B-Boys/B-Girls in Cultural Classrooms

Two nights ago I was reminded that culture isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. Yes, it can be grammatically used as a noun, but we practice culture. It’s constantly in flux and adapting to how we appropriate, indigenize, and commodify it. Thursday night, I walked into a cultural classroom without even knowing it. I went with some friends to the Red Bull BC One competition where hip hop dancers competed to go into a world championship.

Photo from Red Bull BC One site

Photo from Red Bull BC One site

What I witnessed that was so interesting, however, was the large number of young kids imitating and devising their own style as they watched (wide-eyed in the front row) the b-boys compete. I thought about the transmission and teaching of culture that was happening in the space. In a way, this was a classroom. Not only for the kids, but for everyone as well. A set of three judges were determining the confines of what was acceptable and what was exceptional within this hip hop culture. I thought about how this movement reached New Zealand all the way from America and all of the teachers in between those two spaces that got it into this space.

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Titus with Factious Tash and Nicki Manaj

Titus Factious Tash

Last weekend I saw an adaptation of Titus Andronicus (muh favvee Shakespeare play) by a company called Factious Tash at Q Theatre in Auckland. Even thought this is my first for this play, I’m not sure I’ll ever see a good production of Titus Andronicus. It’s almost TOO much for the stage. Especially the quadruple murder series at the dinner scene – it just becomes humorous when you see it happen. Credibility to Factious Tash, though – the energy and spirit they kept up during this exhaustingly physical piece was admirable. All the way til the end, they were intense, lively, and interesting to watch. I’ve also decided that Shakespearean language sounds better coming from a Kiwi or English person than it does from almost any American. Not sure why that is… maybe this group was particularly clear with the text. Though, again, even the text is larger than any human can fully embody. How does one pay full homage to Titus’ words after he sees his daughter raped and mutilated, with her hands and tongue severed?

TITUS: Thou hast no hands, to wipe away thy tears:
Nor tongue, to tell me who hath martyr’d thee:
Thy husband he is dead: and for his death
Thy brothers are condemn’d, and dead by this.

Like…. how do you deal with that? Or Aaron’s words:

Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’ door
Even when their sorrows almost was forgot,
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’

Either way – These guys sure did give it a great shot. The set and themes of the play had an urban trash twist, with all the actors in black, a shopping cart for a burial cart, a jack in the box, and blood replaced with black liquid. What was probably the coolest element of the show was the use of Nicki Manaj’s music for transitions. Turns out she is oddly appropriate for the horrible insanity of the events that took place onstage. The relentless bass and alien sounds she uses in her music complimented the black, charred actors and bright strobe lights nicely. After seeing the bloody bodies of war and the slaughter of Tamora’s oldest son in the first scene of the play, the intro to Nicki’s “Beez In The Trap” blared from the speakers – the individual droplet sounds in the beginning of the track jolting the still actors into movement as they fired.931279_590087201023995_1160566489_n

As Tamora being one of my favorite Shakespeare characters, I was really disappointed when I found out that the cast was all men. A small young man played Tamora and though he was FIERCE and the sexual tension between him and Aaron was incredible- I thought there was a Queenliness missing from his/her swagger. Not to mention how much older Tamora is than this actor. This young man was also very small in comparison to the other men of the cast. Though he held his own, I would have loved to see a mature woman playing that role.

Overall it was a fun evening. I can’t say it was an exceptional performance, but I really enjoyed the commitment from the cast and the use of a horrifying piece of pop culture as a support for this insane play.

Acting Lessons in the Woods

 

 

I never thought I’d have to call on my acting skills to save my ass in the middle of the forrest.

 

A few weeks ago, I assisted my friend B in a trek across Waiheke island with a group of young people (about age 14). Waiheke BushThe students were completing the two-day camping trip in exchange for a bronze medal for the Sir Edmund Hilary Award. This was their first time carrying camper-packs, cooking over camp fires, and setting up their own tents. Since there were 39 young people, B called on myself and two others to supervise the trek. The planned timetable was a three hour hike across the island, camping over night, then hiking back the next morning… Here’s how it actually went down: My group got MAD LOST.

 

The group of students split in half and another supervisor and I got the girls group (19 total). Since it’s New Zealand’s rainy season, we expected the rain. We didn’t expect the tramp to be so confusing. Once we reached the first dead end, we realized we had been going the wrong direction. In total, we probably made the girls turn around 5 or 6 times at least. Every time I had to say to myself, “ok – don’t let them know we’re so lost. Your objective is to keep them calm.” I used tactics like making jokes, telling stories, asking the girls questions about where their from, and allowing them to sit down for food (while the other assistant and I figured out where we were). One time we stumbled upon a vineyard when we realized we were going the wrong way AGAIN. At this point, I turned to the girls and said, “Ok- we wanted to show you guys the Waiheke vineyards! Waiheke wine is actually very special because it…” to which the girls replied with a roaring sigh of disapproval and a “we’re lost again, aren’t we?” look. I felt terrible for them – they had to carry these huge camper-packs that probably weighed half their own body weight and it had taken us 2 hours to get through the first third of the trek. The rain wasn’t letting up either. Somehow we managed to get back on our way.

 

I realized as we walked that everyone was watching their feet rather than looking up to see what surrounded them. Everyone, including myself, was concerned with getting from point A to point B rather than observing and enjoying the process of getting there. I thought about acting and the rehearsal process here. It’s so tempting to be focused on product and the end result… but in all honesty, the glory is in the journey it takes to get there. In theory it sounds like a cliche empty

Whakanewha Regional Park

Whakanewha Regional Park

gesture, but I think this journey made me put it into practice. Especially under the circumstances it was easy to get wrapped up in the troubles of the hike – but I managed to remind myself I had the wonderful opportunity of hiking through an island bush on a beautiful New Zealand day. I mean, come on.

 

As it began to get dark, we finally made it to the campsite as the rain was pouring down. B may or may not have had to find us in the bush and lead us the last 15 minutes of the trek…. but that’s subjective…. The night in the tent was a rough one due to the mini monsoon happening outside. The next morning B told me there was a King Tide that night in addition to a full moon which caused the weather to be pretty rough that evening.

 

 

Though the girls complained a lot while we were walking (I don’t blame them), I interviewed them after we returned to the shore for the final time and heard positive reviews. It seems that the trip was something that was enjoyed upon reflection rather than while it’s happening. This could be due to the amount of physical labor it requires? When I asked them the most important thing they learned, common replies were in regard to unity, community, cooperation and listening.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Specification in Focus

Again, my project has redefined itself. This isn’t a change of topic, rather another narrowing down – a specification. 

Theme: The roles of mothers and grandmothers in the transmission of cultural knowledge and identity.

What defines who we are and where we come from? Where do we learn these things?