Trippin’ to Africa
When one of my favorite non profits, Population Media Center, asked me to cast one of their radio dramas being produced in Sierra Leone, and coach the actors there, I jumped at the chance. Population Media Center produces radio and tv dramas with storylines dealing with real life issues of family size, women’s equality, birth control and health care. What I love about PMC is that they deal directly with the issues that cause large families. Sounds boring, but believe me, these soap operas are riveting human drama and they are hugely popular around the world . In Ethiopia, over half the adult population in the region listened to the local PMC radio drama and the results are staggering for all the productions: thousands of people have their attitudes and behaviors changed for the better after listening or viewing these series. Some people call them “Soap Operas for Social Change”.
The Sierra Leone production was funded by the United Nations and the Marie Stopes Foundation . 208 episodes will run over 2 years. The storylines include a bullying husband, a daughter trying to get from under her dominant and traditional father’s thumb, teenagers navigating love and sex.
Casting was hard, as there were 71 terrific actors vying for 15 spots, and alot of time was spent in the auditions mixing and matching to get the voices to match well with each other. Coaching relatively unskilled (but talented) actors 5 hours a day for 6 days was a challenge for me, as I have never even taught acting before- suddenly I was in charge of a one week intensive! To make things more complicated, the scripts were in the local language. I worked hard for weeks before I left to put together a curriculum of lectures, games, homework assignments and exercises for my students.
They were a fantastic bunch. As I write this, I miss them very much and am proud to learn that Saliwansai is doing very well all over Sierra Leone. Word has it the feedback might be the best of the the several dozen productions PMC has put together.
What was neat was that I was able to meld my passion to act with my concern about human overpopulation. I hope to work with Population Media Center again soon.