Workshop blog - I am not a writer

Day 12

I’ve just realised something. When we started this project I wanted to document the things I was experiencing, for my own personal reasons (maybe to show the grandkids? If I ever have any!)  So I began writing a diary which was never meant to be seen by anyone, maybe just the odd close friend or so. I’ve done this before - written a blog but never shared it. I mean, what is a blog, it’s a diary right? Anyway, Hal asked me last week if I would mind writing a blog for the Aperta website. I agreed, not really thinking about it.  I hate writing blogs. Well, I don’t hate writing blogs I just hate the thought of it being on the internet for the world to read because I am NOT A WRITER! Today I noticed the website has gone live and loads of people have shared this blog on Facebook. It’s gone viral and I feel nervous about it. I was just in the middle of emailing a friend who is a writer to ask for his advice/tips when it suddenly dawned on me that what I am doing here is the same as what we will be asking the women to do.  I have never written for an audience before and the thought scares me. The 40 women I am working with have never stood on stage and acted before, so I need to be as brave and as excited as they are about it be.
Ok, I’ve had my say, now back to….blog!

As well as all the technical aspects of being on stage, I want the women to start using their creative juices and imagination and thinking for themselves instead of following my lead. That’s my aim for today.  
I wore make up today, at Zarifa’s request, which got a lot of attention. Although she said I need more kohl and should pluck my eyebrows so that they are thinner, then I would look really nice! I’m not sure I agree, she assures me I would and offers to give me her kohl.
After some stretching and shaking to wake everyone up I try a very simple controlled exercise of focusing on a point and walking to it; gradually building on it using pace, exaggerated movement and eventually character.  I ask them to walk how a particular ‘character’  (ballet dancer/7yr old child/president…) may walk. Mona says “I don’t know how a police man walks, you show us and we’ll copy.” I explain that’s not the point, she should use her imagination to create her policeman’s walk.  I notice most women are huddled in a corner, halfheartedly doing it - I ask why? “Because the director is there”, they say quietly. It’s interesting to see how little they are willing to show in front of the director - just because he is male.  When he is out of the room, they are like children - free and expressive, but in the room with him they are ‘well-behaved’, inhibited adults.  It’s a cultural frustration, I’d like him to see the work I am doing and the process with which they are improving and developing day by day. If only he could see how open and confident they are in my workshops, I wonder if they will always be like that or if it’s just a matter of time?

We finish with a choral speaking exercise - each group has to present the happy birthday song but not as a song. One group tell me it’s a difficult task because all the lines are the same - I encourage them to think of different ways of presenting the text using volume, repetition, pitch, pace, and anything else they want, except song.  They all present different versions of happy birthday as a chorus, some with movements even. I feel very proud.
A treat to end on - DANCING! I have downloaded more Arab music, some of their favourites like Najwa Karam, Nancy Ajram and one for me (and for Iraq) - Kazem al Sahr!