Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Rohio and Juliet" - an authentic Kenyan musical

Mamlaka's Word to Life drama team re-staged the popular musical that they wrote and performed last September.  Click here to see the original review.  This time, they reworked the ending, added some songs, vamped up the music, tightened the script and performed it with full theatrical lighting and set at a local theatre for a total of 8 shows.  Wow, what a great job they did!  This was a great example of a community-created piece; a team working on the script, several different composers, with harmonies created by the instrumentalists and various musicians, such as the Kenya Boys' Choir, and, of course, the cast putting in their work as well.

Rohio and Juliet sing of their love
 "Rohio and Juliet" was definitely authentic, and authentically Kenyan.  Rare to find a musical with that combination.  The message definitely hit home.  heart strings were tugged tangibly."  (Yafesi Musoke, writer, actor, producer and overall excellent thespian!)

The rich landowners show off their dancing skills
"I wanted to let you know that I had a wonderful time during the show and personally I was blest and honoured to be part of the production.  As much as the audience was touched by the play, I too was really impressed and I was glad to have spent my time there.  You have a wonderful team and I was amazed at the talent, creativity, determination they got and above  all their will to serve Christ."  (Jolynne Mokaya, crew member)

The workers dance:  "If I Had a Shilling"
Mothers' fight

"I won't take your money any more"

Mama Busara and Rohio remind the workers what they've been through

"The government is in our pockets"

Pesa, pesa, pesa...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Christmas Dramas in Kenya

There are always more plays happening than time and ability to see and review them all!  But the theatre scene is keeping busy in Nairobi at least.  Several churches had Christmas-time dramas.  Nairobi Chapel Rongai wrote an original play, Mamlaka Hill Chapel added drama to the music concert with an original script retelling the Christmas story through mime and narration, Good Shepherd put on a Christmas Cantata written by one of their own, Nairobi Pentecostal Valley Road also did an original play called "Gone in 59 Seconds," and I'm sure many other churches around did their own plays and concerts.

Kijiji Entertainment, with the drama folk from Mavuno Chapel, are launching on a TV series called "The Groove Theory," which will be aired on Zuku Africa next year.  It is a musical directed for stage but filmed for TV.  Once more they are breaking barriers and moving things forward.  The series follows young Kenyans trying to make it as musicians in spite of family and societal pressures and oppositions.

There has been a lot of drama training happening in Nairobi this year also:  the Irresistible! Drama Leaders' Conference in July, a follow-up conference in October, and short courses through Daystar University's Institute of Christian Ministries and Training (ICMT).

October's conference was graced by the presence and excellent teaching of Garold Anderson (Garold and Lori have a great creative ministry in Europe and Kenya through Watershed Arts) and Thea Solteau, a dancer/choreographer from the UK.

I think I'll give a brief summary of these events in another blog.  But this coming year there should be lots happening drama-wise in Kenya!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Rohio and Juliet" - a Kenyan musical

The Mubanga workers discuss their grievances
Just finished our first run of "Rohio and Juliet"!   This was the Word2Life drama ministry's stab at contextualizing "Romeo and Juliet" to a Kenyan context, along with inspiration from "West Side Story" in terms of making it a musical.  What a tremendous experience!   They did the impossible, writing the outline in a month, finishing the script and writing all the music in 2 weeks, and rehearsing it in a month (with dance, music and script development still going on!).

The result pleased large audiences for 2 nights, and they are clamoring for a re-staging!  The story is very appropriate for Kenya today, as it was set among class/economic wars, between landowners and workers, with Rohio and Juliet coming from the two different groups.
Rohio and Juliet dance and sing of their love

The Word2Life team was responding to the series at Mamlaka Hill Chapel on "The Ten Most Pressing Issues Facing Kenyans."  They did a short sketch based on Romeo and Juliet and decided that it would be a good script to contextualize to Kenya, since so many of the issues (tribalism, rivalry, economics, hate and greed) are embedded in the plot.

What made the whole production wonderful was the commitment and dedication of the cast and crew, rehearsing long hours, after work and school, in just a month, in order to get it stage ready.  It had to be put on September 1 because it was a part of Artfest, another initiative of Mamlaka Hill Chapel that takes a month every 2 years to celebrate the arts, Christian artists, and arts in the church.  But now that we've done it once, we can work out the kinks and stage it again, hopefully soon!  The team is looking forward to making a difference in Kenya through this entertaining and thought-provoking musical.
Mama Busara sings about an unchanging God

Rohio kills Tyler

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kenyan Christians doing theatre

Lots happening on the Kenyan Christian theatre front!  We just came through the Easter season with lots of excellent plays on offer.  Just a sampling:  Word to Life drama team at Mamlaka Hill Chapel brought the Word to life through a dramatic worship service called "Meditations on the Cross."  1 1/4 hours of drama, tableaux, music, meditation and prayer reflecting on the work and death of Jesus.  Powerful response.

Village Easter, with Mavuno's drama ministry and Kijiji Entertainment, presented their latest original musical, "Gangster's Paradise."  A first-rate production with great music and an interesting story line.  They keep getting better and better every year!

Nairobi Baptist is performing "Scarlet: the Redemption Story" this weekend.  This is another original musical done with excellence.  From the same crew that brought "Song of Mary" to life with fantastic original music as well.  

Coming up soon in June is IgizaFest, a drama festival with the theme of modeling victorious Christian living.  It hearkens back to the the Mavuno Festival of the 1990s, where church drama teams came together to celebrate their drama work, compete in a friendly competition and sharpen one another.  

And "Irresistible! Drama Leaders' Conference" will be happening in July.  Lots going on!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easter Drama Worship Service in Kenya

Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
Word to Life Drama Ministry of Mamlaka Hill Chapel led the congregation through a dramatic worship service yesterday.  23 actors, 10 musicians.  An hour and a half of worship, reflection and repentance through Scripture storytelling, singing, prayer, confession, tableaux (still pictures).

"Meditations on the Cross" was a worship journey following the Scriptural account of Holy Week.  Two narrators told the story straight from Scripture as the drama team pictured it for the audience with different tableaux.

Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane

Live action and dialogue was interspersed with the still pictures, and enacted scenes and monologues to help people see, feel and meditate on Christ's life, suffering and death.

Songs (drawn from hymns and other songs that reflect on the cross and the events of Holy Week) were also a part of the script, allowing the congregation to participate in the experience in more ways than just watching.

Crowd calls for Barabbas

A time of confession and repentance was included to help people think of the relevance of Christ's sacrifice to their lives today.

The team of 30+ worked together with professionalism and conviction and presented a service that was impactful and brought at least 15 people to a new faith in Jesus, and many others to repent of their betrayal of Jesus through their choices.

Mary at the cross

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Plays in Nairobi

It's that time of year, and many churches are presenting powerful Christmas plays.  Here's just a sample...

Shepherds discuss the angel message
Mamlaka Hill Chapel presented "The Dawning: Reflections on Christmas" on December 11.  This was a collection of scenes, monologues, poetry, speech choir and songs very ably performed by the drama team of the church--so much talent!  

An audience favorite were the shepherds, who confused the angels with the moon (or sun), and were obviously not the sharpest shepherds on the block!

Mary remembers

Nyambura Muriuki did a wonderful job as Mary, giving beautiful poetic renditions as well as a monologue about her experience as the mother of the Messiah.  Frank Koine and Jaki Oyoo also stood out as the innkeeper and his wife.  The speech choir energetically and artistically presented WH Auden poems and Scripture.

The innkeeper and his wife argue
Also back on stage is Mavuno Chapel's "Village Christmas: A Love Story," playing until Dec. 24.  This dramatic musical extravaganza is always well done and a crowd pleaser!

Nairobi Baptist presents "The Song of Mary" this week (Wednesday through Friday).  They have an able cast and have expanded the script with a lot of wonderful original music, bringing added depth to the performances and the script.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Arts in Missions

Just back from a week-long conference in the UK for Arts in Missions!  It was sponsored by Graduate Institute of Linguistics (GIAL), Int'l Council of Ethnodoxologists (ICE) and All Nations College.  So fantastic to be among 70 or so like-minded, artsy missions types!  The conference was a "test drive" of the Arts in Missions manual that Brian Schrag of GIAL is compiling, to be released by Urbana 2012.  I was honored to be one of the trainers for the event, and am also helping with some of the drama portions of the manual.

Just a sample of what it's like with arts-types:
visual processors

Visual learners/processors mixed with traditional note-takers in working through the material presented, processing it visually, with this result...

The end result

We were working through an oral verbal art form among the Sakha people of Siberia.  The form, called Ohokhai, involves a participatory round dance, a call and response 7-syllable (preferably with lots of alliteration) rhyme scheme, and is identified as a core part of Sakha culture.  

The Arts in Missions manual walked us through the research, interview, creation and critique aspect of discovering indigenous arts... and then the entire conference created their own mini ohokhais!   

Below is a picture of the final night, when everyone danced the ohokhai on the lawn of All Nations!
AiM participants do an Ohokhai

Other sessions looked at particular artistic domains and how to analyze and create appropriate local pieces.  I co-led the drama artistic domain session, and once again enjoyed working with an international group of thespian-minded people!  We looked at the Kenyan drama that was performed in the movie "The Constant Gardener," analyzed it and then attempted to create something of a similar genre.  
All in 2 hours!

Here's a picture of drama worldwide:  in just this small group are represented Kenya, Burkina Faso, India, Jamaica, Mozambique, France, United Kingdom and United States!

Dramatists from around the world