Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Hey all,
Sorry I have posted in a while. Things have been absolutely crazy here in the last week. We have been going gangbusters trying to get this show finished. Not sure if you saw my facebook post but in 5 days with the help of 2 part time people I/we managed to draft 8 patterns and then cut and sew 36 tunics, 10 tanks, 14 pairs of pants, 3 long skirts and 9 short skirts. And we were done in time to do all of the fittings on Sat. afternoon. 36 fittings done in 2 hours in the sweltering heat! Crazy!

Now we are frantically trying to finish everything for our preview on Friday evening. Every new day brings with it interesting and unique challenges. For example, yesterday morning we still had several items to finish for the press conference in the afternoon. We arrived to work bright and early only to find that they were burying the power lines in the building and so our entire workshop was covered in a thick layer of fine plaster-type dust and we had absolutely no power. For the rest of the morning the power went on and off with no notice as the carpenter kept trying to make the lights work. This also makes it very difficult to use a sewing machine safely. Finally we got an electrician called in and by about 1pm we had the power back up and running. We got the stuff done and the press conference went quite well.

Overall, in wardrobe we have 80 separate items to complete and we have 31 finished as of first thing Wed morning. We have made leaps and bounds in the last couple of days and I have the utmost confidence that things will work out great and we will all be ready by Friday.

I think we are all looking forward to seeing the friendly faces of Robbin and Mary-Ann today - which I think will help to re-energize the troops. It's been a stressful few days but I think everyone is starting to see everything starting to come together as we push forward the rest of this week.

I don't know if I will be able to post much until the show is over (right now I am sneaking this blog in while I am sitting in a production meeting! :) I'll try to recap as much as possible afterwards though - with hopefully a bunch of pictures to accompany it.

A week from today we head home and I am already starting to feel the mixture of excitement to see everyone at home but intense sadness to leave all of our new friends here. Before I get more weepy I'll sign off.

Wish us luck.....

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sean - Crazy Week....

Hola Amigos

I'm back, but afraid this may be my only post this week until after the opening on Saturday. It's chaotic right now as we struggle to complete the show. We haven't got a great pool of volunteers in props and wardrobe, (though the ones that are here and dedicated are awesome)! We could definitely have used the week before we finally got the crate and a few more sewers to help get this show well on its feet. Tomorrow is media day, so we're in a huge crunch to finish half the costumes and masks. On Saturday, we had 36 back to back fittings outside in the heat, but they went relatively well and now it's all minor alterations and detailing. I know we're all a little exhausted, but our spirits are still high and I know that whatever we can get to the stage will be more then the community is expecting.

On another note, the reason why I haven't written for a bit is because I was sick again. So sick in fact, that our team leader Tatiana and Director, Ed, decided it best that I visit the hospital emergency room, and thankfully I did. Whatever infection I got shortly after arriving resurrected itself violently last week and I spent a great deal of time running from bathroom to bathroom. I was so sick, tremors and dizziness, faintness and vomit, not to mention all the other gross things. Once at the hospital it all took a turn for the worse and the team there immediately hooked me up to some IV's for re-hydration while they performed some tests. All in all I got pricked about 6 times in my confused state and have all the bruises to prove it. Tatiana was amazing, very motherly as I tried to rest under some additional medication they gave to me. 5 hours later and 2 full IV bottles emptied I got the results of the tests. From what I understand, I have a severe stomach infection. The hospital crew were incredibly surprised by the amount of white blood cells I had floating around in my test samples, nearly 100 x the norm. I was given a slew of antibiotics and stomach aids and finally was able to go home. The hospital in Suchitoto isn't the most sanitary I've seen, but Tatiana was very strict in making sure that all the needles were used only once and freshly unwrapped from their protective package. I cannot thank her enough. I was so incredibly nervous and nobody spoke English, so to have an advocate there was a relief. The hospital is small, and the staff seem very knowledgeable, but with the country as poor as it is, the resources were less then desirable. There were only two toilets, neither of them had light bulbs, (cost cuts), and patients are expected to bring their own toilet paper. The kind nurse gave me her supply as I ran to the main toilet in the waiting room, to throw up in front of all the other patients with the door ajar so I could see where I was aiming. During our training we had to reenact a scenario surrounding a visit to a rural hospital where a westerner is rushed to the front of the line, taking precedence over a group of local patients including women with children and pregnant mothers. We were asked what we would do if placed in the situation. I know we all want to say that we would wait our turn, but let me tell you from personal experience that your survivalist nature kicks in. I don't know if I budded in front of one person or five, but as I was fading quite fast and dehydrated beyond belief I didn't care. Tatiana made sure I was hooked up as quickly as possible to the IV, and the entire scene is bit of a blur from then on. I drifted in and out of consciousness and awoke to different faces and voices each time, but consistently Tatiana was there in the corner, smiling and keeping my spirits up.

Things are improving with my health slowly and I'm going to stay until the end. I'm managing to keep food and water down now, and only have slight waves of nausea. I tire easily, but am doing as much as I can to keep the design momentum going. Mel is working extremely hard and Mike is also now in the thick of things having moved into the Chapel Theatre last night. It's going to be a push, but in the end after seeing the heart and soul that the kids and staff are putting into the project I wouldn't trade this experience for any other. That being said, we're all treating ourselves to 3 nights at the fancy French hotel after the opening. It'll be a well deserved reward and a chance for us all to sit back, reflect and enjoy the benefits of some pampering.

Until Opening night, I wish you all the best. Keep the sun out for us when we return next week. Ciao.

Sean xox

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Mar. 19...and counting

I'm just taking a little break form scoring this show at the internet cafe. They are painting the office at Es Artes today so the interent is down and I need iTunes. It should be pretty cool. It's mostly music from Jorge Reyes with a augmentation from me.
We all went for a lovely breakfast today at Pascal's place. mimosas by the pool. I guess it was a nice break except that I still don't feel like we're going to actually make it, and I'd rather be working. It's hard for me to relax until the show is actually put away Sunday night. Even then, I'm sure I will be doing alot of personal de-briefing in my head as to how I could have or would have done something better. I suppose that's what makes me good at what I do. And probably why Melissa and I get along because she's the same way. There's plans to go to check out some folk music later and then go down to the lake. It doesn't seem like people understand the gravity of the situation so far. There is so much to do still. All I'd like to do is put the set-up so I can get the lighting rig up so I can see if it all works tomorrow morning so I'll actually be able to let Ed have the stage for a rehearsal tomorrow afternoon. Mel and Sean are back at the shop doing alterations and props by them selves. Ed and Tatiana and I are going to put up the stage after we get back from the lake hopefully around 5 or 6. Then hopefully we will have enough bodies tomorrow to actually get things going.

I'll try and keep posting during the week but we're about to enter insanity so I can't promise much. And now my battery is going to die so I'm signing off before it does.

Adios Amigos!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shelves arrived today!

Well the lights are at the chapel, Mel and Sean took all of the costumes to the rehearsal place for fittings. We are now waiting for the truck to pick us up again so we cn mov e the stage over to the chapel. I've been puttering around this afternoon starting to clean up a little because they want to have a gala here after the show on the 27th. Now that it's pretty much decided what the lighting and sound rig will be for this show, I can start putting things away in a deeper spot.

A lot of metal shelving arrived today. Good thing. Mel and Sean will be very happy they can organize the shop a little more. I've got the storage room at the back starting to look like a proper ferreteria.

I've got this grave feeling that this is not going to come together. Personally, I think it will but I just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. I won't be able to energize this dimmer rack I've got until Monday (hopefully early), so I still don't know if it even works. It came from Mick at the Studio Theatre and before that I Imagine it was at the Patterson Theatre so I have complete faith that it has been maintained impeccably but I still haven't seen it actually pass electrons yet. I'm not totally thrilled with my plan for hanging the lights. My giant table idea is very shaky to erect with a couple 20something yr. old kids. I think we've got a good plan now, and We'll make it an all hands project when that day comes (hopefully Monday). I could make it way better except there's no Canadian tire here. It'll be fine I'm just having a moment.

.....(it's 8pm now). SO I wrote the rest of this earlier we're going for dinner now. Tomorrow should me mostly a day off. I finally got a list of sound and light cues. I'll be on my computer all day so I'll post more later.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mel's new shop! (and Sean's too)

Sean getting things done.

Mi muchachos!

A sight for sore eyes!

This was what we saw walking down the street after everyone in the square and all over town were telling us "it's here! it's here!" as we walked into Es artes that day.

I don't know what day it is...

It's Friday but I haven't been keeping track of the number of days we've been here. Tomorrow is we start to load-in to the chapel. Today we are prepping for load-in. Hopefully by this afternoon I will have a plot together. Ed still hasn't really decided on lighting and sound cues but we have a basic idea from our first story meeting when we all arrived a week or so ago. I only have 16 1.2Kw dimmers so there's definitely limitations. I think the structure I've worked out with Kee clamps and pipe will work out pretty good. It's going to be a giant table 4.8m X 3m and 5.4m high (that's approx. 18ft. for those of you who don't measure in Spanish. After I explain what size to make something, they all go looking for the bi-lingual tape measure.) My 'muchachos' are building it in the courtyard right now so I can be sure we have enough of the right fittings to make it strong enough and not sway too much. We did 2ft. little mock-ups earlier in the week to sort out the fittings. they actually made great work tables while we were soldering SOCA ends.

I seem to have the biggest and most eager crew so far. Saul, Josue, Manuel, Eric, Hector, and Douglas. Hector and Douglas are video guys who are interested lighting a little bit. They are with us sporadically because they are also taping alot of footage. I'm not exactly sure what for but there is often a camera lense over our shoulders. Hector is actually fixing one of the industrial sewing machines right now for Mel, and I found out the other night that Josue used to do audio editing for the radio station. Saul and Josue seem to be the oldest. I think they are in their early twenties. They all jump right in and own every project I set them off on. I've been really trying to make it theirs as much as possible. I wish I had my own translator, and we could do some more theory. There's still lots of time next week to show them why I suggested doing something a certain way. I've also been tryin to instill in them that we, as stagehands, do a bit of everything. We are the arms and legs of the organization. I sent Manuel off the get a sewing machine stand welded back together, and we build costume racks and storage in between lighting projects.

I'm glad I took the training we did in Ottawa. I hope everyone who comes down here does it. And does it all. I can see how easy it is for me to take ownership of this project for myself and it's not about me, it's about them. And at the same time, it should be what they need and want, not what we think they need or want. For instance, just because we think we need to get things done on a Sunday, doesn't mean that it fits into their culture. And we're not here to change their culture. I am constantly aware of not being the arrogant gringo from the north who 'knows better'. As I see it, we are here to help them tell their own stories and spread their own culture in their own ways. And hopefully I can give them guidance as to how to pull it off safer, or more effectively. I find myself taking ownership in this project the longer I am here. I can see how someone (maybe me eventually) could get frustrated with the pace or style of things here. I'm trying to balance, pushing their limits so they can grow, yet keeping in mind, that it's not my project. It's a very delicate balance with no time to assimilate and truly understand you surroundings and the community. Okay, rant over...

It's peculiar here, the things they have and the things they don't. Mario is fiber-glassing and Conejo is making jewellery with his Dremel. All of my guys have cell phones and they use them as their personal music player when they sit down to solder or make cables. Yet, we can't get shelving to save our lives. Electricity is another challenge at Es Artes (the office). All of the lights are wired with lamp cord stapled to the rafters, running from socket to socket. All of the walls are adobe so everything needs to be surface mounted, we have to hang bulletin boards etc. from the rafters too. (I believe they rent this space so that's another reason we can't make holes in the walls.) I bought them a bunch of sheathed wire (couldn't get BX) because Tito asked me if I could do some electrical work to the place. Then the container showed up so we've all been working on show related projects. However, Tim Hanson is a God send. In the container we had enough parts and wire to make many extensions cords with duplex boxes so while it's not ideal with all of the cords running along the walls, we've been able to keep two industrial sewing machines, one domestic, an iron, a soldering station, a test circuit for lamps and cables, some various grinders, hot glue guns etc and a sound system for the shop running smoothly.

Paramos para almoczar! means stop for lunch. That's my daily exclamation around noon. everyone giggles at my spanish but I think (and hope) they appreciate that I'm trying to speak their language. The project feeds everyone lunch everyday in appreciation for their help. We all walk down to Villa Balanza and eat together everyday. The cast also goes for lunch there before they start their rehearsals at 1pm. So it's that time now, I'm signing off. More later...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mel - Day 10

Wow! What a thunderstorm last night. Incredible thunder and lightning. Intense downpours that lasted for hours. I had a moment of panic when I wondered if our room would leak (it is just that rippled tin after all) but was too tired to wake up enough to really care. I think the thunderstorms were a good metaphor for what was to come later in the day.

I think the heat is starting to get to everyone (no, the rain did nothing to cool things off – think pouring water over hot rocks in a sauna!) and the tensions due to our lack of time are starting to build. There were a couple of minor freakouts today from all involved (well, maybe not Mike but as I said yesterday his posse is awesome). I know, you’re all thinking awesome… just what we’ve been waiting for.

We had a production meeting this morning went well except no-one from Es Artes was really there. We knew that Tatiana couldn’t be as she had an important meeting in San Salvador but she had said that Evelyn (kind of the office manager) would replace her. I am not sure what happened but Evelyn was not at this meeting. It was fine and we managed to keep up communication between all of us and I sent out an email afterwards with minutes so that everyone could stay in the loop. It’s really the same type of communication gaps that happen in every theatre/business/project. I think we might feel they are amplified here because we already feel a distance due to our language barrier. Who knows? After all of our freakouts about various things I think we all realized (or reminded each other) that we need to take a moment and remember that we are not in our own country and that we need to be respectful of how some things might work differently here or that there may be extenuating circumstances as to why something is not happening that we think should be.

Due to my own freakout, Tito managed to get in touch with the welder guy at Esquela Taller, Mario and made arrangements to have the base of the sewing machine fixed. Mike figured out what needed to be done and sent one of his guys to the school with the pieces with Ed, the director, driving Patricia, the assistant director’s, truck. With a combined effort from everyone we had that sewing machine up and running by lunch. Yay!!!!! And a huge thanks to everyone who made this happen.

The only problem is that we don’t have enough people to be running 2 machines right now. The lovely seamstress, Soyla, was back all day today and she went to town on putting together the tunics (she is rapidly catching up to everything I have cut!) And, Ojenia was in this morning continuing on preparing the material for the God tunics. However, by after lunch we were down to just Soyla and me. 2 people with 38 tops and bottoms to cut, sew, alter and finish in under a week leaves me feeling very, very worried. I think that we were under the impression that the school was more up and running and that each department would have a pool of volunteers from the school. Mike certainly has a very dedicated crew who show up at 8:30 and don’t leave til 5pm and diligently work away at any task he gives him (even when it is soldering Soca ends!) But I think Sean and I are feeling a bit adrift. We’ll have more conversations with everyone at Es Artes and I am sure they will find some more volunteers for us. I feel kind of bad right now though as I don’t feel like I am really teaching them anything new – that instead I am the one who is learning so much. (Spanish, all about local natural dying processes and techniques)

Despite the bit of tension in the air I do feel like we had a very productive day. We now have all but the God tunics cut and almost all of the community and hunter tunics put together. Sean has agreed to ‘simplify’ the basic design just a bit so that the bottoms of the costume will either be a pair of capris/short pants, a short or a long wraparound skirt. I drafted a pattern for the pants this afternoon (Good Lord I hate pattern drafting – it takes me forever!!!!!). So now all of the pants are cut for the hunters. Sean had a couple of women preparing the quilted bits for the maypole (I think he talked about this element of the set design in his last blog) and we will have Soyla start on that tomorrow. All in all, it is going quite well. We have 2 days before costume fittings and so far I feel confident that we should have a top and a bottom for everyone by that time. Then comes the altering and finishing!!!!

Mike’s day seemed be very productive as he had his crew working on a mock-up of the larger lighting grid we hope to erect in the chapel. We cannot hang anything or lean against anything so anything that we do has to be free-standing. From the mock-up they did it seems like everything should work very well. They are a funny group of young guys – very machismo. Every time I wander out there to see what’s going on they all look at me like I am crazy. I was checking out the mixer that we brought with us and Mike and I had a bit of a conversation about it’s various features and the guy he had been showing it to gave me this look of complete and utter confusion. We decided tonight that I should go out and give them a soldering lesson tomorrow or something just to shake them up a bit more! :)

By 6:30 the light had faded enough that it was difficult to work and so off we went to dinner. We went to a new restaurant this time – Harlequin. Fancier than where we have been going and still very yummy. I had the ‘Plato Tipico’ which is a piece of beef, refried beans, avocado, fresh cheese, a salad and some fried plantains. Very, very tasty! We wandered to the square and our favourite hangout, Lupitas, for a couple of night caps and some cards. Then we sleepily meandered home while stargazing and the intense night sky and lamenting that we only have 2 more weeks in this crazy, amazing little town.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sean - The Story in Short

Back again, taking a break this afternoon briefly from mask and shield building to tell you all about what's been shaking down the pipe, as they say.
First off, the weather has been incredibly humid and much to the disbelief of the community, it has been raining in March which hasn't helped. When the crate finally arrived yesterday morning from Stratford and the sky began to pour, you could only laugh. I think it was a test from the Mayan gods to our determination!!!
We unloaded the truck with several helpers and directed them to the courtyard and workrooms, trying as we went to pile like with like. With the boxes labelled in English only and the helpers uni-lingually Spanish, there was a lot of arm-waving and pointing. It was how I imagined my career as a airport runway director, only far more exciting because the supplies had finally arrived.
The next 48 hours have been spent unpacking and digging for the materials needed to proceed with the show. We are at a loss for shelving at the moment, so there has been a bit of frustration and a significant lack of floor space, but with some ingenuity we have managed to construct a few things to help with storage. A storage skid has been upturned and nailed to 1x3 to create a rocking painting corner, housing the brushes on nails. Some cinder-block and plank shelves have been used to create our swatch wall full of bits and pieces from Stratford's scrap fabric collection. Having a place to put things has made today go so much smoother. We managed to get the first sewing machine up and running yesterday (with a few choice words that can't be printed and a TON of oil up and down my arms), and today a local guy from the trade school managed to weld the legs of the second table back together and it is now running just as smoothly. Thankfully all they needed was a little TLC to get them going and not a full overhaul. By the end of yesterday we were all ripe and filthy but so pleased that we finally had the beginnings of a proper workspace with the equipment needed to get the show underway. We've had a ton of volunteers chipping in and Mike has been holding an electrics 101 for some local boys that seems to be going really well. They're not so keen to help with the wardrobe side, but with a little encouragement, (or bribery of cool beverages), they've been helpful with some of the more menial tasks of sorting thread spools. It seems that gender roles are still played out in the workplace and there's a definite divide between MANual labour and craft-work. I think that'll change soon once they see how much fun props can be!

We've had a lovely seamstress in who spent the early part of the week dying some fabric in the traditional indigo technique for our story, which has been great. It's really nice to be able to use the skills that are here and to draw from the culture for the telling of our myth. I think the audience will really connect with the colours and textures of the show and recognize the effort.

Speaking of which, you might be asking what is the show? Well, it's a short myth loosely based on classic folklore from the Mayan and Aztec culture. It begins with a group of Hunters who are granted special help in finding their sport by the gods if they remain humble and serve the community. A group of troublesome spirits arrive to corrupt the morals of our proud group and soon the game is being used for riches and not survival. Once this is discovered by the community and the gods, the Hunters are threatened with exile, but plead for a second chance. In our story they get one, under some serious conditional terms, but in the authentic tale they are sent to live in the woods invisible from society forever.

I have been researching the Mayan and Aztec culture, drawing from their art and tools to design the props and costumes. I'm using a lot of symbolism, giving each character their own role in the community. As an example, the Mayans believed that the directions of North, South, East and West were connected with colours from their world so I have been assigning roles to the hunters that coincide with these beliefs labelling a character, Hunter of the North with his matching colour as a companion and so on. Their costumes will reflect traditional Mayan simplicity, indigo dyed with their symbolism painted on as a crest for others to recognize them by. I will also be using stones and local beads to enhance and denominate the social structure of the tribe. We've managed to pull together some wonderful natural textures from the scraps that Stratford sent and will be incorporating these into shawls, bundles and baby wraps. In addition we have a multi-level stage for playing on that has a centre insert for a style of maypole to celebrate the riches of the hunt. I'm taking more scraps to create a patchwork collage on the ribbons to give the piece some extra depth and bring some natural life to the ceremony. Masks will play a role in the misgivings of our trickster spirits, disguising them from the world as they try to stir up doubt and distrust with in the community. All of these projects are fairly loose in the way they are laid out, so there is some room for the local volunteers to participate and bring their own style to the piece. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.

That's about it for now. Lots to do so I should run before someone thinks the designer is slacking. Thanks for all your support, some costume renderings will be posted soon for you to get a clearer idea of what the traditional garb might have looked like in the period.

Buenos, Sean xo

Mel - Day 8 and 9

As the days are getting quite busy now I find I do not have the time to do my leisurely morning writing and blog posting. So, I will endeavour to type them out at night and post them first thing when I arrive at Es Artes the following morning. This has resulted in two days in one posting.

Day 8

We've been here a week already! Crazy! We had quite a productive day today - albeit a bit of a stressful one at times. Shortly after our arrival at Es Artes this morning a woman arrived and started watching me as I worked. I went to the office to ask who she was and was told she was here to help sew. ‘Great’, I thought, ‘my first volunteer’. I have to say, I am a bit proud of myself as I managed to converse with her enough to exchange names (her name is Soyla – sp?) and gather that she does not speak any English. Apparently I did the well enough that she was convinced that I spoke ‘un pocito’ of Spanish. The rest of the conversation proved that I, in fact, do not know un pocito and I finally gave in and went to find someone to translate and we set to work. An hour and a half went by and we still had not seen the woman who we were told would be there at 9am to discuss the dying of the fabric. As I may have mentioned already, I was quite nervous to get this dying process started as we are dying a great deal indigo and I have heard that this process takes quite a bit of time. So, back to the office I go to ask if we knew when this woman was going to show up. They replied, ‘She’s in there already.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? You said she was a seamstress.’ The said, ‘Yes, she is that too!’ After quite an intense discussion involving about 7 people (3 of whom didn’t necessarily need to be there) we established that yes, she is doing the dying for us. We gave her all that we wanted dyed and she left to get started. Sigh! With that settled, I finished cutting the tunics for the Traviesos (or Tricksters) Oh! Have I mentioned the four categories of characters yet? There are: Tricksters = Traviesos

Gods = Dioses

Community = Comunidad

Hunters = Cazadores

In the afternoon I set to work drafting the pattern for the camisoles/tanks for the Gods’ underlayer. Sean and I also had the opportunity to go and see Soyla at work dying the fabric. There is a woman’s centre in Suchitoto where local women make a variety of different products (mostly sewn) and there is space there for dying as well. I don’t have the details yet on how it works – whether they rent space or are paid to be there. But it was great to see and they were so welcoming and friendly and we went through. The indigo dying process is long, intense, and very smelly. First, you need to wash and treat the fabric in preparation for dying. It must they dry completely before the dying happens. Then, depending on how dark you want the finished product, you need to dip it in the dye 4-8 times (for medium to dark fabric). I think it needs to dry somewhat between each of these dips. It takes a very patient and committed person to do this process. Soyla is definitely both of these things. I’ll try to post pictures soon.

Day 9

The container is here!!!!!!!! They said it would be today but I didn’t truly believe it until we walked around the corner and there it was. Tons of people had arrived to help unload and we quickly set to work. The mood in the air was difficult to describe as mere words don’t really capture the joy, optimism, excitement, relief and just absolute glee that was in the air. People kept remarking that it was just like Christmas not quite believing all of the materials that were sent.

For the most part, everything made it quite successfully. One of the sewing machines busted the welds that were holding the legs on and so it had fallen over and dumped machine oil over a couple of toolboxes. Some of the lights on the rack had loosened off their C-clamps and a couple of shutters had popped out (as we had anticipated) but there was not any real damage that was done. Overall, the equipment and materials had survived the trip very well.

The rest of the morning was spent sorting and organizing for us. Sean had a couple of people that had shown up to help him with props but so far, I was on my own. We tried to organize our props/wardrobe workroom as best as possible but we are still waiting on shelves and so could only do so much. Mike had 4 guys that had shown up to work with him on sound and lighting stuff and they were so eager!!!!!! Mike set them to work right away sorting and organizing. Checking all of the lighting fixtures and fixing anything that needed it. I’ll have to post pictures of the Intro to Electricity lesson that Mike gave mid-morning. They are all listening so intently! I watched them afterwards putting twist-lock plug ends on cable and being so careful to do exactly what Mike had taught them – never grumbling when Mike had them re-do something, just intense concentration as they tried to make it perfect. They worked all day in this sweltering heat never once complaining (even when Sean and I made a couple of them sort spools of thread until Mike could find another project for them). Our North American teenagers and young adults could take a lesson from these guys!

After lunch Soyla arrived with the newly dyed indigo fabric. It looks amazing!!!! I tried to ask if she was here to help for the rest of the afternoon. Words failed but actions didn’t as she quickly got the jist of what I was doing and jumped right in. By mid-afternoon Sean and Mike had managed to get one of the sewing machines working (while I continued cutting more fabric). I took over to thread a bobbin and then thread the machine and try it out. Soyla and I had this fabulous exchange with her holding the manual and me threading the machine. I am not quite sure if she was asking me about the features of the machine - telling me about how to make the stitches longer or shorter, adjust the tension, move from zigzag to straight stitches. I do feel however that the smiling she was doing at the end of this was really saying ‘Good job little girl on learning that machine!’ :) The whole thing just makes me chuckle. She left soon afterwards but she is coming back tomorrow and is ready to sew! Oh, I also found out that two of her children are in the show. Sean showed her a costume sketch of what her son will be wearing and I truly don’t think I have seen a prouder mother.

After this I was on my own again and set to work cutting the dark indigo cloth which will be the tunics for the hunters. It was a bit nerve racking as we didn’t quite have enough fabric for all 8 tunics so I had to make some interesting adjustments on the fly and I was so nervous about screwing up the beautiful work that Soyla had done. It worked out in the end and by 6 tonight all of the hunter tunics were cut. We were all hot and sweaty from out long day so we finally packed it in around 7pm and headed out for dinner with Patricia and Capitan Roca. (I did get the story on the Capitan part of his name but it is too cute to share via blog.)

We have decided to have a brief production meeting every morning at 8:30am so that we can be sure that everyone is on the same page as we all head into the rest of the day (as communication has been a bit of an issue – just like it is in most theatres, businesses etc.)

I’ll post pics as soon as I can or can perhaps get Mike to!

So much excitement here. It’s truly amazing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mel - Day 7 (sorry it's a bit late)

Ahhh…. Sleeping in… what a beautiful thing. We agreed that after our crazy disco night that we shouldn’t push ourselves and so agreed that we would meet for breakfast at noon and then head over to Es Artes after that.

When we arrived we discovered that the room was finished being painted and we set to work. Over the next couple of hours I drafted the pattern for the small and medium size of tunics, measured out the fabric to be dyed and the other fabrics we will be using, and Sean and I finalized what fabric would be used for which group of characters and had some further discussions about the design of the show. It was a very successful afternoon and this greatly helped put my mind at ease knowing that at least this pattern was done – pattern drafting not being my forte!

We had a let down when we found out that the pool closes at 5pm on Sundays :( so we headed off to the Town Square for cervezas instead. Let’s talk about the Square shall we. What a vibrant, welcoming, wonderful place the Town Square is. On the weekends there are food and slushy carts that come out and a whole market of craft stalls is set up. During the weekdays it is bustling with people as soon as they are done work and on Sat. and Sun. it is like this all day long. It seems like all the town’s children were gathered there – some playing soccer, three were having a race from the fountain to a tree, and two more were hopping from cobblestone to cobblestone. Grandmothers and grandfathers, moms and dads, neighbours and friends all gather in the Square. Life is vibrant here. It made me sad for Stratford (and many town and cities in Canada) whose town life is being pushed out of its core and into suburbs and shopping centres. Where is the human connection? We seem to have forgotten the importance of taking the time to say ‘Hello! How was your day?’ and truly taking the time to be interested and listen to their answer. Perhaps if Stratford’s downtown core was more than a parking lot and bus depot we would have this kind of vibrancy here. I should be clear that we definitely have this kind of connection and attitude within the shops themselves, however it is when you leave those spaces and walk outside to concrete that that joy is lost. I realize that this also takes a change in people’s attitudes as well and maybe I am putting the cart before the proverbial horse in wishing for a re-design of our ‘town square’ but I can’t help but ruminate over what might be… Alright. I will get off of my soapbox now. :)

Well… wait… I have to sort of step back up there for a moment - but on a completely different topic. We were also told a story today by one of the actors working with us that has upset me quite a bit. I can’t do anything to change the situation but I feel the need to share it with you and maybe this same kind of thing can be avoided in some small way elsewhere. It seems that the main job of this actor is to teach acting to a group of – how do I put it politely – disadvantaged youth in San Salvador. Basically this arts program (acting, drawing, dance etc.) is what keeps most of these kids going as it gives them some positive thing to look forward to during their week. Well, this teacher showed up at the school on Sat. to teach their class only to find no students at all and all of the rest of the teachers crowded around wondering what was happening. Eventually, someone arrived to announce that the program had been ‘suspended’ while the new government (who took control under a year ago) was reviewing all of the old governments programs. Really what is happening is that the new government is just canceling any program that was created by the previous government. The teachers, understandably, are truly devastated. Not only do they all lose their jobs with no warning at all but hundreds of children are left to suffer the consequences of this decision. Argh!!!!! Politics!!!!! Who is going to be harmed by this – the previous government, their policy makers, their supporters? No! It’s innocent children who now have one less good thing in their lives. In a city and country that is so plagued by gang violence and criminal activity why on earth would you cancel a program that was keeping the youth from gravitating towards these activities? Arghhhh!!!!! Ok… now I’m definitely getting off my soapbox. (and hopefully will not be imprisoned for it! :)

We ended our evening with a lovely dinner at Gringos with Patricia and Ojenia. I tried the Tortilla Soup. It was spectacular! We found out at dinner that we have apparently come to El Salvador at the worst time of year. It’s the time of year that is the hottest, with subsequently the most disease, when even the locals get sick! (I feel slightly vindicated regarding my recent intestinal woes)

Travel Tip of the Day:

Don’t come to El Salvador in March – wait til December instead :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 7

No container yet. We're figuring Monday by lunch. because the last we heard from the shipping company, they said Friday evening. It's apparently en route from Guatemala right now. I'll bet it's parked on the side of the road near here with a driver sleeping in it because it's not a business day. We need a customs agent to unseal it and it would block the street here so it's just as well it didn't arrive Friday night to taunt us over the week-end. Oh well, it's out of all of our hands. I've learned before that everything is always "mañana" in Latin America.

It's Sunday here. It seems to be a rest day for most. All of the restaurants and markets are open. There's not really anything for me to do. I'm going to chat with Ed later about some audio/music ideas he came up with. Mel and Sean are working with the fabrics we got at the market in San Salvador (which was crazy) trying to make dye lots and get a few patterns made so they can hit the ground running tomorrow.

The San Salvador market was pretty cool. Huge and busy and bustling. I didn't feel crowded or unsafe at any point but If someone wanted to grab my camera or something they'd be gone in a flash. I have no idea how we found our way around because it's a huge rats nest of stalls selling everything from fish to beads to wicker, to pirated DVDs. There's a giant gothic church in the middle that has been engulfed by streets lined with fruit and vegetable stands that you drive through on the way into the central market building. We parked inside underneath and from there we braided and weaved our way through multiple levels and inside and out, stopping when we saw something on our list. Mario had it all laid out where to go first etc. A woman we bought some stuff from became our guide. We were asking her where to get this and that so she took us around to show us. We left all of the thing we had bought to that point with her mother at her stall and then cam eback to pick it up and she got us back to the van.

Tomorrow is a big day. 9am there's a lot of different help showing up. I apparently have at least three eager hands who want to know about electricity and lighting, and there's a group of sewers as well. It'll be great to have all the help once the container shows up. The municipality is also sending over manpower for unloading once it arrives. My team doesn't speak any english and all I can do is order beer in spanish so I'm not sure what we'll do until lunch but we'll figure something out.

Mel - Day 6

Passed on breakfast again this morning and over to Es Artes we headed. On the way we stopped at the fabulous bakery we found earlier in the week - Pan Lillian. Tasty, tasty stuff and crazy cheap. We go to Es Artes and started some blogging and some emailing while waiting for Sean to arrive. I also ventured to eat a couple of biscuits from the bakery (my first real food in 2 1/2 days!) Sean arrived and we decided to set to work organizing the props and costume workroom. As we were about to start a pickup truck pulled up outside and out jumped 6 young men with painting tools who immediately set to work scrubbing the walls in the room we were about to work in. Turns out the room was going to be painted that day in preparation for the launch party that will be held there. Except no-one had told us this was happening. After some negotiation, it was agreed that they would come back to paint that room tomorrow morning so that we could work today.

Sean and Mike set up the room and then Sean took me on a tour of the treasures they had found at the market. There is some very neat stuff! They managed to find most of the props and other than a bit of breakdown and decoration they should be fine as they are. He also managed to find some great fabric for the costumes. Due to the direction that the show has taken Sean has decided that we will make a basic costume for all 36 cast members that will consist of a basic 'tunic' style top with various modifications for sleeve and neckline, and either pants or a skirt for the men and women. He found a heavy muslin which he wants to dye different colours for each of the various groups of characters. Each of these costumes will then be fitted and altered for each specific actor. They will also receive decoration of varying degrees depending on their specific character. It think it is a fantastic design and will result in an incredible looking production but I have to say that I am a bit concerned at our timeline at the moment. At this point we have only 9 days before we move into the chapel space and only 11 before our tech dress. We are talking with the dyer on Monday at 9am but we don't know how quickly that can be done. The new news on the container is Mon. late morning for its arrival which is hopefully accurate as it contains the two sewing machines (that we hope still work). I know that all of these things have a way of working themselves out and that the community is so supportive of making this project happen that we won't have trouble finding replacement sewing machines or extra help. But right now, it does seem to be a bit daunting.

We had lunch and then I headed home for a nap while Mike and Sean went to Esquela Taller to meet the entire cast. Afterwards, to liven our mood and push away the oppressive heat, we went for a lovely swim at El Tejado. For dinner it was Gringos tonight as we were all craving a bit of home - a hamburger and fries. Earlier in the day I had decided enough was enough and took some Imodium so that I could keep some food in me long enough to actually absorb some nutrients. I didn't eat a lot but man it felt good to be eating at all.

We joined everyone in the square for cervezas and made plans to go to the disco later. Patricia decided she would pick us up at Sean's place so he wouldn't have to walk up the ridiculously steep hill that takes him from his hostel to town. So, she shows up in her very run-down Jeep and we piled in making 7 of us in total. I don't know how we made it up that crazy cobblestoned hill! I think it was by sheer will of everyone in the vehicle and the crazy Spanish cheering. So.... the Disco... crazy hot.... crazy loud - nothing new there. But the odd thing is it's like a wedding. Everyone in town goes. Young... old... man... women... gay... straight. It was quite and entertaining night. We even met a guy who keeps this giant locust as his pet. I mean it was huge! He passed it around to everyone to hold and pet (No.... I was not that brave). Eventually, we stumbled home in the cool night air drunk on the joy of the evening. (okay - and a couple of cervezas too!)

Words of the day:
Suero = this crazy hydration drink you get at the pharmacia. Basically what they put in IV bags.
Pan = bread
Queso = cheese

The Church in the Square at Sunrise

The Church in the Square at Sunrise..... stunning!
(picture by Sean Mulcahy)

The Stations of the Cross

Start of the Procession

Large Jesus!

Speaker on a Pole (the guy with the car battery is walking just ahead of this)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Night of the President's Visit Pictures

El Teatro alight for the celebration. This is the larger theatre in town.

The streets were alight with candles on the curb and in metal trees.

Disco Church (you can do amazing things with Par Cans and a chase sequence!)

Angels that were part of the celebration.

One of the angels decided to pose for Mike.

Mel's Day 3, 4, and 5!

Sorry for the lack of entries for the last couple of days but as you may have gathered from Mike and Sean's posts, I have not been feeling quite myself. Well, that might be an understatement. If it is Montezuma's revenge in Mexico what is it in El Salvador? Well, whatever it is, it is pissed!... I mean angry!.... It's not revenge but abject hatred.... vengeance! For the last two days I have eaten nothing except a few saltine crackers that Mike managed to find for me (thank you to the best husband ever) and drank only gatorade while sleeping practically all day immediately in front of a fan. I have also had more conversations about my digestive system with both friends and strangers alike than I have had in all of my life!

But I will leave this lovely topic for now and try to describe the rest of the last three days. Wednesday was quite good. Mike and I hung out at Es Artes most of the day. Sean went home mid-morning as this was the day he started feeling ill. Shortly before lunch, Mike and I found ourselves involved in a production meeting of sorts but minus the director or designer. There were concerns from the local crew about authenticity in design and the issue of live animals and all I could do was keep saying that I couldn't make any decisions but that I would broach their concerns to Ed and Sean. We then planned to have a production meeting the next morning with everyone there.

Mike, myself, Tatiana, and Capitan Roca (the website designer - I haven't gotten the story on the Capitan part of the name yet) headed over to Villa Balanza for lunch. It was Chiles Rellanos today and they were YUMMY! It's basically green peppers stuffed with potatoes and meat with a breading all around it and a bit of tomato sauce too. We tried to get Sean to join us but due to the lack of phone access it became a bit of an adventure. One of the waitresses was sent up the road to check on him. This meant that poor Sean, who was in the throes of intestinal agony, opened his door to find a woman with gold teeth and wearing the traditional garb that all the waitresses at Villa Balanza wear who spoke only Spanish and was frantically trying to communicate something to him. Eventually they got him to a phone in the house where he was able to speak to Tatiana and sort the whole thing out.

In the afternoon we had quite a wonderful experience with checking out the market and some of the smaller stores in Suchitoto. Tatiana had arranged for a young woman name Ohenia (I am sure I spelled that incorrectly) to accompany us to the market. Thank goodness she was with us! I can’t imagine having to navigate all of the shops and stalls asking for prices and availability with my pathetic amount of Spanish! The goal of this trip was to price out different items so that Sean or I would know what our options are in Suchitoto and could go and pick them up quickly another day. Everyone was so pleasant even if they did look questioningly at these foreigners running around with a notebook and camera just asking what price everything was. Thank goodness for Ojenia as I am very good with the 'Quanto questa?' part of the transaction but terrible with the flurry of Spanish that usually follows that question. We had a leisurely evening where we met up with Ed and Trevor for some pupusas. They were tasty. And then off to bed we went.

It was Thurs. morning that I woke up with my intestinal issues. I managed to make it to Es Artes for the production meeting but soon after that I went home to be - where I then stayed for the next 30 odd hours. In the meantime, Sean and Mike puttered around at Es Artes. The container had still not arrived and so there wasn't much for them to do. It was again a leisurely day for them which, from what I hear, ended in a wicked game of crazy eights!

Friday morning dawned with the chirping of the geckos. This was the day of the big trip to the huge marked in San Salvador. As much as I wanted to go, my body had other ideas, and so I stayed in bed. Apparently it was quite an adventure and a very successful shopping trip but I will let Mike and Sean tell you about that. By Friday night I was going stir crazy (I was tired of having long intense conversations with the gecko that lives in our room) so out we ventured. The President was coming to town and they were setting up a reception for him in the town square. Also, it was Friday and that means Stations of the Cross day. (not sure if this is only during lent or all year long) What a moving and at the same time strange ritual. It starts at the large church in the town square and processes all around town. Alter boys, a priest and a nun are in the lead with a huge Christ carrying the cross immediately following. Then, directly behind that are all of the men. The women walk in a line on either side of the whole procession. There is singing and praying led by the priest who is 'piped' through a 'MASH' like loudspeaker mounted on a pole and this whole system is run off of a car battery which is carried by one of the other men. (there are pictures to follow) We then watched them finishing setting up and slowly made our way back to our hostel for an intense game of travel Scrabble.

We went to bed but were soon awakened by what I was sure were bombs going off just outside our room. Turns out they were fireworks being set off a couple of blocks away! Wow they were loud! Apparently we are having similar fireworks at the launch celebration. I think I need to find some earplugs before then. Suchitoto is becoming known for its fireworks displays. The story is that one of the more prominent bomb makers for the guerilla army during the war has now opened a fireworks factory in town. I suppose its a great example of taking your skills and using them for good.

Today we have not only words of the day but travel tips as well.

Words of the day:

Ferreteria = hardware store (the first 2 r's are rolled - something which I am incapable of doing and which Ojenia and the rest of the staff at Es Artes teased me about all Wed. afternoon. Try it! It's not easy!)

Cuche Monte = wild boar (we have one of these in the show - although thankfully not a live one - read Sean's post about the rabbits and chicken)

La quenta = the bill (as in the bill in a restaurant)

Travel tips:
Items you should be sure to bring with you...
1. Saltine crackers. The only things I wanted when lying there in agony and not something you want to have to try to find when in that state.
2. A Thermometer. We brought a whole kit of medicinal supplies but not one thermometer!
3. Baby Wipes. Self-explanatory!

Sean's Truth in Blog

This morning I tripped on a chihuahua. I think it was a metaphor for the town of Suchitoto. At first glance, you can pass by it in a blink and never know what sleeps there, but if you land on, (and kick it), you'll be amazed at how much life and vigour lies beneath the sleeping dog. I'm not going to lie, with the heat and illness, the language barrier and isolation and the mere sense of general confusion, it has taken me a while to warm up to this place, (pardon the pun). Now, with the better part of a week past I am finally beginning to see what people find so appealing about this community and what it has to offer. The people are all very welcoming, and patient. When I was at a loss for words at the Farmacia, a customer stepped in to translate my wild gesticulations for 'puke'. I have discovered the local bakery, which opens quite early and is on my way into Es Artes. The goods are so fresh and the staff so lovely, it's sugar cookies were all I survived on during my troubled days early in the week. The staff at the theatre are all so keen to build the project and provide support in any and all ways they can. They work with you to bridge the divide in language and generate so many great ideas I sometimes wonder why they even need me here to coordinate the design. At night the town meets in the square just to be neighbourly and by 11pm the whole village is serene and peaceful, except for the dogs and roosters who crow at each other under the stars. Everyone is hot and everyone is sweaty, so convincing someone to have a beer with you is never a challenge. My room is air-conditioned, thankfully, and it has all I truly need in a 12 x 12 space, except for spare towels.

Yesterday we made a day trip into San Salvador central market, with one of our co-workers, a driver and a translator. Picture Kensington, 50 times the size with all the stalls built right on top of one another in a maze of baskets and clay, dried fish and sweaty chicken. We had a great time, stayed safe and nobody was robbed. At one stall we spent $60, so the lady working there took a liking to us. She decided that it would be fun to be our host for the remainder of the trip and guided us around corners and down aisles to all the best stalls, finding all we needed on our list. She was amazing and even helped carry our goodies to the bus we had rented for the day. I thought that perhaps the staff here had known her from before, but as it turns out she too was hot and bored and just wanted something to do to pass the time. I am so grateful for her help in finding the right fabrics in the bizarre of flannel and polyester. The natural cottons she dug out for us, I would never have found on my own and the terracotta colour of one is unlike any I've every seen before. We found hand braided rope and clay cooking pots. Carved wooden 'daggers' and beads of all kinds. Turquoise is very popular here and I have been encouraged to use it in the traditional costume wear.

Today I look forward to opening up the bags and playing with my new supplies. I am also very anxious to see some the local artisan galleries, and as I walked out of the bakery this morning I saw the townspeople setting up a local market in the square. Souvenirs here I come! I plan to attempt bartering now that I feel a little more comfortable and today I may even eat some more solid foods.

This may not be the place for me to retire to, but I understand why people come here, why they might fall in love with the country and why we are working so hard to make a positive impact on it aside from its civil strife. I miss home, but I am also looking forward to the adventures that lay ahead here in the sleepy city of Suchitoto. Its definitely a cultural shift, and one I likely needed to know how lucky I am to live in the snow filled home of the free.

Sorry to the flea ridden dog, let me point out that he was not mortally harmed when I stumbled upon his stone bed in the road.

Signing off, Sean.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sean's Day 4

Buenos dias mes amigos, sorry for the late blog. Day 3 became a complete write off as I entered the darkest depths of Latin American food poisoning. Somehow, I managed to find something in the food that caused me pains I have never before experienced. So bad, in fact I was honestly worried about recovery. I was alone in my room, sad, sick, dizzy and numb. As you may have guessed, I made it through the night with an assortment of gatorade drinks, water, Spanish Pepto Bismal and Immodium, but I'm still quite fragile ad afraid to eat anything. It´s amazing how helpless you can feel without any of the comforts of home during the ´night of the living dead´.

We still haven't receieved the cargo crate from Stratford yet with our supplies, so everyone's a bit anxious. Time is ticking and I have 40 costumes to get made as well as props in less then two weeks. I believe the toughest days are still ahead.

On a lighter note, Ed our Director is committed to involvng several live animals in the production. This will include caged rabbits and at least one wild chicken tied to a young actors ankle. Our enthusiastic staff are insisting on as much naturalism in our myth as humanly possible...(in our made up myth?) they want to hand carve our agricultural tools and hand bead chest plates and accessories. The Theatre AD is auditioning human fireworks today for the parade after the launch. A local ex bomb-builder from the days of civil strife now makes his living as a fireworks expert who runs through crowds during parades entertaining the poeple with fireworks shooting off his back. The President of El. Salvador is visiting the city for a huge diplomatic luncheon tomorrow which means the army is coming in too. I tell you, it´s never a slow day in Suchitoto, and that you can quote me on! Signing off for now, with pepto in hand from the offices Es Artes, this is Sean the only gay in the village. xo

Things are never dull here to say the least. Now I'm off to have a nap. Wish my body luck in its quick recovery and I'll speak to you all soon, maybe even en espanol!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 4 The calm before the storm

Well hello everyone in the Blogosphere. This is my first post so far as I've been leaving the internet time we get to the other two because they are probably much more eloquent than I. But alas, montezuma's revenge has struck my compatriots. Sean is up and about puttering with his sketch book and the few bits we have back at the office. Mel is at home in bed trying t get some rest. I think they're both past the worst of it and just looking forward to moving on but anyone who's been where they are know, there is not much you can do but wait until it runs it's course.

We're still waiting our container from Stratford full of supplies. we are hopeful it will arrive tomorrow. It is now going to park right on front of the office so that will be great. I think we're all getting a little anxious to get started. I am particularly anxious because I packed he container myself with BJ and I'm dying to see what state the contents are in when they arrive. Shipping containers aren't really like trucks because at any point in it's journey, it may have been upside down. Hopefully not, but I'm sure the load will have shifted while swaying side to side on a big ship. We'll see. either way, I have a soldering iron and my brain. I will get something working for the show but I would love to know what I'm dealing with. We had a good meeting about power today. I'm also waiting to see how much wire we have in the container because we are responsible for running to hydro pole.

I have also become the web-site photographer now seeing as I'm kind of not too busy without any wires or lights. (although I have been working on a bit of a sound scape when I get a chance). Anyway, I have to get going to meet everyone back at es artes (the office) to takek pictures of them.

I'll try and add more later. Bye for now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Link to Our Podcast


Check out the Podcast that Mike, Sean and I did when we were at our CUSO-VSO training in Ottawa. It describes a bit more of the project and what we are hoping to accomplish in Suchitoto.


This is the view from where Sean is staying.

First Beers!

The Bell Tower of the Chapel where the launch will be.

A Walk Through Suchitoto (Sean, Ed, Tatiana, and Me)

Mel's Day Two

The day dawns early in Suchitoto. I have never been an early riser but I woke up surprisingly refreshed. Woke up, that is, to the sounds of the geckos that sounded as though they were right on my head. How can something so small make such a loud noise! (I said this to Mike and he replied 'Have you met yourself!' :) I successfully managed to brave the shower without making Mike inspect it first. I say 'braving' as there is simply a cold water shut off valve sticking out of the wall to turn the shower on. Chilly!

We had a lovely breakfast, a tour of the chapel space (which I am sooo in love with!) and then we were off to Casa Es Artes. This is the 'administration building' for the project. There are office and a large meeting room (which we are soon turning into a wardrobe/props shop) and the most gorgeous courtyard with this huge mango tree in the middle. The guys before us kept talking about this courtyard and I can understand why. It would be so perfect for mid-day shows where everyone gathers around the mango tree!

We then had our first production meeting with the whole team assembled. Now the feeling is 'Wow!' but in a whole different way. Everyone is so excited and therefore there is so much to do in the next couple of weeks. Wow! Everyone is so very wonderful and they all have such enthusiasm for the project that it is very difficult to say no to anything. We are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of the container that was packed with donations from Stratford and can't wait to get started on implementing all of the wonderful ideas that came out of this meeting. However, I do feel that some difficult choices will need to be made in the next couple of weeks. I just hope we don't disappoint anyone!

Ed and Patricia walked us through the story for the show and Mario, and awesome props guy, showed us the wonderful fan and lighting effect he has created for the fire filled cauldron. After our meeting we were taken over to Esquela Taller (the technical school and currently Ed's rehearsal space). There is so much potential there! A great space that has room for every area - welding, electrical training, carpentry, and even a separate space for wardrobe. The plan is to start the semester this April-May. The students will be aged 16 and over and they do not have to have completed high school to join the program. I think this point is key as it provides opportunities for the maximum number of students - and most notably the youth that need to most help in figuring out a path for their lives that doesn't include gangs and violence. As well as the technical training they will be receiving classes in history, computers, drafting, and business management. Thus giving them the skills to go out and either be able to apply for a job or even open their own business. I really hope I get the opportunity to come down here again and see the school once it is up and running.

We met up with everyone at Villa Balanza for lunch and had a wonderful 'conversation' with three young ladies that are actors in the show; they speaking very little English and us with only a modicum of Spanish. But, with a little help from a Spanish-English dictionary and even more help from our wild charades, we managed to understand and have ourselves be understood in turn. This experience was such a delight.

Next we went to the beginning of the rehearsal and met about half of the cast. Again, they are all so wonderful and eager (and a great number of them are quite shy). I can't wait to see a full rehearsal.

I have to admit that by 2pm the heat had gotten to us and we sought out the comfort of the pool at El Tejado. Wow again! (have I said that enough yet?) What a view. And so refreshing. Afterwards we met up with Ed and Trevor and headed over to Villa Balanza for dinner. (a place I feel we will be visiting alot) By around nine we were so exhausted by our very full day and we headed off to bed.

Oh.... I have decided to try to learn at the very least a couple of new Spanish words and phrases each day and I thought I would share them with you as well. Today's words are:
molienda = mill (corn, grain) There is one of these in Suchitoto.
parecido = similar

P.S. I just realized how long this post is. Sorry for rambling on so. I will work on making these entries a bit more concise. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sean's First Day

We have arrived! Suchitoto is not like home and definitely NOT like Kansas, Dorothy. THe weather is warm, very warm, but we have been getting a breeze which is not normal from what we are told. I have no idea what I'm ordering on the menu, nor what I'm eating when it arrives but it all tastes good and sometimes you just gotta take a chance. The roads are all cobbled rough stones and in the morning I have a mountain to climb from my little room on the lake to the town centre. This morning I noticed that if I exit my hostel through the side gate and not through the house in the morning I pass right over the neighbours outdoor shower.......quite the surprise.

The Chapple space is wonderful, old worn fresco's on the wall that are bareley visible. Wood beams hand chissled and peeling stucco. It's magical in a distressed way, not unlike how I pictured the church in Pentecost a few years back. Next door is the children's art school where pictures are framed in the outdoor courtyard and painted umbrellas hang from the rafters. We also went to the school today, where the technical students will train and it has such promise. It's a great workspace that can grow into a fully modern shop in no time. We explored the 'wardrobe-to-be' room and talked about how it might look set up and I could fully visualise a team like ours in the wardrobe downstairs working away.

Not speaking the languge is tough, but I'm picking up words here and there and hopefully will be able to string a few together before I leave.

Much love to all. From Central America, signing off.

Sean F. Mulcahy

Day 1 (although posted on Day 2)

Wow! I think that is the only way to encapsulate the tumult of feelings and sights and experiences of the last 24 hours (and its only been 24 hours!)

After about 2 hours of sleep the shuttle arrived and took us to the airport. We eventually boarded, what seemed to us to be a very small plane for such a long journey, and we were off to El Salvador.

Upon disembarking you are immediately overwhelmed by the heat, the smell, and the sounds of this country. Once we finally made it through customs (here's a tip - don't pack things that look like tool boxes) we made our way outside and found the smiling face of Tito waiting there for us.

The journey to Suchitoto took about 1.5 hours over winding roads and through some small towns. The view of the countryside was amazing. And the air conditioning in the van was even better as we were still trying to acclimatize ourselves to the 35 degree heat. :)

Once in Suchitoto we arrived at each of our hotels and agreed to meet up soon. This led to an interesting encounter with Sean's landlady. (Mike and I were standing outside of this building, each of us reluctant to walk into what looked like her living room to go and ask her if she knew a Sean. Mike was eventually the braver of the two of us and after some descriptive hand waving and one word sentences, we found him. We were later described by this same woman as 'una chica y dos gringos') Anyway, after this adventure the three of us made our way to the town square where we managed to successfully order tres cervezas y dos chalupas.

After a short while, Ed and his son, Trevor, found us and soon after that the rest of the gang from Casa es Artes and more had joined us. All told there were about 12 of us enjoying the cool night air, some cervezas and each others' company. What an incredible group of people - so warm and welcoming and so excited about this project!

We eventually had to break up the party to get some dinner and headed over to Gringo's (a fitting choice, I thought, for our first night here). The night was cool and lovely although the air in our hostel room was thick. This was soon dealt with by the fan we had packed (thanks for that tip Frank, Ted and Eric) and we quickly drifted off to sleep.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Welcome to the Suchitoto Project!

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the blog for the Suchitoto Project. For those who do not know, this project is a joint effort between The Stratford Shakespeare Festival, CUSO-VSO, and the town of Suchitoto, El Salvador. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a technical theatre school as well as an acting company which will support a couple of theatre spaces within the town of Suchitoto, El Salvador. It is hoped that the creation of these schools and theatres will serve a number of purposes, namely, to provide the youth of Suchitoto with career opportunities and to attract a larger tourist base. This will ideally serve as an economic stimulus for the town and allow it to grow and flourish in new ways in the coming years.

Currently, this project is just in its beginning stages. We are eagerly preparing for the event which will serve as the project's formal launch. Three props/carpenter people have just returned from a 3 week stay in Suchitoto where they taught the students of the technical school and created the set and some props for this launch performance. You can read about their adventures at the blog

In about 10 hours myself and my husband, Michael, will be picked up by a shuttle and taken to the airport where we will embark on our 3 week journey and endeavour to complete this launch event. Our goal is to install all of the lighting and sound equipment within the chapel space we are using for this performance. As well, with the assistance of the designer for the project, Sean Mulcahy, we will also be creating costumes for all of the actors in the performance. At last count the actors numbered around 52 people!!!!!
Finally, we need to move all of the set and props that were created by Ted, Frank, and Eric over to the Chapel and put the finishing touches on all of the other elements for the show.
We have only a couple of weeks to complete these tasks so it should be an entertaining experience for all involved. Oh... and did I mention that none of us speak Spanish!

But, I can't really think about that now. Now, I must concentrate on packing and perhaps getting a couple hours of sleep before heading out at 5am. (As if I am going to be able to sleep with all of the adrenaline that I have coursing through me right now!)

I realize this was a bit of a dry post to begin with but I wanted to set up the situation and project for you so that perhaps you have a better understanding of what this crazy adventure is all about!

Stay tuned. If all goes well my next post will be tomorrow from sunny Suchitoto!

Oh... P.S. .... If you would like to find out more information about this project you can do so at:
or logging into Facebook and searching for 'Suchitoto Project'

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