Monday, September 9, 2013

Romeo and Juliet; Healing Rwanda

The Tutsis and the Hutus.  These two tribes fought in a politically charged battle against one another for power in the east African state of Rwanda, power the Tutsi minority once held, but lost the Hutus, power they were looking to regain.  However, their military insurgency prompted Hutu retribution, resulting in the brutal genocide in the year 1994 in the east African state of Rwanda.  This genocide brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even one million, Rwandans, and the destruction of the lives of the survivors. 
The Montagues and the Capulets.  As told by William Shakespeare in his play Romeo & Juliet, these two families partake in an ongoing feud against one another, a feud of indeterminate origin but certain gravity, in the Italian city of Verona.  The rivalry reveals the worst of many of the plays characters, and, even for Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, whose love for each other internally transcends the familial loyalty they harbor, external conditions lead to the demise of each lover.  Senseless hate destroyed star-crossed love. 
In Kigali, Rwanda, 20 years after the atrocity, that may not define but will forever resonate with the generations of Rwandans, has ended, a play that is almost 520 years old is acting as a vehicle to display the tragedy and the loss of the past to a reconciled Rwanda.  After being asked by Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Andrew Garrod went to Rwanda for six weeks to direct a poignant adaption of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  After casting 34 young people, not necessarily experienced actors, Garrod developed an emotionally charged piece directing an ensemble of Hutus and Tutsis.  Their collaboration in a piece that ultimately recognizes the importance of peace and the loss of conflict, the cast has helped to heal the state of Rwanda. 
             The play was performed 10 times, for free, in various locations in Rwanda.  The script was also translated into mostly Kinyarwanda, with around 20% remaining in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter and only another 20% in English.  The group is excited about a work of such literary merit adopting a native language of Rwanda. (here is a trailer for a documentary about the creative process of the production) (background on the Rwandan Genocide) (more about the adaption)

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