Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Missed My Wedding (or 5 Weeks in the Saidor Opera!)

[If you haven’t already read Popcorn Literacy then I highly suggest you do so in order for the following to make any sense…And finally, in case you are wondering, all events reported below are true and actually happened]

The Saidor Saga
Operatic Reviewer: Catherine Rivard

The primary cast of the Saidor Saga
The Saidor Saga was set in the tiny, humid town of Saidor, deep in Madang province in Papua New Guinea. During the entire five weeks encompassed within the opera, the lush tropical scenery was barely ruffled by a breeze (except what was caused by the hordes of mosquito wings). Known as a “5-car town” (only three were working, which apparently made little difference since the roads into the village are completely inaccessible), Saidor is the government seat of the Rai Coast and thus sported several metal–roofed buildings among the traditional sago-palm thatching. The story opened with the arrival of 9 literacy workers, both expat (including yours truly) and national, eager to begin a 4-week literacy course in the dilapidated Catholic youth centre building. Soon, 21 participants from 8 different local languages, along with a plethora of local talent, combined to fill out this generous and intrepid cast.

The building used for the classroom and dorm sets
Conflict is key, so they say, and this opera took it to heart! One day after another, the protagonists faced major power failures, extreme water shortage, disgruntled employees, village fears of local unhappy spirits, challenges with the facilities, a food scarcity, limited outside communication, missing supplies, a local leader’s death, village disagreements, and a local drug-and-alcohol-imbibing population!! Scene after scene, we barely manage to pull ourselves back onto our chairs before we were again teetering on the edge of our seats, waiting and praying alongside the cast for resolution, such as when we often wondered if they would have food to eat that night or the next morning… but the ingenious storywriting skill of the Director with His superb sense of timing never failed to deliver! While “nick-of-time” solutions in the hands of lesser writers often result in a farce, this Director was able to orchestrate it into a timelesss comedy!

Food mishaps are always entertaining!
Who could help but chuckle when we watched the male students blithely take over the weekend cooking…and discover through mishap after mishap that it’s not quite as easy as their wives make it look (salt, anyone?). And, we laughed until tears streamed down our cheeks when in one scene the new cooks accidently put eight meals worth of red-hot chili peppers into one night’s soup!!

Finally, what comedic opera is complete without a romance? Perhaps one of the most entertaining threads of the whole story was the local longlong man (an individual whose mind had been wrecked due to drug and alcohol abuse), who ultimately decided that Catherine, one of the staff members, was his beloved and long-lost wife! “Perhaps you missed the wedding?” one of the other staff members asked her in a memorable conversation. “It must have been by proxy!”

The vocal strength of the supporting cast members was remarkable—and was highlighted at every morning’s opening scene, as they shouted and sang loudly about their lives while waltzing about the soccer field in front of the youth centre (being under the influence only added to their vocal power). It was on this soccer field that the romance truly blossomed, when the besotted husband regularly shouted merrily about his so-called wife and her goings on during the course!

Twice-a-day worship time!
Throughout the opera, the energy and excitement exuded by the participants was tangible as they hungrily strove to learn life and classroom skills for their teaching. Perhaps some of the most treasured scenes were outside of the classroom, which included spontaneous worship singing, playing in the local river, and some amazing conversations between Catherine and the women students (read some spoilers here!). The tenderness and sensitivity with which the Director scripted these scenes certainly deserves a standing ovation!

Two thumbs way way up for the Director of this marvelous opera! He has demonstrated Himself to be an outstanding storyteller who handled every detail with divine skill. The multifaceted cast, each handpicked by this Director, worked together in a phenomenal rhythm revealing the human condition, resulting in a performance that allowed the expertise of this Director to truly shine through. Unfortunately, due to this Director’s continuous push for the new and the creative, there was only one showing of The Saidor Saga, but, I highly recommend you buy your front row tickets fast for this Director’s newest performance—it will be an opera you won’t want to miss!