Harare, March 19th 2015 | Elizabeth Zaza Muchemwa
It started last year with me, a stage reading mentee director participating in the staged reading of Necessary Targets as an actor. The Mentor Director, Julia Wharton wanted us, would be stage reading directors, to experience the process as actors/directors in training. I got to understand better the vulnerability that actor experiences and the trust that is needed to be built between an actor and a director. In the meetings with Julie, directors reflected what their perceived strengths and weaknesses were. I remember saying my weakness being that of impatience with actors in the rehearsals, sometimes. My resolve then was to learn from this experience the art of directing a stage reading and also how to do away with this weakness of being impatient. From the stage reading of Necessary Targets to observing the rehearsals of Fabulation directed by mentee director Patience G. Tawengwa I squirreled away information, learning as much as I could of the skills set to use later on in my stage reading debut. I knew that I needed as much as I could in order to prepare. I had been given the tools to use and had the wonderful support of the Mentor Director and my fellow stage reading director mentees.
When my turn came I was in a twist over whether I would be able to pull it off. At the same time I was curious on what would happen with all that I had collected, would it all be put to good use? Every step of the way was an opportunity to learn. At the center of all this was the text itself, In the Blood and the lead character, Hester. The simplicity of the excellent play and the tragedy that is Hester haunted my unconscious and conscious moments. When I first read the play I was excited and could not wait to start working on it. The slightly unusual style of playwright Suzan-Lori Parks piqued me. The story of a woman who is scorned by all who sin against her resonated with my experiences of such like women in my community. Not only that but the deeper statement Suzan-Lori Parks seemed to say, in this society driven by the worship for money which breeds oppressive and domineering tendencies in the best and worst of us, should we be surprised the plight of the woman has not changed much for the better? Can we honestly say that the Hesters of this world did not get to where they are without a little push on our side? I read it again to find what new things I had missed the first time. Then I got scared. So many questions floated in my head. What right did I have to think that I could be the one to lead the process of the play to the Zimbabwean audiences? Would I not sin against Hester by not telling her story with the sincerity that it deserved?
The rehearsal process started and my trepidation was still there. I was filled with despair by Hester’s tragedy. I was frustrated by the choices she made in the play. I was frustrated by some of the choices I made as a director. I had moments of despair where I looked for reflections or even glimpses of my vision in the rehearsals. These were equally followed by elating moments where actors received what was given to open up the world of the play and the understanding of their fellow actors. In the process discovered the wonderful but intricate world of actors and a play, which if you are not careful you can drown in. I had to realize the difference between being patient and letting a production suffer as a result of a wrong choice. As I encouraged the actors to feed of each other, to give each other energy to play with, I fed off the insights they made on their characters and the play itself. One particular observation that moved me was by the actor who played Jabber. The actor, Musa Saruro, had had more experience acting in comedies and was keen to try something different. He talked about how Jabber was afraid of Bad News, the bad news was what took their fathers away, it was what made Trouble come home with the club that ended up being Jabber’s demise. The bad news was everywhere. It accounted for the situation
that he and his family were in-a 13 year old’s explanation for the complexity of the world’s problems. The more I worked on the play and the more time I spent in the rehearsal the less I
wanted to let go. But the rehearsal process came to its end, with it the clarity and cohesiveness I was looking for. I had to let go but not before I squirreled some more information, some insights and some for later. I can safely say y feeding frenzy is done waiting for the next opportunity.