CARIFESTA Update - Monday

For the past two days I have only half worn my director's hat. Most of my time has been spent with the cast and crew of The Children's Teeth, which played twice back-to-back in Georgetown, and which is now preparing to go out of town on a mini-tour. Because of the play, I missed seeing Walcott in person, missed his address at the opening symposium. In part because of the play too (though more because of the fact that when I was here yesterday I was playing director full-time) I missed Max Taylor's address at the CARIFESTA Symposium, which doubles my regret. Wholly because of the play I missed the rush-out at the Grand Market, which of course stopped the festivities cold and left people buzzing about The Bahamas, a good buzz.Teeth was mounted in Queen's College auditorium, which as I've described is a functional all-purpose space with a large stage and a big stage door which recognizes and respects the size and sense of the set, but with no lights, sound, or backstage. (At least they don't call it a National anything over here -- when they dub something National, that means something.) Garfunkel Auditorium meets the old GHS auditorium -- made of concrete and galvanize, not pre-fab like our new auditoria, with a ceiling that goes up to the gods and windows that go up that high as well, and breeze blocks at the back. It's the second time I've seen a Caribbean theatre with breeze blocks -- the other time was the Little Carib in Port of Spain -- and once again I'm left wondering whether that's even a possibility in Nassau. But no. Nights here (and in Trinidad -- somewhat -- and Barbados -- definitely) are cool and breezy, fresh like nights in spring and fall at home, and not still and deadly like nights in the heart of summer. And the blocks let in more than breeze -- they let in noise and creatures, and we Bahamians have lost the art (a) of listening so we can hear people who speak without microphones and (b) of dealing with the creatures who live on this earth with us. (There was a report of someone's encountering a frog in their bathroom here in Guyana -- something I certainly would have had a hard time overcoming!). The play was accompanied by the sound of the South American tree frogs that live here -- not the kwee kwik of Bahamian tree frogs, but almost a singing, a whistling that rivals the sound of crickets. A great night sound, providing ambience and accompaniment to the play.The production went well, on the whole. Sunday's performance drew a very small crowd, many of them families (! - Teeth has mature situations and mature themes, but not, I suppose, any more mature than what can be found on TV these days), but given the fact that Walcott was speaking elsewhere I think it was a good turnout. Last night's drew more people, maybe twice or three times more. It was also covered by various media houses -- our own ZNS and BIS were there, as well as Guyana National Television, and I was interviewed by a reporter who confessed that the play had made her cry, and which pleased me no end. I wasn't sure that the situations would play here. First of all, the Haitian situation is unfamiliar to the Guyanese audiences; second of all, the accents in the play are really pretty thick; and third of all, we have lost the technique of performing in live spaces like that.I was reminded, halfway through last night's performance, of all the elocution lessons I received from my elders, growing up as I did in the space between the acoustic and the amplified worlds. The overpronunciation of certain things, the technique of delivering things in a more stylized fashion, even the grander presentational style that we favour in the Caribbean -- these are products of an acoustic world where performance spaces have hard edges and echoes happen easily. It's the world of the microphone that has allowed the intimacy of the living room and the cinema to move onto the stage, and many of the techniques that we used in the play -- overlapping speeches, intimate confessional scenes, etc -- did not play as well in that space as they did in the Dundas. Something to know going forward.And afterward we struck the set we'd built on Sunday morning.So I sit in my room this morning, hoping that I'll be able to upload this. Today is the day I've looked forward to the most so far -- the play is travelling to Anna Regina, a town up along, a journey of about three hours over road and up river, with an overnight stay after the performance and a return journey tomorrow. I shall take photographs and record the experience: CARIFESTA the adventure.