The Show Must Go On!

This past week, we had the pleasure of hosting the tremendous performing trio of Uataueist!

What was that?

Uataueist!

Still didn’t get it? Try saying “what a waste!” while moving your lips in the motion of a ruminating cow.

There you go, you got it!

Uataueist is an artistic project created by three students studying at the Academia Teatro Dimitri in Verscio, Switzerland. Thanks to the fantastic Cal Brackin, my fellow AIF Fellow working at the Kattaikkuttu Sangam, I was lucky enough to meet these performers, as they all volunteer at the same organization! The trio is a diverse bunch, in nationality and experience, brought together by their mutual passion for theater and performance. Santiago is from Colombia, Alessandra from Italy, and Rebekka from Germany. Cumulatively, they have had about 30 varied experiences in circus, street shows, and theater performance. In terms of specialty, Santiago is an expert juggler that can hypnotize any onlooker with his swift dexterity and finesse. Alessandra can elicit laughter from any belly as she clowns around with true character and a bursting personality. Rebekka is quite a sight as she weaves her body around the aerial silks with impeccable grace and strength.

 

In the spring of 2016, Rebekka volunteered at the Kattaikkuttu Sangam to teach acrobatics and aerial silks to the students. Upon returning to the Academia Teatro Dimitri, she wanted to go back to India, but this time, she decided to join forces with her two friends. Thus, the three of them worked for about a month to bring the Uataueist project to life. The main goal of the project was to throw the spotlight on the important issue of litter and recycling in India, via an original theatrical piece. Appropriately, they titled their show “Plastikkatti,” which translates to “plastic jungle.” Their message very beautifully aligned with the goal of my own project; to promote eco-friendly practices in India. After exchanging a handful of Facebook messages, we set a date for the Uataueist group to perform Plastikkatti in our village of Vadanemelli.

Setting up took some more time than expected, as wires were disconnected and rewired from one place to another. The stage was set in between two small mandirs, with a large, welcoming tree to the left side, upon which Rebekka had tied her emerald colored aerial silks. The sky was a milky dark, with a sliver of platinum moon peeking out from behind the trees. A small group of kids had already gathered on the sand in front of the stage area and some adults had gathered on the street. The anticipation was high.

The scene is set!
The scene is set!

Yet all too soon, a disgruntled man came storming down the street, raising his voice as he approached the crowd. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but his anger provoked one of our staff members to assert himself. I exchanged some distraught looks with one of my co-workers. Was the show going to be called off? Did this man have the power to start a tiff with the Croc Bank? I whispered to my co-worker and she explained that the man was upset that we were using the village space and electricity “without asking permission.” His shouts were threatening, but thankfully, his complaints were unfounded; we had received permission from the village weeks before. After some more back and forth, our staff were able to convince him to leave.

Finally, the spot light went off. A lull fell over the scene. The silence from the stage was reflected in the stillness from the audience. Then all of a sudden…

OOH OOH AH AHH!

Alessandra pounced onto the stage on all fours, her every movement perfectly embodying the mischievous and playful character of a monkey. As she neared the children sitting at the edge of the stage, they squealed with delight, jumping up to run from her, as if she were a real monkey.

At that point, I happened to turn and catch a glimpse of the street behind us. The audience had tripled in size and the street was packed! People were standing on the curb, sitting on their motorbikes, parents had children in their arms, and everyone was intently watching the performers.

The rest of the show continued to amaze every onlooker. There was an elephant with a trunk and ears made of bottles and plastic bags, a toucan with wings of newspaper, and fittingly, a snake with a body made of blue plastic bags. Finally, Rebekka gracefully danced in the sky while hanging from her aerial silks as we all watched in awe. With a violin, a trumpet, some shadow puppets, a couple of recycled materials, and a lot of innovation, the group mesmerized the village!

An elephant made of recyclables and two people!
An elephant made of recyclables and two people!

 

avan_photo-1
Rebekka wows us all!

The applause was genuine and many people approached us and the performers to thank us for a night of entertainment. Vignesh, a short-term Croc Bank volunteer mentioned that it had been a long time since he had a genuine laugh. The smiles and giggles from the children were an instantaneous seal of approval for the event.

The audience interacts with the performers after the show.
The audience interacts with the performers after the show.

For 40 years, the Croc Bank has been present in the lives of the people of Vadanemelli. Most of our staff are from the village and many have been working with us for many years. They are dedicated, hard workers who keep the organization running. That’s why it was really special to be able to give back in this simple yet unique way. I’d like to think of this as the official inauguration for the litter and waste management outreach aspect of my project. It was the first time I saw all of the Croc Bank staff outside of work, enjoying something together, while also learning about the importance of recycling and not littering. It was a really beautiful thing to experience.

Kids gather around Santiago as he juggles.
Kids gather around Santiago as he juggles.

 

Santiago balances his contact juggling ball on his head.
Santiago balances his contact juggling ball on his head.

I cannot thank Cal and the performers of Plastikkatti enough! They brought smiles to everyone and made the night really special. In addition, this show would not have been possible without the help of our incredible Croc Bank staff! They took the time to spread the word in the village, set up the stage, take down the stage, and make the event a success! I know that the memories will stay with the audience for a long time to come. And I hope this was a nice introduction to the “green practices” that we will be informing the community about in the future of this project. Stay tuned! 🙂

avan_photo-2
Cal, Alessandra, Rebekka, Santiago, me, and Vignesh pose for a post-performance picture!

Avan will have the fantastic opportunity to work among over 2,000 beautiful reptiles and amphibians. Her placement lies at the intersection of her love for science and education, deep interest in development work, and lifelong love for animals. She aims to learn from the experts and be able to form a practical waste management strategy, supported by experimental results. Avan is excited to finally visit South India, meeting new people, tasting the cuisines, and indulging in the culture of the community where she will be staying. Prior to AIF, Avan has served as co-president of a student organization called SHARE, which sends unused, surplus medical supplies from local hospitals to under-supplied clinics abroad. She has also participated in the Critical Language Scholarship program to learn Hindi.

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