Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Botswana theater scene

Last night, A and I were determined to see one of the plays that is being put on as part of the city-wide Maitisong Festival and not to just spend another night eating pizza in our pajamas. Although doesn't eating pizza in your pajamas sound good?

We picked a series of short plays put on by students from the University of Botswana at Botswanacraft. Here's the play-by-play:

7pm - We arrive at Botswanacraft and park nearby. Even though the play theoretically started at 7, I wouldn't let A convince me to get there a minute before. As we got out of the car, I felt something hit my foot, but couldn't see anything in the dark.

7:05pm - For P30 each, we are handed paper tickets by a man sitting at a table out front, and then told to put the tickets directly into a box on the table. Classic. We get some beers and take our seats. The crowd is small, but I've had smaller.

7:15pm - I try to turn my phone off and can't find it. I send A out in the dark to look in the car. It is on the ground by the driver's door.

7:20pm - The show starts! Almost on time! First the cast performs a couple of songs. Not to be racist, but everyone in Botswana has a wonderful singing voice. Then they start the show.

7:25pm - A 30-second scene where a woman gives birth to a baby boy (clearly visible teddy bear), sending the audience into hysterics. Then she dies, and we all feel bad for laughing.

7:35pm - Ten minutes later, they figured out which scene comes next. A father is holding the now-concealed teddy bear. The grandmother of the baby demands he hand over the baby. They do a really good job of not letting us see the teddy bear.

7:50pm - We sit in darkness for ten minutes or so, and then they do a choreographed children's dance. One dancer's shirt is distractingly close to falling off. It's weird. Why doesn't she change? I wonder. The boy is now 16, and his grandmother is a drunk who mistreats him. Her performance as drunk old woman with comically large behind gets huge laughs.

7:55pm - Big chunks of the show are in Setswana, but we can still follow it. They are at the kgotla and the father argues for custody of his son. He loses.

8:00pm - They go to the magistrate court, and the father argues for custody of his son. He wins! Yay, modernity and progress.

8:20pm or so - We sit in the dark for a while, and then they remember to perform the final scene, in which the boy wins a scholarship in humanities to the University of Botswana for his excellent performing arts skills. The father and son dance and are happy.

8:40pm - The lights come back on and they take a bow.

8:45pm - I am satisfied and ready to go after almost two hours but A wants to stay for the rest of the shows. We don't have to wait long for the second one to start, and it's actually pretty good. A jilted girlfriend befriends a funny melted-ice-cream seller. An engaging 10 minutes.

9pm - The last play is getting ready to start. I'm antsy, but A wants to stay. We stay.

9:15pm - The last play starts. It's about two children who want different careers than their parents want for them. It's kind of like reading a Unity Dow book in that everyone is extremely overt about their feelings and motivations and the plot progresses So Slowly. (And I liked that Unity Dow book I read!) At the same time, there's clearly a lot of hard work going on onstage, and I think it must be hard to perform a show in your second language. Some of the actors are really quite funny. We eat a banana muffin I had in my bag. The play is still going. Finally, it ends!

All in all, a great night. As funny as it may seem, I left Botswanacraft feeling nostalgic and sentimental. I love Botswana in all its JV glory!


  1. I know you're behind on your HIMYM watching, but what you have is known as Graduation Goggles.

  2. She's the first female Supreme Court judge in Botswana and now a private human rights lawyer. Also a novelist. Neat lady.

    How I Met Your Mother sucks!

  3. Now I know who Unity Dow is and what HIMYM stands for!