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Craig and Project Luangwa


Craig blogged about his recent trip to Africa, learn more about his work at the local school for “Project Luangwa“. Here is an extract :

 We were greeted by the headmistress and the staff of the school, who led us to an open area, where the school choir entertained us, They were an amazing talented bunch with such great voices and personalities to match. After the choir came the drama class, who performed a musical number that was so raunchy it makes ‘Magic Mike’ look like High School Musical’ But according to our hosts, this sort of tribal mating ritual style of dancing is very common. Personally I liked it, but noticed a few shocked faces within the group.

After the performances some of the pupils were chosen to meet and greet us and share their stories. These kids were so well mannered and so excited, they all loved having there pictures taken and seeing the results. The ones I spoke with have high ambitions of reputable careers, such as judges, policemen, lawyers, and ministers. one boy Dixon, told me about his dream of becoming an actor, but didn’t see how that was ever going to be possible and that a career as a doctor might be more realistic. All the kids wanted to get my email address, and physical address, almost desperate for a slice of Americana. They are familiar with such shows like ‘American Idol’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ I wondered if the latter had inspired their gyrating ‘getdown’ moves earlier.

A few days later a few of us returned to the school, to somehow give something back to them as a thank you for the welcome they had given us. A couple taught photography, another taught project management, (turning your dreams into reality) and little old me taught the drama class.

I’ve coached a few fellow actors for auditions in the past, but have never taught a class before so was quite nervous. I’d spent a few days thinking about what to actually teach these guys, as self expression they already had in abundance. that was clear, so I decided that I wanted them to experience something rather than just some sort of lecture, I also didn’t want to tie them down to a script. Using the skill-set I had learnt at The Groundlings, I decided upon a curriculum of fun games, improv and character work. -Which they all seemed to love.

Our windows were packed of kids peering through trying to catch a glimpse of these kids parading around the room as elephants, shivering from frostbite, or being very very tired. The biggest kick seemed to be when I had them all play zombies. -This is just a great exercise to get them started, to relax and enjoy themselves. I led them through some exercise that got them to really use their imagination, and of course it crossed my mind that when I was demonstrating some ‘space work’ of a doctors office and using space work implements, that they probably didn’t have the same sort of environments as us.  However, I loved watching them as each one got up and recreated their own worlds, their own habitats, using the power of suggestion and mime.

I ended my session with a fun game that I used to play as a kid called Wink Murder. A cunning game where all participants close their eyes and one is tapped on the shoulder, whomever is tapped is now the murderer and must kill everyone with a wink of an eye. If the killer winks at you, it is your job to die of the most horrible death you can imagine. Everyone laughed so hard watching their class mates ham it up as each one dropped to the floor. I was the last one standing when Leo winked at me,  I’d had some previous practice of dying (on-screen), most recently on the cross over episode of Hawaii 5.0 and NCIS:LA. That was a pretty unspectacular two shots to the chest it was all over kind of death.

My character Alfred Hoffman in Fringe had died a fantastical death of choking on his own DNA toxic gas. Strangled in my underwear by a raving psycho bitch in the horror movie  ‘Slaughter’ was a good one, oh and on the TV show ‘The District’, dying of an overdose of PCP, death cout 4. But, none, I tell you, even came close to the blood curdling sounds that came out of my over the top, highly dramatic, tony winning ,death scene I gave these kids. The best round of applause I’ve ever gotten and one that will always mean the most to me.

And as for Dixon, I’d like to believe that he does have a fighting chance of one day making it as an actor, I told him to always keep the dream alive even if it’s in your sleep… because strange things happen when you dream and sometimes they come true. Not that I’m comparing myself, but growing up on a council estate in the UK, I never knew how I was ever going get to Hollywood and become an actor, but if I dreamed hard enough, it might just happen.

I hope to get back to the school in a few years to see how it has progressed – and now I dream that it will have running water by then.

Read Craig’s full report here : Craig Robert Young Blogspot

If you want to help the school and make a donation : Project Luangwa

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