Monday, August 15, 2011
After a very warm welcome by Alana and some of the students at the airport, I have eased in to my first week at the school and settled into my new home for the next three months.
We had the pleasure of shopping for the upcoming fundraiser in Stratford, and I was thrilled to see first hand how all the weaving is done here. Each item has been carefully selected, and no duplicates will be sold.
Please come show your support and get in early to get the best selection of hammocks, scarves and jewellery.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Hello everyone! My name is Alana Hawley and I am currently working here at Es Artes in Suchitoto on behalf of The Stratford Shakespeare Festival. I am here as an 'acting coach' but have been asked to focus on teaching the kids period dance (Ballet) for their upcoming production of The Imaginary Invalid by Moliere, as well and voice production and technique, yoga for physical strength and overall body awareness, and a little bit of singing. The classes range from approximately age 7 to age 36 within the same group and range in size from about 12 to 33 students each day. They are currently working on their first production of Peter and The Wolf for young audiences and are doing amazingly well. This body of students is full of heart and commitment as they enter their final year of this two year program. Some students even participate in at home schooling just so that they can attend this school 5 days a week. It is an amazing experience to be here and to see the effort from the students, their personal daily growth as individuals and as performers, as well and the love, effort, support and care that is put in my the core faculty members of Es Artes. Please let me know if you have any questions and remember, this project is constantly in need of funding, so please feel free to donate through my personal profile via CUSO-VSO at
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The show looked and sounded amazing thanks to the set and costume design of Katherine Lubienski, the lighting design of Michael Walsh, and the sound design of Michael Walsh and Josue Deras.
What do you think?
(It was easier to post a link to the photos than to add them into the blog. Sorry for the inconvenience!)
Friday, February 25, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Sometimes, each day is a repetition of every other day, yet I know I am learning and hopefully am teaching too. I love everything about what I am experiencing, including my bug bites and the extreme heat. I love it because I am blessed. Blessed to be given this gift of growth to be able to learn and serve. I am humbled and fulfilled. I will never look at my life the same way again.
In Canada, the arts are a very difficult way to support your life, yet we have so much. Here, the arts are offering a sense of purpose, a new way of thinking and an opportunity to think, grow and discover. It is a chance for these kids to mature in an all accepting manner and to enrich their cultural awareness.
Sunday was our day off and at 7 AM, we piled into a passenger van for the 2 hour drive to the coast. It was worth every cent we spent and an experience I will never forget. El Salvador must be on huge mountain that was pushed up from the ocean millions of years ago by a volcano. It felt like all we did for 2 hours was drive down, down, down to the ocean. The sand is ultra fine black volcanic rock and the beach is lined with palm trees. I expected the water to be warm, but nothing like it was. I have only had cold showers since I got here and it was like floating in the most therapeutic warm salt bath, yet the waves were strong. As the warm waves crashed to shore, I felt my cares drifts away and the heat and the sun covered me as I spent the day swimming, eating, drinking and swimming again. It was too hot to sunbathe and I was covered in a 30 sun block but did manage to get a burn on my lower back. The undertow was tough so we spent the day using our strength to stay standing or jumping and just all round silly fun. Some of us tried boogie boards but I gave it a pass. The food was seafood , Pacific lobsters (lagostinas) and fish (a huge mystery fish) and raw oysters served with lime and course salt . I have refused to try raw oysters all my life although I will eat them cooked (something about wanting to make sure what I am eating is not still alive) but what the heck, I was in El Salvador, how awful could it be? So I ate them. They were fine. Not bad, but still not a total convert. It was more fun just sharing the moment.
We stayed until well after dark. Watching the sun slowly disappear over the horizon of the Pacific was magical. The last glows as the world revolved away from the light offered a quiet moment of calm reflection of the wonders we have around us.
It was a silent 2 hour drive back to Suchitoto, as we all snoozed from the exhausting fun of a day off at the ocean.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
...waiting for everyone for dinner. We started scheduling dinners for the week so we didn’t have to sit around for an hour wondering “what are we doing for dinner tonight?”. Seems a bit silly but very effective.
Funnily enough, the only beer they have in stock tonight is Heineken and Corona. I’m not picky, That’ll do me fine.
I’ve been pretty frustrated today because I don’t know enough Spanish. It’s kind of embarrassing how often we need translators for stuff. I must admit, I do pretty well without one. I probably utilize them the least of anyone. I can get by with my Spanish and get the job done but it’s not about the job/show anymore. It’s about the kids and what we leave with them. I never feel like I’m teaching them enough but that’s the same at home too. I do feel like they are learning a lot but it’s so informal. I think everyone here agrees that tying education to shows is not ideal. I have the same discussions at home at Ryerson and CITT conferences. The conundrum is that while the process of building a show can be a good learning experience, when you add a deadline and sell tickets, there comes a point where you have to get it done. There’s an extra pressure that gets all of us riled up because we want the show to happen. In theory, pedagogically, it doesn’t necessarily need to happen (the show). But here in Suchitoto, I feel we need to keep showing that there’s things’ happening.
Having said that, I’ve been really good with not jumping in and doing it myself. I’ve got a great team again. I taught Josue sound design for the first show and I believe he compiled the music for Bernarda Alba. He has a hip-hop group and does all his own recording so he wasn’t totally new to audio etc. I just walked him through how we build theatre shows back home. This time I just gave him the script and away he went. Then there’s Erik. He was on my crew last time and he will be the head electrician this time. I found a Spanish version of the manual for the Strand 300 console that Centre in The Square in Kitchener (Plug!) donated and Alec brought down. I changed the software to Spanish for him and he’s pretty much just been sitting by himself with the console and the manual and he ends up showing me stuff. The last couple of days I’ve had them soldering SOCA ends and they all work and look good inside. I was quite impressed. We’ll see if I can get him up to speed on organizing the plot and circuiting and stuff. He might also need to run Audio ata the same time so it will be interesting. I’m not really worried about it.
Of the Es Artes students, I’ve got Rene for sound and Marvin for lights. The idea was that they would sort of be the design assistants and shadow the process and do paperwork and stuff. They’re also doing a student exposition in the lobby with things like the history of the play and the author etc. I’ve been teaching them basics of audio (sine waves etc.) and electricity (Ohms Law etc.). After our last formal sort of lesson, they all chuckled and said they learned all this in school before but never paid attention. Now they understand it. Those are always good moments.
Someone commented on one of the blog entries that they’re not reading enough about the war and the people. I’m not sure what they want to hear. I’m not a writer. This Project is not about the war. The people here are people. They have community and art and culture of their own, they just do it without PS3s and Entertainment Tonight on T.V. They feel and laugh and love the same as we do. Their human spirit is refreshing and yet familiar because they all have cell phones like we do.
I am here to help them learn how to support telling their own stories to bigger audiences. And in the process, (and what’s becoming most important to me) try and help them gain the self-confidence to know that their stories are worth telling. It seems to be working so far. Sometimes it seems to be even working in spite of us Gringos.
Later...I’m at home now posting this. There will probably be some typos but I’m putting it out there anyway because it’s been so long between posts. I can edit it tomorrow…..Good night.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Well, the next day I am sitting at my computer after lunch when Erika walks in with a big garbage bag full of something and hands it to me. Inside was a pinata stuffed full of candies! She had gone and got me a pinata so that I could experience it! I hugged her a ton and got pretty weepy! I showed it to Tatiana who was as touched as I was and we both hugged and cried a little. I'm a softie... I know!
So, at the afternoon break Tito and a bunch of the boys took care of hanging it from the mango tree and myself, Loreen, and Tatiana all took a turn at swinging at the pinata. Then the kids all had bananas and ice cream, courtesy of Tatiana and Evelyn, to cap off our fake-birthday celebrations. I will try to post some video next so you can see how terrible we are compared to the fierceness of Tatiana! She has done this before.
Overall it was a lovely little break in the middle of an extremely hot, exhausting afternoon. Muchos Gracias Erika, mi amiga!
Monday, February 7, 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
I am going to endeavour in the next couple of days to post a few brief blurbs describing the highlights of our past week. There have been many successes and a bit of strife but we are in a great healthy place now and we are looking forward (although a bit tearily already) to our last 3 weeks here. But more on that later....
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Bonnie has made it safe and sound. We go to pick up Ted tomorrow and today we said good-bye to Lela. She will be missed by us and all of the students. There were a lot of emotional good-byes last night after school. All of the students stayed after to present her with various gifts and a group picture. This morning they had a lovely gift for Annan too. We had a barbecue at the school last night and went out to show Lela the disco. It wasn't very busy but some of the older students came out with us and we had a really good Spanish-English exchange at the bar. We made a rule that for five minutes, all of the English speakers can only speak spanish and all of the Spanish speakers can only speak English.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
|Tatiana and myself having a conversation with Erika, the apprentice|
production coordinator, about her areas of responsibility.
|Lela teaching Zoila about pattern drafting |
(with the assistance of our amazing translator, Koky!)
|Zoila's two youngest children, Amy and Joanna, trying to sneak a peak at rehearsal.|
|On our day off we met an amazing woman, Irma, who taught|
us how to do indigo dying.
|The student having a production meeting about their exhibition.|
Big plans! Big plans!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
It was a great day for me. Tatiana and I had a great presentation from the students with all of their ideas for the exhibition/exposition. They are so excited! The ideas were flying fast and furious until we reminded them that they have a budget they have to work within. Then we asked if they had decided who was going to do what job and the reality of actually have to build these ideas set it. We asked Erica to set a deadline for them to have their final designs decided and they have decided that it should be Monday so that they can present them to Katherine and Loreen at the Production meeting Tuesday morning.
After that it was a pretty productive day of work. We actually left around 5:30 (unusual as most nights it has been around 7) and headed over to Gringo’s for dinner. Gringo’s is the place that is owned and operated by an American ex-pat and his wife. Good food. Amazing Sopa de Tortilla! After that we wandered over to Gringo’s bar, El Necio for a drink. All seemed quiet and lovely until a large group of 18 year old’s wandered in and started asking for shots! We decided it was probably time we went home as both Mike and Lela were starting to feel pretty rough again by that point.
So… it turns out that a herd of cows goes up and down the crazy hill outside of our hostel every day. I have to say that there is something to be said for the ability to walk down a ridiculously steep cobble-stone hill in the pitch black and still manage to dodge all the cow poop! Yay us!
Spanish Word(s) of the Day:
Utileria – props
Escenografia – set
Vestuario – Wardrobe
Luces – Lights
Sonido - Sound
Friday, January 14, 2011
But…. Awesome things happened. So much stuff happened today that I feel like it was more than one day! Where to begin…
Okay… I’ll give you the highlights.
Tatiana and I had a great meeting with Erika (one of the full-time students) this morning regarding what her job will be. I might have mentioned in one of my earlier posts that there are 7 full time students at Es Artes who come all day Monday-Friday. There are another 20 students who come either afternoons and Saturdays or only on Saturdays. Each of the full-time students will be shadowing in an area of production. Erika is the student who is shadowing in the area of Production Management/Technical Direction. So we had a meeting to discuss what she was going to be working on in the next couple of months. She will be shadowing Tatiana and myself as we go through the process of putting this production together. We had a great talk about the skills needed to be effective in this kind of role – communication and problem solving; and some of the most important considerations when producing a production – time, money and personnel.
Tatiana came up with the idea of having an exposition in the front room that Es Artes is currently using as a rehearsal hall. The audience would walk through this display to access the auditorium (courtyard). This display would contain background information on Lope de Vega and the play, information about all of the various areas of a production, bios and pics of the Stratford volunteers, and finally testimonials from all of the students. We decided this morning to make this a mini-production that the students are in charge of preparing all on their own. eg. Erika is the Production Coordinator and will oversee the other students. The 6 other full time students will act as designer, set carpenter, lighting and sound etc. The rest of the students in the school (apx. 20) will then create the content for these displays under the guidance of the full time students. The will have a small budget with which to accomplish this and they will have to run it exactly like you would when creating a production ie. create schedules and costing analysis etc. for everything. While this is going on they will be shadowing each of the Stratford volunteers in their roles and seeing how this works in a larger production. It has the potential to fail horribly but i think it will actually work out brilliantly and give them the opportunity to take complete ownership of an aspect of the overall production/audience experience.
Later in the afternoon we took a mid-day break to go and do some shopping for some necessities and while out Koky took us to the mercado where we ate some very yummy fried yucca balls that are drenched in this brown sugar sauce. They are called nuegados (the e is supposed to have an accent but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to do that on this netbook – oh how I am missing my Mac!)
Our day ended with a lovely conversation with this British/Scottish couple that are staying at our hostel until Sunday. They are travelling the world over the next 2 years! Fabulous people! Amazing conversation about their travels thus far and our experience working with this project.
Enough for now!
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Let me back up a bit. We started the day with a lovely breakfast at Lupita’s in the town square. Sitting there eating our desayunos we watched the town slowly come to life.
When we arrived at Es Artes the students were eagerly anticipating their instructions for the morning. Basically, there are 6 students who attend school all day long. In the afternoon they are joined by 6 more students and then on Saturdays the group is flushed out to a full 26 students.
The schedule for the next couple of weeks is that the 6 full time students will work in the departments they have been assigned to from 8-10am. (props, wardrobe, production management, lights and sound, set and stage management) From 10am-12pm they receive instruction in dance, music, and movement. In the afternoons they work with Tatiana doing text analysis and vocal work as well as more classes in singing and dancing for the upcoming production of Fuente Ovejuna.
This morning they were given the task of taking the next few mornings and cleaning, organizing and inventorying (hopefully that is a word) all of the items in each of their departments. They set to work immediately with such enthusiasm that it would put most teenagers I have known to shame.
Sometime in the late morning our luggage arrived and it was with great glee that we realized we would finally not be hediondo/a anymore! Everything arrived safely – included the 2 more bags that were stuffed full of costumes for the show!
Once the students began their lessons for the day we all worked away at our own to do lists. Since her tools had finally arrived, Lela could finally began to teach Zoila the basics of pattern drafting. It was evident that Zoila, although a bit daunted, was so excited to be able to learn this new skill.
Our day ended with some meetings for me and some cervezas for Mike and Lela. I was finally able to join them in the square where we enjoyed another cerveza and some papas frites. The we wandered home in the now cool breeze looking forward to another day of our incredible life in Suchitoto.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
So we arrived yesterday and all I could think was that I was home. The sounds, the smells, the heat and the memories came washing over me.
Our day began with a pick-up from the airport shuttle at 2:30am. 11 hours and 2 flights later and we arrived in San Salvador. Our enthusiasm was slightly diminished when we realized that only 2 out of our 6 bags of luggage made it through. Most of the costumes that we packed made it but our personal items did not. After navigating baggage service we found Roberto and his son, Roberto Jr. (who is also known as Robertito or Mini Roberto) and we were on our way to Suchitoto.
I should explain who ‘we’ are. Travelling with me are Mike, who will be doing lighting and sound design and tech and Lela, who will be doing some work with Zoila (see posts from last March and from Kim in Oct/Nov) in the area of pattern drafting.
By the time we went to bed last night Mike and I felt right at home and again and Lela had completely fallen in love with this beautiful, quaint colonial town.
Today was a flurry of activity with meetings at Es Artes to introduce the staff there to the first wave of Stratford volunteers. As well, we had our first meeting with the Director of Esquela Taller, Hector, to discuss the integration of our set, lighting and sound build with their curriculum. It was amazing to see how far the technical school has come in just a few short months.
The afternoon was a great opportunity for me to get some work done in terms of scheduling for the next week and answering the ton of emails that had piled up in the last couple of days. Lela had a great afternoon getting to know Zoila and meeting some of the women who had worked with Kim on the previous production. They bonded quickly and, although Lela speaks only the tiniest bit of Spanish, managed to have a great afternoon of learning interspersed with describing their lives and families. (I believe a long discussion of breastfeeding was involved all without the assistance of a translator! Picture that if you will :)
Our day ended with a fantastic dinner with Tatiana, the Artistic/Executive Director of the Suchitoto-Stratford Es Artes Initiative. It was a wonderful opportunity for Mike to reconnect and for Lela to get to know a bit about this amazing woman who truly makes this project happen.
As I sit here on the balcony of Villa Balanza (my home for the next 7 weeks) looking out over the pinpoints of light across lake I realize again how extremely lucky I am to have the opportunity to participate in this amazing project.
Hopefully our luggage will arrive tomorrow so that we also have the opportunity to wear some clean clothes!
Spanish Word of the Day:
Hediondo – stinky
as in: Estoy hedionda – I am stinky!