We really started our work on the 28th of February. After resting from long flights and taking in the sites, we headed to the theatre to get down to business. The theatre is a government owned place, and the home of the Sesame Street show, which, it turns out, would be the source of a few technical hiccoughs.
There were a few things I’d never seen before in a theatre, starting with a carpeted stage (which led to the wonderful line before a show of “Can we get the stage vacuumed?”). Then there was the issue with the lights. Mohamed was very excited to show us what he’d done to prepare for our coming, including getting some LED lighting packages. Now, we’d been having email conversations for the past couple of months with Fatma, our producer, as well as a few technical people, in regards to what we needed. These questions were forwarded to me as “stage manager” even though they really were for a technical director or even production manager – since we didn’t have either of those, it was on my
shoulders. I learned all about truss systems and different kinds of lighting rigs in order to answer queries about whatever our needs were.
And when we got there, there were lighting instruments “on the way.” They weren’t set yet, despite all the back and forths. In fact, they weren’t even in the theatre. “What about the lights on the electrics I see hanging? Let’s just use those to get started.”
They belonged to the theatre and were set for the Sesame Street show and not ours to use or even change. And since they took up most of the available space, that meant we were a bit out of luck. Especially when we needed lighting coverage of the stage. Seems the instruments were ganged (tied to the same dimmer switch) three or four at a pop and the best we could do was unplug one or two if we needed. We certainly couldn’t move or reposition a light. When our gobos (metal disks used to throw an image on the screen) proved to be too big for the light rigs they had (despite appropriate ones hanging there) smaller versions had to be made to fit into the equipment they had rented. All of which left us scrambling a bit.
It also meant we weren’t able to get everything done as quickly as we would have liked. Sure, I thought the local guys to make the paper drops we needed for the show, but after the first days of performance, in an effort to get ahead, they pre-made the drops for the next day – only they made them 2.2 meters too short, so we had to again scramble before shows to make sure everything was done properly and ready come showtime.
By the time our shows started, I had two different operators in the booth, running three different boards, all in an effort to create the technical look we needed. Of course, the magic of theatre means that none of this backstage drama affected the show. When the first audience left, they were ecstatic. Mohamed explained that in Kuwait, there was nothing for kids to do, so any type of children’s or family entertainment was pounced upon and devoured. That first show was a hit and the five following it just got better and better.
Even with operators leaving mid-show, sound boards being rerouted, spot operators who didn’t speak English and did I mention three different light boards? even with all that, the shows were spot on and some of the funniest I have ever seen. The crowds were so excited and into it, the kids were yelling and interacting, the clowns were successfully trying out new ideas and it was really glorious to behold. Honestly, it reminded me of why I love live theatre: You never know what’s going to happen and no matter what else, the show must go on and when it goes on like this, it’s a joy to behold!
I wish you all could have been there (in fact, I did have one friend drive up from Saudi Arabia with his buddy to catch the show and they were blown away – not to mention they took some amazing shots during the show).
After our final show on Saturday night (the Arab work week goes Sunday-Thursday, so basically we were weekend entertainment) we packed up and were ready to go by 9:30pm. A celebratory, end of run, meal (sans alcohol since it’s not allowed in Kuwait) at TGI Fridays (for me, that’s a treat!) and we were back at the hotel by 11:30…just in time for me
grab a ride to the airport for a 3am flight.
Now, I just have to say something about that airport ride – First, even though the hotel arranged it, it was a cab, not some sort of branded car belonging to the hotel. I even asked, before I got in, if I was going to have to cover the cost – I was assured I wasn’t (Cabs in Kuwait were a bit interesting – Jesse and I took one when leaving the theatre Friday night to meet up with those friends I mentioned a paragraph or so ago and Mohamed helped us
grab one from the street. I assumed he’d asked how much and was told 1.50 Dinar [the Kuwaiti Dinar, or KD, is worth about 3.11 Euro] which seemed fine. When we go to our destination, though, the meter read 1.15. I figured I’d give the guy 1.25 with tip. Nope. 1.50 it was. We paid.) Anyway, I get into the cab at the hotel and my driver, an Iraqi who had been in Kuwait for 25 years, immediately begins complaining about the economy and how he was in bed when they called him to come and get me. His English isn’t great, certainly better than my Arabic, but even so, we quickly run out of things to talk about. So he spends most of the 20 minute ride, gleefully picking his nose and begging me for a tip since, you know, “I was sleeping then come get you.” And you know, I was going to give him one. I had a €2 coin in my pocket and would happily have given it over, but when we got to the airport, he never moved. He popped the trunk and just sat there. I grabbed my bags and skedaddled right away.
The Kuwaiti airport was also something new and different. Aside from a small duty-free area, there were no shops at all. In fact, there were no tourist souvenirs anywhere. I asked for postcards and was given blank stares. One place I asked (which had a rack of graphic novels out front) said they didn’t have any. As they were saying that, spotted a post card spinner on the counter and said, sure you do, right here. “Those are old and bad.” I was told. So no postcards. Aside from the mugs at Starbucks, the only thing I found even remotely touristy were some kid magnets, keychains and mugs, but they started at 5KD (which was about the same as a steak dinner at Fridays) so for the first time in a long while, I left with no souvenirs at all. Crazy!
From there it was Frankfurt and then winging homeward where my girls and along night’s sleep were waiting…
(and for those of you keeping track, I actually lost a little more than a pound – .6 kilos – while away. I still kept track of my calories!)