Wednesday, August 08, 2007
ACT membership renewal 2007 / 2008
Membership year will be from now till August 31, 2008.
Highlights of some of the benefits of becoming a member of ACT are:
-receive advanced notification regarding workshops, mentoring possibilities, auditions and productions
-participate in any aspect of any performance (on-stage or off)
-purchase tickets in advance for any ACT production at a discounted price
Annual membership fee for
single adult member $25.00
same household $40.00
cheques (made payable to ACT) can either be mailed to:
ACT (a community theatre)
11 Beach St
or pass along to any executive member.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Schools Drama Project in the Solomon Islands with support from ACT
This is a good-news story. Over the past three months, an excellent thing has happened in Honiara in the Solomon Islands. It came to fruition on Thursday evening, 7 June. It was the HAMS Inter-School Drama Competition.
HAMS is our Honiara community-theatre group. Its main activity has been to put on two or three comedies a year, chiefly for the adult expatriate audience. We decided to do something different—to reach out into the community, to promote drama in the local elementary schools while bannering the Environment as a critical issue for the people of this South-Pacific archipelago.
The project was led by a chap in the British High Commission here. He was prompted by his teenage son who had seen the success of a similar competition (in a different field) in the UK. About ten others of us pitched in to help with planning and arrangements, and to serve as ‘mentors’, assisting the schools who took part. Sponsors included a bank, a computer company, conservation agencies and others—plus Prince Edward Island’s own ACT (a community theatre), which covered transportation costs for the school drama groups.
The competition worked like this ...
- The challenge was to create a 10-minute play—to develop the ideas, write the script, make the costumes, props and set (with a grant of about 14 Canadian dollars!), and present the drama using 6 or 8 pupils plus a 2-person stage-crew. The play was to have a strong societal-improvement purpose, deriving from the general theme of protecting the environment.
- Everything had to be done by the students themselves—at the grade 4, 5, 6 level—under the guidance of their teachers and with advisory help from the HAMS mentors. We arranged with WWF (World-Wide Fund for Nature) education specialists to visit each participating school to get the ideas flowing.
- All elementary schools in Honiara were invited to take part; 6 took up the challenge, and that turned out to be a perfect number.
There was a burst of creative energy over a three-month period. Besides the weekly work in a classroom or under the canopy of a giant rain-tree, each school had a day at the HAMS theatre for rehearsals and the chance to do some fund-raising, while showing off their play to classmates and parents. At a dress-rehearsal run-through, all the kids had a grand time watching each other’s plays.
Then came the gala performance evening. The theatre was full: the Lord Mayor of Honiara, diplomatic officials, the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister, teachers, school-mates, parents and ‘wantok’ (kinfolk) plus a surprising number of people from the general public. Scores of student actors and assistants clustered outside, waiting for their turn on the stage.
What a show they put on. We were all astonished at the level of acting skill, the creative genius of the costumes and set, the provocative impact of the environmental messages about beating the degradation of clear-cut logging, thoughtless rubbish and dynamite fishing.
The prizes went home with a good spread over all six schools—certificates, trophies, computers ... for costuming, set, stage-crew, actor, actress, group acting, script, overall production/performance, and ‘spirit of the competition’.
The other outcomes were probably more important than the awards.
- A lot of publicity gave profile for the schools, for HAMS, for the idea of grass-roots theatre, and of course for protecting the environment.
- Participation: about 60 pupils were performers and stage-hands; dozens more got in on the action of developing the scripts, costumes, props, set and whatnot. About 15 teachers volunteered for the experience of learning and leading; most started in a rather shy or modest way, to be honest ... but then grew and grew in enthusiasm, imagination, responsibility and pride.
- We found that there is a great pool of dramatic talent and imagination among Solomon Island youngsters, and this developed enormously during these few months.
- What else developed was confidence and self-esteem. White River School is the outstanding example. A disadvantaged school in several ways, it found this project a big challenge ... and then factors like missing set and costumes contributed to a disheartening dress rehearsal. The kids bounced back two days later with a final show that had the audience rocking; that put mile-wide smiles on the students’ faces ... which lit up even more as they took home the computer for ‘Best Spirit of the Competition.’
Environment is crucially important in the Solomons. The effects of shifting from age-old customs to ‘western ways’ and of pillaging the forests and reefs have been killing the capacity of land-and-sea resources to sustain the people’s traditional subsistence living. The plays made the problems concrete and visually demonstrated that solutions are within reach.
There is no shortage, though, of other serious problems—urban drift, political instability, land tenure, inter-ethnic tensions, haphazard education and such. So there is ample potential for using ‘popular theatre’ as an instrument for guiding people to recognize and analyze an issue and feel their way toward remedial action ... and there is no reason to omit children from that process.
We can be almost certain that the HAMS Inter-School Drama Competition will become an annual activity.
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Saturday, August 04, 2007
This is our final monthly newsletter from the Solomon Islands—the 22nd to record our two years here which began on September 8th 2005.
Bae mitufala go finis fofala dei moa: four days from now we will take off from Henderson Airport. That is, by the way, the air-field which, because of its strategic significance in the Japanese spread across the South Pacific and southern Asia, was the cause of the horrific battles of Guadalcanal which made this place the grave for over 40,000 soldiers and sailors.
Much of our stay here has been (to put it in a best-possible light) ‘challenging’. We look back at the first half-year especially—at ‘aggrimatization’ to the filth of Honiara, the power and water outages, and particularly the total mess into which we stumbled at work, where no one had been doing anything for a couple of years and no one (employees, Director, Board, CUSO) seemed to be terribly bothered by that ... and we wonder: -...Why did we ever stay? Why did we bother trying?
Some things have improved. Power and water go off only about twice or three times a week. We no longer smell burning plastic so much and the rubbish covering everything is probably only about 65% of what it was, now that the town has some erratic garbage collection. We haven’t had a loot-and-burn riot in over a year ... although Chinatown (through which we walk twice a day) is still an empty un-rebuilt shell. Politics are still pretty ridiculous, to the point of some scariness, but the Solomons Prime Minister and Australia are still, for all their angry bickering, maintaining some sort of relationship.
But two kinds of thing keep us discouraged.
- Some significant attributes of Solomon Islands ‘culture’—particularly the (non-) work ethic of a majority of people and the attitude of dependency:—You white men are good at that; we black men are no good at it; we need you white men to do it—and the assumption that if something needs to be done, AusAid, the EU or Taiwan will fund it, and someone like the UN (or CUSO) will send ‘experts’ to do it.
- Which leads us to our work and the fate of LASI, our Literacy Association. The good news is that the new Finance & Administration person is competent: those aspects of LASI will run smoothly. But ... How telling it was, what our Director said in a staff meeting a couple of weeks ago: “Thanks to Rob & Mar for helping me ... when they go, I’ll have to find someone else to help me.” He has learned virtually nothing, and what he said reflected that he has had no concept (despite all our attempts at training / ‘skills-transfer’) that he should be learning ... There’s a presumption that there will always be someone else who will tell him how to manage. Then there’s Alex—the fellow hired in January as the literacy professional ... one of the three persons in the Solomons with a year’s formal training. What emerged a few weeks ago was that he (i) had reverted to porn-site addiction; (ii) had hugely mismanaged LASI money on his training trips; (iii) had, for all the typing he seemed to do, produced nothing of what he was assigned. He did give training to many of our field coordinators and about 150 village teachers, so that was an achievement. But quite sensibly, the Board fired him ... which means that after 2 years we’re back to square one, having no capacity to provide training and other literacy services. Aaaarrrrggggh.
Finished up in a more positive way with our HAMS theatre group—orchestrated the AGM, got a new constitution adopted and a strong executive committee in place. I can feel good about the theatre work—the comedy shows and other events like coffee nights, and especially the wonderful Schools Drama Competition we put on.
My (R’s) health has been a bother: a 2-day flu, mild food poisoning, cellulitis in an infected leg, ear infection again. Physical wreck. But we’ve been enjoying the cooler nights—three when we turned off the fan!
Family news ... Daughter Meg and Chris this week moved into their new house in Barrhead Alberta, and Chris is doing well at learning RCMP techniques in actual practice. Ken is traveling again, this week in Germany or Switzerland. Graham and Suzy have finished their Italian classes in Sienna and are touring for a couple of weeks. Alec and Allana are busy helping her brother Jimmy and his fiance plan their October wedding. We look forward to seeing them all in a few months.
Predictably, we’ve been socializing quite a bit in these final few weeks. A big farewell dinner at a hotel with representatives of all the various literacy agencies. Lunches with Paula, the CUSO office person. Dinners, big and small, with some of our favourite expat pals ... and even some new ones—example: Australian physician who practised in Saskatchewan; Malaysian epidemiologist working on malaria eradication. A ‘farewelling’ ceremony with songs and gifts and food, at one of our literacy schools.
Perhaps the most meaningful goodbye gathering is this afternoon (Sunday) when our neighbours from the half-dozen houses in our little valley - probably about 50 men, women and pikininis— will gather around our house for a ‘go-finis’ party, a sort of potluck at which we will barbecue hamburgers and the others will bring Solomons kai-kai of various kinds—kumara, taro, fish, cassava pudding, slippery cabbage, etc.
- all the greens of our valley—clover, shrubs, palm, frangipani, papaya, banana, cassava, etc.
- picking ants out of the cereal and off the toothbrush
- Solomon Islanders (most of them) are perhaps not so great at _doing_ and producing results ... but they are very good at _being_, at ‘storying’ and enjoying one another and being happy
- a comic note—a sermon at church ... the guy said that Islanders were just too busy; they needed to slow down!
- residue of Brit / Aussie vocabulary: you ‘ring someone on 22850’ (vs call them at ...)
- in Aussie vocabulary you ‘farewell’ someone (vs say good-bye)
- all toilets offer a sensible choice of full- or half-flush
- the scampering across our floors, walls, ceilings: geckos and big hunting spiders
- the mud on and in everything, after two or three days of rain
- more interesting Islander names: Tango, Relent, Styistel, Netherlyn, Modesta
So ... as we wend our way through Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan ... and Alberta (all those exotic places with inscrutable people!), we’ll be out of touch. We’ll land on good ol’ PEI on Tuesday, September 18th (phone # 902-628-6778)... bringing this 2-year adventure to a close, and opening up a fresh chapter. Thank you for allowing us to share our experiences with you.
Rob & Mar