Because the summer program has ended and the school year is not set to begin until the12th of September, I have been exploring the city.
The other day I discovered that there is a Children and Youth Theatre Company in Addis, which is located in its own building near Arat Kilo. Hooray!
So, I went! With my friend Biruk and his niece Meraf, my favorite 5 year old. Going to the children’s theatre performance was one of my most memorable experiences in Addis.
As we entered the packed theatre, there was an American movie playing, something that was familiar, but nothing I could easily name. It was a kids’ movie, in English, with no Amharic subtitles. I thought that was odd, particularly because the children in the audience were mostly under the age of seven, and hadn’t been studying English for a long period of time.
Biruk inquired about the performance worked, and we learned that the movie was only part of the experience….
After the movie, a young woman came on stage and invited kids in the audience to come onstage to share what they hope for the new year (Ethiopians celebrate the new year on September 11). And then, we were treated to a music performance. A live band of local musicians performed several songs as groups of teenagers danced with them. During the band’s last song, children in the audience were invited to come on stage and dance. Meraf ran to the stage and was gleefully dancing along with the rest of the kids. It was awesome.
After the music performance, the play began…
I did not understand a word of the play, but the kids were mesmerized. They used a lot of audience participation in the piece, which kept them engaged. The staging was simple and the acting appeared to be the kind of children’s theatre performance style that I call the “jumpsuits and jazzhands” variety; overly exaggerated movements and speaking styles. Overall, the costumes and performance didn’t strike me in any particular way… until Biruk translated the story of the play for me.
Biruk’s translation of the script went something like this: A group of animals decided to raise money to buy plants for an area that had been deforested. They decided to sell tickets to a circus which they performed for an audience of animals. The Rabbit was in charge of the money. Not long after the circus, the animals realized that the money was gone. Because they thought the Rabbit had taken it, two of the animals killed the rabbit (this happened off stage).
And then the play ended.
This is a remarkable story and says a lot about corruption and greed. If the story had not been translated for me, I would have never known the subject matter.
I am impressed.