Thursday, July 8, 2010

Prepare Yourself

The National Theater of Nigeria is in Lagos. This building in the shape of a general's hat, was home to some of the most superb theatrical performances and concerts ever seen in Nigeria. Upon entering the building, you look up and see this beautiful carved wood, representing the hat's "band", wrapping around the facade.It was built in 1977 as the chief forum for the International Festival of Black Arts and Culture,and was the prime center for performing arts in the country.

But that was a long time ago.

Now the building is a shadow of it's former self, in need or repair and care. So why am I telling you about a former "Nigerian queen" who's beauty has faded to a memory. Because that is where Sesame Square is. Or more actually where the set is being built. That's where I went to today; part of my morning meetings to weigh in about the set and the studio stage.

So I and the producer for Sesame Workshop and the producer for the Square get out of the car and meet the set designer who then leads us inside the theater to the scenic shop. We start off entering and walking through the under ground garage of the theater. Very dark. Very deserted. Very.... wait.... is that piles of wood? That looks like set pieces against that dark corner. And as we approach the wooden frames of what looks like houses, I suddenly realize; this doesn't lead us to the scenic shop. This IS the scenic shop.

We did have a successful meeting figuring out how to fit the little structures in the very limited-spaced studio. I was pleased that my suggestion of "false perspective" (the biggest one closest to camera and scaling down the rest away from camera) was welcomed and accepted; especially since the designer has theatrical experience I knew he'd get what I was talking about.Luckily he also used his computer to reference the design just has the lights went out for about 15 (long) seconds.

Next, it was onto the studio itself, to check out how much or how little space they are going to have. Well, once it saw it, it's the latter. It's sixteen feet wide by twenty-one feet long, with a ceiling height roughly ten, at the most. Yeah. But this was the best and by that cheapest studio they could get. See, here Lagos is the capital of Nigeria's entertainment industry known as "Nollywood." There are loads of productions, such as their versions of soap operas, going on all the time. Some productions have even built their own studios and won't rent them out to anyone. So independent ones take complete advantage of this and hike the price since there is no other game in town.

But they will somehow, God bless them, make this work. They are going to make ALL of this work.

When we got back to the offices, I made my way upstairs to the rehearsal room to see what the puppeteers had done without me. See, before I left, I gave them this assignment: read the script, block it (meaning go through the motions of where you have to be and when within the scene), rehearse it, and then tape it to show me the best two takes they'd be proud to show me.Not only did they do it but they did an ALTERNATE they came up with themselves.So instead of two takes, I got to see FOUR! And it was all GOOD! Really GOOD!

So we moved onto another scene and during the course of it, Zikwe, just before showing his surprise to Kami, ad-libbed the line, "Prepare yourself." This phrase, not only cracked me up in his reading when he said it but, sums up so many aspects of this adventure for me and for them, especially.

Saturday? Well, not only do I get to work with the new puppeteers but now I have to make time from that to now show the wrangler/prop person what props puppets can use by going shopping for them with her. Including key components for the wrangler's kit (the things needed to not only prepare the puppets for camera but any upkeep on them needed) that was NEVER shipped over.

"Prepare yourself."


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