 6:10 (yes, that's 10 minutes after the show was supposed to start).

The cues were, literally, the only common words between us -- the names of Kipling's characters. Maleek knew to enter when the lights changed and when he heard his name, "Baloo" called. After a days rehearsals the actor still blew through his cues, eliminating Kaa's entrance altogether, throwing our newest Shere Khan, Christopher, onto the stage without warning, and the only way Julie (our TD) or I (calling the show and running sound) knew that something was wrong was when we heard Kaa's name too soon and our technical director in the theater went "ooops." It was a rock and roll show to be sure. We went from 25 dancers to 8. Delph, Liz (making her stage JB debut), Kathryn and Giselle turned into the craziest, cutest monkeys you've ever seen. People crashed into each other, Jason almost did a backflip into the boom.

But the kids loved it and clapped after almost every number and filled the theater.

I think its as close to heart failure as I have any interest in coming, but once the "it should have been perfect" dies away the reality is we just performed Jungle Books, in Ramallah, on a third consecutive Saturday, IN ARABIC.


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