The first thing I ask them is how they do it. “It’s hectic because it’s just the two of us,” was the ready response from Linisa George, one part of the busy duo known as August Rush. Her partner, Zahra Airall, later added, “There’s a lot more we would like to do but can’t (due to) lack of time and funding.” But, as Airall put it, their philosophy is, “once given the opportunity, let’s put in our two cents and do our best; then we’ll have the right to complain.”
That said, they haven’t been given opportunities; they make them, August Rush being the banner under which they pursue a wide range of art projects.
At this writing, they were two weeks into rehearsals for When A Woman Moans. Actually, When A Woman Moans, a local take on the issues explored in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues which they’ve staged for the past two years, is a Women of Antigua production. Women of Antigua is actually four women, George, Airall, and friends Greschen Edwards and Thomasine Greenaway, but, as they have in the past, Airall and Greenaway are co-directing as well as performing. This is in addition to other ongoing and upcoming August Rush projects.
These projects include Expressions – Poetry in the Pub, which to date has featured literary artistes Kimolisa Mings, Aziza Lake, and Kush David; and visual artists Sabriya Simon, Emile Hill, and Sokoto George. They also provide backstage support for projects not their own, such as the recent Antigua’s Got Rhythm programme. Then there’s Zee’s Youth Theatre, which last November staged the enthusiastically received play, School Bag, and earlier this year tackled a series of poems by various Antiguan writers for Black History Month. Upcoming August Rush projects include the Young Poet’s Society.
It’s a busy extra-curricular schedule, but these two make it look easy. It’s not that the schedule doesn’t wear on them, but that perhaps their enthusiasm for what they’re doing and their visible bond pulls them through.
If possible, they seem even more excited about bringing When A Woman Moans to the stage than they did the Ensler play. “The Vagina Monologues gives women a chance to tell their stories and we have our own stories right here in Antigua that can be told,” Airall said.
George added, “I was actually going through the script over the weekend (wondering) why did we not have the foresight to do this before.” At this, Airall piped up, “the foresight or the guts?”
She knew, she said, that Antigua had both the content and the talent. It was perhaps the audience that needed warming up to hearing female experiences and body parts being discussed in such a public forum, showcased in a way not designed to be exploitative or gratuitous. If so, they have been.
“In the Vagina Monologues, you have women who enjoy sex, women who are afraid of it, who are mis-informed or misguided … (it) sent a message that you are not alone,” Airall said.
A fair portion of the new script is written by either Airall or George, but they’ve also elected to include pieces by a handful of female Antiguan writers. The pieces cover a range of female experiences. The title is intended to reflect that. “(A woman) moans when she has to pee, when she experiences sexual pleasure, when she’s frustrated, when she’s angry,” Airall said, “and there are different types of moans.”
People who come out to the play can expect to hear them all. Asked to name their favourite pieces, George singles out Mothers’ Lament – a series of monologues of women experiencing the loss of a child; she said, “when I first read it, I was like ‘wow, I know the situation of every last one of these women.” She also singled out When He Goes Down, of which she said, “that’s a spiritual piece” which, interestingly enough, celebrates men.
Another piece expected to pack an emotional punch is Please, Open Your Door performed by Marcella Andre who delivered the still memorable My Vagina was My Village from the Vagina Monologues. Airall’s favourite piece, meanwhile, which she will be performing herself is the Dotsie Isaac-Gellizeau penned Wednesday’s Child. When she first heard it read, she said, “I was so moved by it, especially the last two lines.”
What are those lines? Well, you’ll have to check the production on May 28 and 29 to find out. Of her audience, Airall said, “I just want them to come and celebrate the stories of the women right here and leave feeling convicted and celebrated.”
Just a reminder that the play as always is adult only, per the content, and that proceeds once again will be split between two worthy causes – this time around Amazing Grace and Cottage of Hope, a halfway house for battered women and children.
They’re still hoping to attract sponsorship, and can be contacted at 779-6634, 783-4120, or HYPERLINK “http://email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org