Sunday, January 3, 2016

Last Year: March 2015

Big month! Birthday, gig at Oxford University and a trip back to my birthplace.
I'm sure other things happened this month, but these are the biggest to remember.

1. It's my birthday! And it was a big one!
2. I was asked to reprise my role as Awino, a transgender character in a play called "Waafrika" in a one-woman show at the International Woman's Festival at Oxford University.
3. I visited Naples, the city where I was born. Back to square one. Literally.

A struggling actress can never age. Neither can a single woman... So I keep youthful - at least I try.

Haven't celebrated my birthday in a couple of years, but this one I wanted to really go all out for. I've earned it. So I decided a week in Naples - a week in the place where I was born.

Then I got a call from Nick Mwaluko, playwright of Waafrika, a play I'd workshopped with him twice already. (Short digression: The very first time I auditioned for him I'd just gotten my wisdom teeth removed an hour before, couldn't feel my mouth and was drooling blood....I was a mess - and it worked for the character, I got the role!) This would be the third time I'd get to play the main role, Awino, a transgender teenager in Kenya. It's a challenging role not only because I have to play a man (Awino is born female, but identifies as male) but also because my character undergoes a violent, traumatic female circumcision (female genital mutilation, FGM) on stage in front of the audience. It's not real, of course, but the place you have to go in your mind to make it look and feel real is horrifying. Nick had been asked to contribute a piece to the FGM conference at the International Women's Day Festival. I love that role because of the challenge (it's also cool to be able to return to a character and work on it more) so there was no way I'd turn him down, but when he said it'd be at Oxford University, I started floating. This was a dream. I've watched too many episodes of Lewis not to be totally enamored with that campus and city! So March was looking pretty effing amazing.

Then things .... changed. There was no budget to get me to Oxford, so I'd have to foot the bill. Ok.... There was supposed to be 3 of us performing the 3 major characters (Awino, her father the chief, and her girlfriend the American relief worker), but the other 2 actors weren't quite it became a one-woman-show, just me. Ok... Then rehearsing became problematic because of scheduling, so I had to prepare alone mainly. Ok.... Then the coordinator at Oxford went awol. Ok.... Then they changed to schedule of the performance and didn't tell me!.... Ok... Yeah, it was a mess - very disappointing. Nonetheless, I loved my stay in Oxford and would go back any time! Knowing that I sat in the same pub where C.S Lewis (author of Alice in Wonderland) and J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings) and the rest of The Inklings met weekly is pretty cool for a library geek like me. And thank God I picked the quirky hotel, Malmaison (a former prison!). I love buildings with personality and stories to tell.

After that weekend, I flew to Rome and then took the train to Naples. As a treat, I stayed at the Romeo Hotel. As a backpacker, I'm used to hostels and shared rooms so this luxury was EVERYTHING. I felt like a princess! Naples is in my heart - that city showed me its best. Going there, then, was the best choice I made. Vesuvius, pizza, the harbor, Pompeii, Capri.....

Naples is like me. Chic and shabby. Old and new. Soft and hard. Foreign and familiar. Legit know what I'm saying...  Napoli, ti amo!




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