In 2018 Dynamo was contacted by Dr. Maleni Stella from the Makerere University lung Institute about a play that was part of a research project they were doing. It was meant to create awareness about Asthma, a condition they had already collected data on in selected schools in Uganda. We however had to be part of a pool of other theatre companies and had to submit requested documents on our experience and wait to see if we ever get selected.
The silence that followed meant we lost the job and we gave up until January 2020 when the good doctor sent an email confirming that we had been selected. Shortly after negotiations, Corvid-19 kicked in and a lockdown was announced. This was followed by a series of online meetings with the then new application, Zoom.
Okay, fast forward and in 2021 we started rehearsing the play INCONTROL Reloaded by Tunde Euba in December. This is the time we all realized how little we knew about Asthma. Yes, like you or some of your friends, some actors in Dynamo still thought it is a rich people’s disease.
Our history with Asthma
Let me take you back in February 2018 during our show of the stage adaptation we did of the play “The Alien Woman” by Lawrence Ocen. Keith Muganza who played the lead ‘Obina’ then came off the stage and collapsed back stage in front of me. Thinking nothing of it, I came touched him and told him to get up quickly cause we were going back on stage immediately, me and him. Seconds later I heard the other actors shout ‘where is his inhaler?’, ‘he has got an attack’ and many other things.
At this moment things got serious as Keith wasn’t moving yet we were supposed to be going on stage, the stage was empty now. I quickly rushed to the stage, grabbed a microphone and asked the students in the audience if any of them had an inhaler. I had never seen an inhaler and had never even said the word inhaler.
To this day, I don’t remember whether it was a male or female student but I know one of them came up with an inhaler and Keith got the medicine he required.
I am sure you are asking yourself why I don’t remember the sex of our savior. Well, immediately after Keith got on his feet, he tapped me and asked me which scene were going to do and we went straight to the stage to do it. We later thanked the angel on the microphone for the good deed and Keith for going on stage after such a frightening incident.
I hadn’t given Asthma any serious thought because since then, Keith had a fresh inhaler with him and never got an attack. We hadn’t even got a chance to talk about this condition which seemed mysterious to many of us.
Impact of the Play
During the production rehearsals of INCONTROL Reloaded, we got a chance to speak to Tunde the author who happens to have the condition, Doctors Rebecca and Stella from MLI and Jeremy James, artistic director of Tramshed Theatre Company UK. These conversations equipped me and the rest of the artists with a lot of information about Asthma.
We would later learn even more when audience members asked questions about the condition in the workshop after the play was performed for the different audiences. Yes, every performance had a workshop to teach and also learn about the conditions and every time people asked questions until it was time up for us. Some of the questions can be found in the report compiled by Makerere University Lung Institute but our lessons live on.
New terms learned;
- Peak Flow meter: A peak flow meter is a portable, easy-to-use device that measures how well your lungs are able to expel air.
- Spacer: pacers are empty tubes that are usually made from plastic. They slot onto the mouthpiece of your inhaler on one end, and you use a mouthpiece or mask on the spacer at the other end. They help one get the best from your asthma medicine.
Learn more at: https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/inhalers-medicines-treatments/inhalers-and-spacers/spacers/
and at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/peak-flow-meter/about/pac-20394858
About the play
The Play follows a young girl ‘Miracle’ who struggles like many Asthmatic children to live a normal life playing her favorite sport football without being treated like a very sick child because of her condition. She has to convince her dad that she can play and not get asthmatic attacks, while also convincing her mother to not tell her coach and teammates about her condition. Without knowing that her close friend Maria also has Asthma, Miracle tries to hide the fact until she gets an attack and Maria is available to save her life.
The play was Directed by Arthur Kisenyi and the production team headed by Lauben Kato. The Performes included Pamela Komuhendo as Miracle, Nambooze Gloria as Maama Miracle, Edward Mibirizi as Taata Miracle, Edwin Ssekatawa Edwin as John, Namawejje Carol as Maria, Derrick Ndyabawe and Elizabeth Tumuhairwe as the teacher. Keith Muganza played the Doctor and was moderator for the after performance workshops.