Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Elizabeth’s purchase of a rickety Suziki Vitura happened to coincide with a grenade attack on the Ruhengeri bus terminal which missed us by exactly an hour, so we’ve been driving the windy road to the Child Rehabilitation Center, Elizabeth getting better and better at the drive that we keep joking we’re going to base the most boring video game in history on: “Musanze 500,” which will consist of spending 90% of your time crawling up winding roads at 5 mph behind toxic smoke-exhaling cargo jeeps, with the rest of the time spent passing said jeeps in death-defying and idiotic maneuvers around blind corners out of sheer frustration.

Pacy gets shotgun because his legs are longest, and Ari and I take turns sitting in the "shitty chair," which is the rear-left seat with a backrest that is rusted into a permanently acute angle. Our 4-man team folds up quite nicely into what we’ve named the “De-mobile.” After a couple of weeks together, we’re hitting our stride – the car journeys feel shorter and the theatre sessions feel simultaneously more effortless and more productive.

Yesterday, without exactly planning to, we ended up staging absurd and hilarious scenes based on the boys’ worst nightmares about returning to their families (10 of them are set to visit their families for the first time this week).

Clowning with deep fears, I’ve decided, is my new favorite game. If I could send you a film of anything that we’ve done so far, it would be of Aimable playing Jean Damascène’s father—holding his nose, gagging, checking his shoes, and searching frantically through the house to figure out what smelled so damned bad, before realizing that it was his dirty little jungle-rotted long-lost son and promptly chucking him physically out the door. The laughter, my god, how we laughed. I imagine playing this way in prisons, streets, hospitals, refugees camps…anywhere that there is pain and fear, there is joyous, empowering, tension-relieving laughter to be tickled out.

Also, it just makes good theatre. I think of the 2 entire sessions that we spent trying to tease out comedy around “daily life in the forest.” It was off-theme and we all felt it. There was some general buffoonery around food-stealing and farting and even (I didn’t get the translation but I’m pretty sure) poo-throwing, but none of it was really that funny because—I’m realizing—none of it was tied to something urgent and real for the boys now. At the end of the session on Friday, pensive natural-leader Crispin asked when we would get around to the theme of families rejecting their sons. I nodded agreement and promised to start with that Monday. Monday it was raining cats and dogs and we braced ourselves for a depressing session about rejection under the half-soaked overhang on the stairs outside the dorms (there are no rooms to retreat to in this weather, as the classrooms are still being built and the rest of the indoor spaces are stuffed full of bunk beds or food stores). The session ended up being anything but a downer. Aimable’s hilarious son-sniffing performance was rounded off with an “adoption auction” (one of Elizabeth’s genius ideas) where the boys sold one another to the giggling crowd by announcing their “product’s” innumerable skills, while the boy in question mimed along to prove his worth: “This child is very strong! He is very sociable! He knows how to cook! He is 14 years old! He can lift that chair over his head!” As the “selling points” got more and more absurd, the boys got more and more excited to “welcome” one another into their “homes.” At the end of the session I stood on the bench and announced, “The audience at Ishyo is going to fall in love with you.”