Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: July, 2018

Much better day on ‘As it happened’

A much better day on ‘As it happened’. We had more students, and so I was able to rehearse both Momen and Shayma’s plays.

Mohamed had gone to Jordan, which left a hole in a couple of the plays, but I’ve adopted a policy of substituting another actor for the lead – which works if the are enough spares around, and it today there were. So I was able to substitute Omar for Mohamed in Shayma’s play, and Qusai for Mohamed in Momen’s play.

Today we also did good very work on the prison dialogue in Shayma’s play. It’s really the only scene with intensive dialogue in any of the plays, and as it comprise the family’s visit to their son in an Israeli prison it is very intensive. I scripted it as few days ago, and Ahmed translated it into Arabic, but today was really the first time we had a chance to work on it.  It was very good work all round.

Difficult day for ‘As it happened’

Difficult rehearsal today in that less than half the actors turned up. I knew two had a funeral to attend and of course that was totally acceptable, but the absence of the others meant it was hard to work properly.

A couple of weeks ago, even a week ago, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but with only just over a week to filming and a week and a half to performing with an audience, I’m getting worried that we won’t be able to present anything worthwhile.

As the film of the performance, and Sara’s documentary will go up on You Tube (and presumably also be seen via other platforms and forums I’m concerned that if the quality of our work isn’t good it won’t help Alrowwad’s public relations, let alone fundraising efforts.

Anyway, enough of such thoughts. Even with a much diminished cast we did manage to fix one problematic scene, and it was good work.

As it happened … The design/tech production elements are now getting sorted.

Today I called a production meeting and so now  have 3 staff + one senior student to look after the design and tech production (essentially lighting, sound, sets, props, costumes, special effects etc).  I’ve even got a stage manager! We’ll need him, as wrangling these students is not the easiest thing in the world.

I’ve also worked out a schedule to get us through to filming on 7 August and staging it for an audience on 9 August, including tech rehearsals. This is a huge relief as I had worries about the production side given that I have loaded up each little micro play with lots of design/tech elements. One play even features a stun grenade and several feature attacks by the Israeli air force and ground troops.

So it’s a great feeling to have the production side of things sorted and also to have a clear schedule ahead of us.

‘As it happened …’

A couple of productive day’s work on ‘As it happened’. Yesterday we worked on Momen’s play and added some useful business with an Israeli soldier and a stun grenade. There’s an inbuilt problem in this little micro play but I’ve though of a solution – more of that tomorrow!

Today’s work on Shayma’s story was also productive. Tonight I must write some draft dialogue for the prison visit scene in this story.

Rehearsals are starting to be fun, which I guess is a good sign. I’m beginning each day with exercises and games, to which the students are responding very well. I then go on to scene work, a different microplay each day.

Unfortunately Israel killed yet more protesters in Gaza yesterday, which detracts from the fun somewhat! When will Israel learn that repetition of the same provocations will not work? The blockade of Gaza is clearly not working either, so Israel needs to come up with something constructive and helpful – then there could be peace.

Writing that reminds me that the next ‘Break the Blockade’ freedom boat is due to arrive off the Gaza coast pretty soon. I must keep my eyes and ears peeled for news of that – though unfortunately the outcome is already known, given what I’ve just written about Israel’s in ability to come up with new and useful solutions.

‘As it happened’ work today

We are approaching the pointy-end of the ‘As it happened …’ verbatim theatre project, given that the live performance is exactly in two weeks time and we film it one week and five days hence.

So it was time to apply some pressure – which worked, for we finished Shayma’s play and the students had a much more ‘professional’ approach to their work. Good stuff.

I used some stylised theatrical moments to handle some action that would otherwise have involved tedious activity that would have been repetitive of business in some of the other plays. For the scene where Shayma’s brother Mohammed is captured and imprisoned by the IDF, instead of staging (yet another) realistic home invasion I had an actor playing an IDF soldier simply pluck the boy out of the ‘Frozen Moments’ previous scene. The students seemed to really appreciate its economy and power, which I put down to their strong dance background.

Rehearsals for ‘As it happened …’

The students appreciated my announcement that I would dedicate ‘As it happened’ to the memory of the boy shot dead by Israeli troops yesterday – a round of applause even!

The down to work. There was one difficult scene facing us today. It last year’s story it was a long descriptive passage about the difficulties of life in the camp today, which would be difficult to turn into an action story. I had the idea of structuring it as frozen ‘snapshots’, which I anticipated being difficult for the students to do. How wrong I was – they instantly took to it and it worked very well.

Perhaps because it worked so well the following action scene was a mess. It involved Israeli troops entering a sleeping household and capturing as young man, but it turned into a free for all. We’ll come back to it at the next rehearsal and I have no doubt that it will ultimately work.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 24 July 2018

Elected men in high places behaving badly

The past week or so has seen an efflorescence of elected men holding high office behaving very badly, and all are worthy of comment.

Our very own MP for Wagga Wagga, Daryl Maguire is a good place to start. His gall really does beggar belief, though he’s not the only one. Having admitted to the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) findings as to his guilt and noting that he has broken the government’s Parliamentary Code of Conduct he had the gall to say that the did not need to resign his seat.

However, last Saturday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed that Daryl Maguire will resign from NSW Parliament. In a press conference on Saturday afternoon, the Premier said Mr Maguire had confirmed his intention to resign.

“I can confirm that this morning I spoke to Mr Maguire, he advised me of his intention to resign from parliament before it resumes. I have also spoken to the Deputy Premier this morning, we both agree there will be a by-election in the seat of Wagga. That there will not be a three-cornered contest.

Let’s hope one of the major campaign issues in the by-election will be the need to clean up politics, including donations, bribes and pay backs. That’s not a call for a populist independent such as Pauline Hanson or Donald Trump, for both have shown a remarkable propensity to twist the truth out of all recognition.

And speaking of President Trump, he’s recently had a field day of distorting reality to suit his own over-inflated ego. He began by rubbishing the G7 and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, crossed the Atlantic to rip into NATO, his supposed allies, and publicly trashed UK PM Theresa May and her Soft-Brexit plan to salvage something sensible out of Leave the EU vote.

However, it was his behaviour post his much-ballyhooed summit with Russian President Putin that really takes the cake. During the Helsinki press conference with Putin his sycophantic performance was a new low, even for him. Various American commentators, many of them high-ranking Republicans, found his statements, including the ones where he denied Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election, to be treasonous.

Since then of course he has been frantically back peddling, denying many of his Helsinki statements or claiming that he miss-spoke. Either way it seems clear that as well as being a bombastic self-opiniated liar President Trump is also something of a coward, afraid to speak in opposition to Putin and equally afraid of Fox News when he gets home.

Speaking to the news brings me to my final example of elected men in high places behaving badly. In an exercise of rank opportunist dog-whistle racist politics Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week blamed the victim of a white supremacist attack. A Sudanese-born Australian was beaten to death in Melbourne by a white man who was “going to take the town back”.

Mr Turnbull’s contribution was a masterly exercise in victim blaming, for he said that Sudanese gangs are a ‘real concern’ in Melbourne (ABC TV News).

This earned an immediate and appropriate riposte from Adam Bandt, Greens MP for Melbourne, who quite rightly said “The Liberal response? Africans were having trouble ‘integrating’. There’s no room for race-baiting in Melbourne, Turnbull. It’s literally a matter of life and death”. Quite.

Mr Turnbull elaborated by saying you would “have to be walking around with your hands over your ears” not to hear the “real concerns” about Sudanese gangs in Melbourne.

But he dismissed a claim that comments from federal politicians had contributed to an increase in the number of reports about racial discrimination.

Even so, earlier this year, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton stoked controversy when he said some people in Melbourne were afraid to go out to dinner at night because of gang violence.

The comments prompted a storm of comments on social media, accusing Mr Dutton of fuelling race hatred.

Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton last Monday said racially-divisive statements about the African-Australian community had contributed to a 34 per cent increase in the number of reports of racial discrimination over the past financial year.

‘As it happened …’ report

No class today because Bethlehem is on strike and we are in mourning because during a raid on the Daisha Refugee Camp (also in Bethlehem) early this morning Israeli soldiers used live ammunition when firing on a group of stone throwing children, causing the death of 15 year old Arkan Thaer Mezher.

I’ve decided to dedicate our production of ‘As it happened, 5 micro plays of the ongoing Palestinian Nakba’ to his memory. He is yet another Palestinian martyr.

The full report of the atrocity, from the Ma’an News Agency, follows:

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A 15-year-old Palestinian child was killed while dozens of others were wounded by Israeli forces during violent clashes in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem predawn Monday.

According to local sources, large numbers of Israeli forces raided the Dheisheh refugee camp, causing clashes to break out among Palestinian youths and Israeli forces.
Sources added that the Israeli forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at the Palestinian youths, killing a 15-year-old Palestinian child who was identified as Arkan Thaer Mezher.
Dozens of others were reported to have suffered from suffocation.
The Israeli army said in a statement that it will hold an internal investigation into the death of the Palestinian child.
Oh yeah? How often have they said this and either done nothing or acquitted the guilty party? And of course, what use is an ‘internal’ investigation? Such atrocities should be tried in the full open public court system.

Today’s progress on ‘As it happened’

No progress on Shaima’s story as she had to visit the dentist today, but nonetheless we were cooking with gas, for having roughed out all the stories (except the second part of Shaima’s) we started in-depth work on the acting, including slowing them down and paying attention to the detail of actions.

This was necessary because we really had only roughed out the stories, and also because the actors tended to speed through the actions, meaning that there was no truth in their work and of course the audience wouldn’t have a clue what was going on.

It was very hard work hard work for them, but they worked very hard and managed to do it. Good stuff.

Sara is filming everything we do, and it is very encouraging having her here with us. She has also started her interviews, beginning today with Fatima, the teller of one of the stories we are working on.

I’ve also decided on the final title of the project, ‘As it happened: five micro plays of the ongoing Palestinian Nakba’. Micro because they really are short, and to refer to them as ‘short’ plays might give people the impression they each last 30 or 45 minutes!


Progress on ‘As it happened’ as Israel continues to use a sledgehammer to crack the walnut of Hamas in Gaza

A good start on the last play for ‘As it happened’, Shaima;s story about the 1948 Nakba and the contemporary story of her brother’s arrest.

It’s a complicated piece given its two time frames. I divided it into as Prologue (i.e. 1948), two contemporary scenes, and an epilogue. Today we worked on the Prologue, nad I was heartened to see them instantly begin to work when I asked them to improvise the family’s idyllic life in 1948. They couldn’t have done that a couple of weeks ago.

Alrowwad also did a big clean up of our rehearsal room today, which is basically the Women’s Room, where sewing is taught. My students pitched in and did a great job

Also a last minute change to one of my ‘Day Jobs’ when I’m not in Palestine,  my DA Op Ed column for next Tuesday. A few hours ago  as I receive ‘Breaking News’ that  Daryl Maguire had bowed to pressure and resigned, meaning a quick write before I submit it to the DA.

At the time of writing this blog post the latest fragile truce with Israel is holding in Gaza, but I so wish Israel could extradite itself from using a sledgehammer to crack the walnut of Hamas. The IDF and the Israeli government seem locked into a full blown war mentality as being the appropriate response to regular protest demonstrations and a few incendiary kites, which are only a minor nuisance, let’s face it.