By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published February 2, 2017
A man is chatting on Facebook when he receives a call that his bus has been involved in a road accident. The shocked man rushes out, leaving the chat window on his laptop still open and still active.
The wife of the man stumbles on the chat and a secret is uncovered; her dear husband, a man of cloth, is having an affair. But the pastor’s wife decides to assume his identity and carries on with the chat.
Both women begin to type frantically, furiously, reading their chat messages out loud as they click the ‘send’ button. The wife, angry and disgusted; the young mistress, easy and all sexual.
In the ensuing chat the wife discovers that her hubby always has holy fellowship dinners with his mistress at the Open House Passover Restaurant. They later continue with the fellowship, casting demons and spiritual healing at the mistress’s house.
When she confronts the husband with evidence in the third scene after setting up a fellowship with the mistress, the pastor looks away with guilt and shame.
“And now I know why. All these years I have just been your holy Maria only good to be filled up by your holy spirit that I have carried for 27 months in total. 27 years of marriage, 27 months of fat belly and just 7 truly cast out demons. Imagine that,” the hurt wife says.
This is from Holy Maria, a 30-minute comedy written and directed by Lucy Judith Adong and staged at National Theatre in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, January 27-29, 2017.
Yvonne Koreta Tindimwebwa plays the cheating pastor’s wife, Anna-Maria Ssemana. The role of the pastor’s mistress, Princess Alicious, is taken by Linda Nabasa. Robert Ernest Bbumba plays Pastor John Ssemana who has three children with his wife, Anna-Maria Ssemana.
Holy Maria, that revolves around the ‘womanising’ ways of Pastor John Ssemana, was originally written and staged as a 10-minute skit for the 2013 edition of Short + Sweet Theatre Festival in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Lucy Adong says Holy Maria explores how men seem to look at their wives as mothers of their children and not partners with whom to explore each other’s sexual fantasies; it tackles the critical issue of whether motherhood takes away femininity.
The play, she says, was written as a response to a call by Short + Sweet Theatre Festival in Zimbabwe for 10-minute plays that explore how social media have affected the lives of modern people.
Holy Maria, her play, was selected and participated in the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA).It was directed by renowned Zimbabwean director Patience Gamu Tawengwa of Zimbabwe.
The play has now been expanded into a 30-minute drama that premiered in Uganda in January 2017.
Adong says she decided to stage the comedy back to back with another 30-minute play titled Blood that appears to be informed by the hypocrisy in the United States of America where shooting of young black men by white policemen is commonplace in a country that claims to be a bastion of democracy and human rights.
The 30-minute tragedy tackles the struggle of black people to survive racism while exposing White US American hypocrisy through the journey of a White American journalist forced to confront his own part in America’s racism when he comes down to Uganda to investigate the murder of a young gay black man called Dan Male.
The story begins in the United States of America where a White policeman confronts a college-going African-American, asking him what he is doing out in the streets late at night.
The young man informs him he is returning home from school but the policeman grabs him, throwing him to the ground and killing him in the process. The cop then walks away.A white American journalist bumps onto the body, jumps over it, unconcerned, and continues on his way to Africa to investigate the death of Dan Male, another black young man.
Upon getting to Uganda, a young African man asks the white journalist why he has not done any stories on the killing of black men by white policemen in America but has flown all the way to an African country to unearth Male’s murder.
The journalist claims that he has not had the chance yet to cover the killings of Black Americans. He thought that he should try his hand at something new in Africa.
“Don’t expect me to believe that you care about black people in Africa if you don’t really care about black people in your own country. It’s too insulting,” the Young African Man shoots back.
While River Dan Rugaju plays the parts of the White American Cop and the White American journalist, Robert Ernest Bbumba plays those of the African-American Boy and the Young African Man.
Blood is Adong’s contemporary impression of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play, Les Blancs. It was developed in 2014 as part of 48 Hours in Harlem, an annual project created and run by Harlem 9 in collaboration with the National Black Theater in New York.
Adong tells ArtMatters.info that after Holy Maria and Blood received world premieres in Zimbabwe and USA, respectively, she decided to bring the plays back to Uganda so that Ugandans can also experience them.
“We have borrowed the festival format to have two 30-minute short plays run back-to-back because each is too short to have an independent theatre production,” Adong says.