Blessings, Curses and goosepimples

“But this much I know… When the storm breaks, Each man acts in accordance with his own nature, Some are dumb with terror, Some flee, Some hide, And some spread their wings like eagles and soar on the wind.”

I could not agree more! In the eye of the storm, ones true colours radiate. Most people like to think they will be able to handle anything that life throws at them. Very few do. That is why it’s so inspiring to meet a person who really is able to change their stars, and make something amazing out of their lives.

A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to get involved in a theatrical production named “Soar like an Eagle”. Having started the production as early as we had, and having dedicated a set ammount of hours 3 times a week, how was I to know that this production was going to take over my life…

Consumed by the quest for a perfect script, filled with ‘fish out of water’ undertones, we worked hours on end to get the story just right. Most importantly, it needed to compliment the real life story of a cast of 20. That was a real feat in itself.

Living out the world of darkness, townships, wheelchairs, or just a bad neighbourhood, the cast were a mishmash of lifestyles and ages.  Despite the poorest of conditions, broken homes, and physical limitations, they find salvation in dancing.

Inspiring isn’t it? While their worlds continue to degrade around them, they find life, joy and happiness in pretty dresses, shiny shoes and bowties. It also makes you think … How much of your life is dressed up in a pretty façade?

I’m not here to point fingers. No one’s perfect. Life is tough. Things don’t always work out. Everyone is entitled to a slip up every now and then. It would be pretty boring if we got it right all the time.

With 6 months of production time, there are 101 stories that I could share. This one however rings the most true. Midway through our run, we decided to do a charity show for the Grahamstown Juvenile court.

Arriving on the steps of Grahamstown Correctional Services, we quickly learnt that our audience was a far larger, older crowd. Instant panic and fear struck the cast, as no one really knew what to expect.

After creative sound setups (yet another challenge), we started the production wondering if we had made the right choice. Next to getting no initial reaction, we also felt panicked and out of our depth. It just took a moment, to change everything.

A lone sob filled the courtyard as, wheelchair bound, Mukthar Lee tells the world “he couldn’t join the hiking team in college or even play hide and seek”. I didn’t see him at first, but there pitch-centre was an old man sitting on crate with a makeshift walking stick. His head sunk into his hands whispering how sorry he was, his body convulsing, despite the reassurance of a neighbours hand. Mukthar stopped. The cast looked around nervously, wondering if he had forgot his line. No one dared to break silence.

In a moment, Mukthar broke his pose and wheeled himself over to the old man. Resting his hand on him, he told him everything was going to be alright, he told him that he had nothing be sorry for.

It was in that moment, where an 18 year old innocent boy reached out to an aged convict (of some nature), that the world seemed to change. What had started off as a simplistic production, became a healer in more ways them one.

The gremlins that had plagued the cast, the darkness that had absorbed these convicts, seemed to fade into redemption. The world as we knew it had changed, and the eye of the storm had passed.

In parting, a message from beyond the prison walls managed to reach us just before we drove back to the festivities: “Please tell them (the cast) that not all people in here are bad people – we’ve just made mistakes. Tell the young people to enjoy their lives, but not to get too comfortable. And when they get into arguments they mustn’t lose their tempers too quickly …” Inmate X


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