11 Oct No Assumptions, Please!
Our performance Is-Siġra tat-Tin
Hi everyone, welcome back to ‘No Assumptions Please’. In this post I’m going to be talking about how the performance Is-Siġra tat-Tin (The Fig Tree) came about, and how I found being part of the cast.
It all began with ideas and brainstorming in the Manoel Theatre Studios where our four focus groups were held. At that point it was just for the Opening Doors members to get familiar with the idea before we brought in the guest actors into the space. During these focus groups we did very different workshops which were based on what we wanted to talk about, like employment for people with disabilities, love, and things which happen to us in our lives. What emerged from these workshops was the occurring themes of work, friendships and love which ventured into in depth. At these workshops in my case I wrote down my own feelings on more than one paper which all ended up in the script as different parts of the monologues that I would be saying. At first the performance was just a concept and no one knew how many actors there were going to be. Our director Toni Attard and our script writer Simone Spiteri were thinking of having only a few actors from Opening Doors to perform but then they realized everyone wanted to perform so in the end it grew from a cast from only a few actors to a cast of 10 ODs actors and three guest actors who didn’t have disabilities. One of them was our theatre tutor Jacob Piccinino, and the others were Sharon Bezzina and Kurt Castillo.
By the time everyone was cast and the rehearsals had officially started it was the third week of August. I was the only actor who couldn’t attend as I was on my European Solidarity Corps project in Vienna and coming back to Malta only in September. At the end of August I was in Tuscany to see my grandparents which is where I read the script which I fell in love with. I began to learn my lines for my first scene and managed to learn them in the space of one day! As I was still abroad I had to do rehearsals online, I still remember the first time when I first met one of the guest actors who I was working with. We were just looking at each other on the screen, introducing ourselves before we had a run through of the script. In my very first rehearsal the director told me that there was a possibility of adding a new scene to the script to change the audience’s perceptions of people with disabilities. At that point we were just brainstorming and I remember telling him my experience in the airport in Vienna, where I was flying alone for the first time, how one of the special assistants came up to me with a wheelchair as he thought that I couldn’t walk. So when Simone sent out an email to all of us asking us our views and ideas about how we can change the audience’s perceptions about people with disabilities I instantly jumped to the job and sent her some ideas and writing, which got turned into a form of an interview. The idea was to show how ridiculous the whole thing was, how the interviewer was talking down to me and making lots of assumptions about me.
In the first week after I came back to Malta I couldn’t take part in the rehearsals as I was taking part in a residency, as part of the Artivisti programme. The programme is art through activism, by Arts Council Malta. This residency lasted for three days where I got to meet the other Artivisti and guest speakers. During these days I lost my voice as I was using my voice too much! By the time I started the rehearsals my voice was really bad, so that I was not able to shout or use my voice as I normally do. So when production week came rolling in I was on steroids and thanks to them my voice came back and I was able to do the show normally!
I think that the best part of the whole process was the performances. None of us imagined the impact it would have on the audience and for all three shows it was a success. In fact in one of the performances after the show was a little boy who came up to me and told me how much he loved the performance and that for me was really the best part because it came from a little child not from an adult or a parent. It also showed me that he was affected in some way by the performance to be able to come up to me and tell me that. It also happened again with a little girl after another performance and she told me that she loved all of us but me best!
I would also say that one of the great parts of working on this performance was that I got to know the other Opening Doors members who were there and actually becoming a family while we were working and when we were backstage. We all welcomed our guest actors instantly with open arms into the family. The guest actors really added to it as they really made us so much better and made our performance even stronger as they really provided a lot to the performance. I really loved working with them. One of the guest actors was a speech therapist and that really helped as he encouraged me to become better and more confident with my voice and speech.
I was also amazed with our director Toni at how willing he was to take on such a project, to be able to take such a risk as it was quite an ambitious project. He was really amazing to work with especially how much faith he had in us and how much he believed in us to be able to pull off something like this. I am also really grateful that he trusted me to be able to take on such a big role. I would definitely love to work with him again on another performance, hopefully something like this in the future.
I think what this performance showed me was that we can actually do a mixed ability performance in Malta and that it can work. What I would really love to do with this performance is to invite schools to come and watch it in St James Cavalier and hold a Q&A session with the cast afterwards. This is because I believe that this performance is something which we should take to children so we can give them more exposure to performances that are different to what they would normally see.