Thursday, May 5, 2011

In My Free Time: Acting

As an expat in roaring Saigon, the world can very easily be your creative oyster - from playing guitar at a cafe to being an extra in a motion picture, there is always some type of side-job for the intrepid Westerner.  In fact several of our friends make the majority of their income from these sort of idiosyncratic gigs.  When Alec, a film extra/poet/spasmodic troubadour/aspiring director/occasional English teacher, recently approached Gavin about a role in a scene to be performed for his university class, he hesitantly hopped on for the ride.  Gavin despised his Drama class in high school and regularly quakes while speaking publicly, but he thought it could prove to be fun.  They did a scene from Samuel Beckett's post-WWII existentialist ramble Waiting for Godot.  

Even though the actors were holding their scripts and previously prepared on only a single occasion (Alec is a devout believer in extemporaneous activities), Gavin took his role of Pozzo fairly seriously and was scarily capable at playing a savagely unscrupulous landowner that keeps his servant Lucky tethered to a leash.

A few hours before the production, we met up with the rest of the crew for a prop scramble (including a tobacco pipe, fried chicken, a bottle of vino, and various pieces of luggage and furniture for Stevie, playing downtrodden Lucky, to carry).  Together we were a posse: four motorbikes, one lecturer/director, four "actors", and two groupies made the 45 minute drive to Vietnam National University in the dusty suburb of Thu Duc.

Once inside the greater campus, I was completely thrown off.  Instead of the typical manicured lawns, towering trees, cobbled lanes, and ancient brickwork of the American college, there was a bustling market scene leading to sparse patches of grass, concrete block housing units, and palm fronds waving in the afternoon breeze.  A tropical university!

Once we wound our way through long linoleum hallways and steep concrete staircases to the fan-blown classroom it was time to start.  I helped the guys set up their props and then took my seat to enjoy the "show".

It went off without too many hitches.  I was truly impressed by everyone's performance.

After the show, Alec opened it up to questions.  One student said it was "nice", while another commented that "they didn't seem like professionals".  Criticism aside, the show was definitely amusing and fairly true to Beckett's script .  If you would like to see a short part of the play, feel free to watch it HERE.  (Even better, dig the scene from the Beckett on Film series.) Who knows what will happen next for these budding stars...

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