Monday, August 15, 2011

The new kid in town....

Hola! My name is Natalie Crittenden and I have just arrived in Suchitoto as a new addition the the team at Es Artes. I will be working with the students to build costumes for Pedrito Y El Lobo, as well as building costumes for the upcoming production of Moliere.
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.

To learn more about my personal journey please visit my blog.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

TED Talks - Thandie Newtom "Embracing Otherness; Embracing Myself"

Please check this out. I am showing it to the students as I feel like it relates to their situation on so many levels.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy 153rd Birthday Suchitoto!

Today is Suchitoto's 153rd birthday and the whole town gathered in the centre square to share in the celebrations. All of the students that attend school here in Suchitoto and in the surrounding communities participated in the annual parade by dancing, playing music and wearing festive and traditional costumes. What a beautiful cultural celebration!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Building The Stage!

Here you see the students putting the final touches on the stage that they have spent this past month building at Es Artes. It is a beautiful wood stage that spreads across the central garden in the school. The students are learning so much about how to work with various equipment, as well as what to do when many unexpected problems arise!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Currently at Es Artes!!

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\

or get in touch with Melissa Renaud for specific information on how to donate directly to Es Artes in Suchitoto, El Slavador.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Suchitoto is a very progressive town in El Salvador. These hand painted images appear on the front of many houses here in Suchitoto to represent the families support for stopping violence against women:

"In this house we want a life free of violence against women."

Check out this fantastic video from a University Fair held for the students near Suchitoto to come learn about post secondary education and the possible scholarships that are out there!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fuente Ovejuna Photos!!!!

Check out these photos from Fuente Ovejuna.

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

The Set and Lighting!

The finished set under lights for Fuente Ovejuna!
Doesn't it all look amazing!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ted's fine example for the kids.

Tech Week!!!

With 3 days until Opening Night of Fuente Ovejuna, Es Artes is hopping!
Within the last week, the students have taken their exhibition and made it a reality. The rehearsal hall has been walk in a see a photo of Lope de Vega (the playwright), a family tree, a model of the Es Artes building, period costumes and props, as well as testimonials from the students. All this in a few days. Incredible! The stage is getting its final touches of trim, and the well that is transformed into a throne (the transformation looks amazing!) has gotten a paint job...looks fantastic!

Saturday was a big day for everyone - we had a costume parade! The costumes look so great! The students were pretty excited about getting into costume for the first time as well. It was a good time for everyone to sit back and check out how everyone looked onstage. Several notes were taken and a lot of the alterations have been done already. We also had a birthday celebration for everyone's 2011 birthday on Saturday! It was a student's birthday, so we sang to him, however it was great to celebrate everyone! What a delight to see the students faces when the cake came out. It was quite moving for us volunteers, as we were told (after the fact - we had no idea before) that this was the first birthday cake the student whose birthday it was ever had. Memories for everyone to cherish for years to come.

Last night we had our lighting and sound cueing session. A few lighting states were decided and the sound cues sound fabulous...tomorrow's Q-Q will be exciting! Raquel and I are getting revved up for the next few days....this will be her first time calling cues and I have total belief she will be fine! Last night I explained there are "standbys" (when the Stage Manager tells the board operators which cues are coming up) and that each SM is different in the way they write standbys and when they tell the operator to press "go" in the book. The binder is hers and she has to write it in the way she wants to. She started last night and we will continue later on and in the next few days to make it easy for her.

We're in a bit of denial that we are leaving so soon...don't like to think about it one bit. There was a student that looked sad yesterday, so I asked what was wrong, and he told me nothing. I kept asking - something at home, at school, at Es Artes? Finally, he told me he was sad because we're leaving on Sunday. The students ask us when we're coming back and it is no lie when I say "as soon as possible" is just unfortunate that I don't know WHEN!
The past 6 weeks have been an incredible experience - one that I will never forget. I have learned a ton - about myself, about others and about the craft that I love. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to work on this wonderful project...I can't wait to see it grow!
Thank you Stratford, thank you Suchitoto, thank you Es Artes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fuente Ovejuna lives

Well this play we're doing is becoming more and more real the more time we spend here. The army is in town now to roust school kids because the government has some information that there is gang presence in schools. This affects our students greatly because they have greater potential to be harassed by over zealous cops and/or soldiers for being out late or not in the neighbourhood they live in. Especially now that we've given the guys who play the bad guys in the show, haircuts that make them look like gang members.

For those of you who don't know the story of Fuente Ovejuna, the very abridged version is this:

Spanish Kingdom at war. Knights of the Calatrava were war lords who fight for Spain and reap the riches and rewards from towns that they 'own' when they are back in Spain. This one particular Dude, Gomez, takes too much advantage of this village named Fuente Ovejuna and they all turn against him and kill him. The whole town sticks together and decides to tell the inquisition that ensues that they all killed him rather than hang anyone out to dry. They ultimately are successful and the King of Spain apologizes for the behaviour of this soldier of his....the end.

So...everyone in Suchitoto knows pretty much everyone. Sometimes you do see some guys hanging around on the corner just chilling out because they are too old for school and might not have a job but they are locals and not causing trouble or going to. Now the army is here who don't know these people. Everyone who looks suspicious is fair game. But they are the 'good guys'. The government has empowered the army as police over the last few months to show that they are being active in protecting the citizens from gang activity. Same old politics as back home I suppose. Trying to put on a good show for the electorate, and as long as more voters believe the hype than the ones who get unduly searched and harrased then it's considered a win.

Addendum: Just to be clear for the sake of our Moms, we saw three soldiers in the square in town. That's it. The country s not locked down, there is no new violence, no one is being taken away to jail or anything.

Other than that, the show is going well. Last night we completed all of the lighting and sound cues and it's looking and sounding great if I can say so myself. Katherine is busy painting and detailing and Bonnie and Zoila seem to have everything under control. Loreen has had a bit of a cold but she seems past it now and we think Raquel will We all go home every night. The day after tomorrow we will do a cue-to-cue. The students exposition is coming together. They are all very eager and anxious. They'd work all night if we didn't make them go home for the night.

So I'm going to go help Marvin hang his lights for the expo now...

Eso es todo por hora.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bonnie's Day at the Beach (...well, the rest of us were there too... but she wrote this post)

Here I am, nearly finished this journey of discovery and enlightenment in El Salvador. I have about a week and a half left and it will fly by since we are now beginning to go to tech for the play. This Saturday we will see all the costumes on the students for the first time. Last Friday was the last day of employment for the three ladies hired to assist with building the costumes for "Fuente Ovejuna ". It was a teary goodbye with a cake that was served to the entire school. They have worked hard and hopefully will come and see the play at the opening so that they can be proud of all their work as I am of them.

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

I’m sitting here at Las Puertas having a beer...

...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.

Where has the time gone?!

I can't believe how fast time in Suchitoto is flying. How do we only have LESS than two weeks left here?! The past four weeks have just flown by. We have gotten so much work done for Fuente's amazing to see everyone coming together to make a vision reality.

Rehearsals are going well...the first full week Edward was here we loosely blocked the whole play and in turn the second Saturday we were able to have a walk through of the whole show! I was very impressed at how much the students were off book when we started blocking rehearsals...makes it so much easier!

Raquel and I are continuously working on the Stage Management bible. She has learned how important using a pencil instead of a pen is while marking down the blocking! We also have almost finished the props preset list - just have to get some details finalized. This Saturday we're planning to have another gentle work/run through in the morning and then the students will even get their costumes to work in for a couple of hours in the afternoon! We used show shoes for the first time this past Saturday and it was good for them.

We're still having loads of fun on our Sundays as well - we always seem to do really tiring activities! Last week was horseback riding up and down a mountain side - seeing an area that was used as a hospital during the war, as well as a tatu - a hole in the ground people would hide in from the army. Very interesting - and the horseback riding was something else...nothing any of us had ever experienced before! This past Sunday we had a lazy day at the beach. It was a beautiful day of laying on the beach, swimming/boogie boarding, eating, drinking and relaxing. Even saw my first almost clear jellyfish in the water (after being told we wouldn't have to worry, there were no jellyfish in this area!)

I'm noticing our Spanish is improving as well...we understand a lot more, can speak a lot more and aren't using our Spanish-English dictionaries as often. I had a bit of a head start on everyone else, as I had taken Spanish in High School and have loved having the opportunity to use it again. I'm going to miss learning new words everyday, or trying to put a sentence together that doesn't make any sense at all!

I hope the next 11 days go by REALLY slowly!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Erika got me a pinata!

So we were having a conversation last Fri about pinata's and I mentioned to Erika, the student who is shadowing in production coordination, that I had never 'done' a pinata before.  She was shocked.  I tried to explain that this was not a Canadian tradition and so I had just never had the opportunity.

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


View from the top of Guazapa.

Mel and Ted on the trail.

View from La Fonda restaurant

La Fonda again

Fabrizio trying on masks.


Saturday, February 5, 2011


You would think that between three people posting to the blog this trip that at least one of us would find the time to write each day.  Alas, it has been a busy week and therefore our blog writing has waned.  My sincere apologies.
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

So we're working away in the office when....

Today after our production meeting, there was a lot of noise from up the street that sounded mini motor bikes or something. As it turns out, someone down the street got Dengue fever from a mosquito bite so the city decided to fumigate all the houses on the block. There were two men with what looked like little gas motors with giant exhaust pipes that they carried on a strap over their shoulder. With these they smoked out every room with an insecticide. Luckily our meeting was over but we needed to vacate the building for awhile so all the smoke could settle. Literally. So it turned into an impromptu filed trip and we took all the kids for ice cream, them some deep fried yucca and drinks to kill time before we could go back to our day. After a nice stroll around town, it was time for lunch. We're back to work now. More later...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Here are some more pictures of of our trip to the lake etc...

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Trip of Firsts...

Wow! I don't even know where to begin. I have been in Suchitoto for a week and it has been absolutely fantastic. The sights, the sounds (minus the deathly-sounding rooster crowing all night long of course) and the people are wonderful. Working at Es Artes has been great so far. All the students are so inspiring - they are incredibly dedicated to this project and it's so good to see.

I say this is a trip of firsts, as even though I have done some travelling, it has been nothing like this. I have never gotten to explain what I do in the field of Stage Management. My shadow, Raquel is very interested and we talk every day about what needs to be done, how there can be different interpretations for paperwork and how it is important to find a way that suits her. I do think I scared her a bit when I explained all the paperwork Stage Management does (daily and weekly schedules, contact lists, preset lists, etc.) - her eyes went wide and she said "Mucho Trabajo!", but she has jumped in whole heartedly and asks for direction when she needs it. We've already had a day of fittings and she made sure the next student was at their fitting on time...I was so pleased that Raquel took the initiative. Raquel and I will be getting progressively busier as time goes on. At least one fitting will be scheduled for each student by the end of this week. Ed gets here on Saturday, so we will be starting daily schedules next Monday, as well as blocking rehearsals! It's so exciting!

Yesterday was the first day I've had off since getting here and we kept busy. Melissa, Katherine and I attended mass at noon. In the afternoon the three of us, along with Mike and our interpreter Koky, walked down to Lake Suchitlan (man made lake Suchitoto is right beside) and had a boat ride. We met up with Bonnie, Alec and Jeff at Harlequin for a delicious supper. We all want to see as much as we can while we're here, so will always be on the go!

I said to Melissa earlier today that I really hope the next 5 weeks go very slowly. We're getting better with our Spanish, we're loving the warm, sunny weather and we're focusing our energy on such an outstanding project - I don't want it to end!
I've spent the morning doing work, writing this, watching Melissa entertain little Fabrizio and listening to the students rehearse the music for Fuente Ovejuna. They've stopped now as it's almost lunchtime, so better will wrap up this posting...another first!
Hasta la proxima!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lela is on her way back to the snow.

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.

We had a good meeting yesterday with escuela taller (the trade school). Hector the head of the school seemed very happy with our curriculum and interested in the designs we showed him of the set. We're going to work out our final scheduling on Tuesday morning and we'll probably be starting construction Wed. morning. It looks like I will be teaching half days during their last week of school and/or maybe doing an extra credit for 1 week after they are done. I'm pretty excited and nervous at the same time. The kids are all always very excited to be learning about lighting and audio. I hope I can make it interesting and exciting for them.

It's been busy here today. Back in the wardrobe shop they've started doing fittings and Mel is busy administrating. Personally, the most exciting thing I've done today is figure out how to tether my camera to my computer. It is actually exciting because it will make it easier to do head shots and portraits of all of the students.

entonces paramos para almozar.

Eso es todo por ahora.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mel's turn

Just so everyone knows, I'm fine. It was merely as Evelyn put it, our "tropical welcome". It's Mel's turn now. She's a trooper, she'll be fine.

Now, with that out of the way....

Katherine and Loreen have arrived! And Alec too with his friend Jeff who also had their luggage lost. This time it was a direct flight with TACA so I'm not convinced that transferring in Miami was the reason they lost ours. And they got a rebate on their return flight and a cool little kit with toiletries and a t-shirt. We got nothing from American Airlines!

It's getting more exciting now with the rest of the team starting to trickle in. Katherine, Lela, Tito, Mario and Koky are shopping in San Salvador today. We had a couple of good skype meetings last night with Ed and Ted and everything seems to be staying on track so far. Somehow, It just seems too good to be true. With this project, there always seems to be a monkey wrench lingering around the corner. Oh well, they're good lessons in problem solving.
There's such a good spirit around this whole project I'm never worried about whether we will over come the monkey wrenches. It just feels sometimes like nothing is ever simple. Especially observing Mel be the Project co-ordinator. Robbin's husband David and I have been talking about starting a support group for partners of the people who try and keep this project on track.

We went to Harlequin last night and Koky and I shared the meat plate for three people. Two kinds of sausage, beef ribs and smoked rabbit. It was really good. Between that and Miguel's Sunday barbecue, I don't think even our morning walk up the hill is going keep me slim. I was hoping to sweat off some winter weight before I returned.

Speaking of which...Tiempo de paramos para almorzar.

Eso es todo por ahora!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Some pics of the first week

Some people might have seen these on Facebook already but I thought I would post them here as well.  These are some photos of our experiences this first week.

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

Suchi Sickness

Well, it seems as though the Suchi sickness has struck already. Mike spent the morning and most of the afternoon in bed and Lela was feeling pretty rough by the afternoon. They took it easy for most of the day and hopefully will feel better tomorrow.

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


What a day! Meetings and emails and meetings and emails.

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

The luggage has arrived!!!!

I bet you can guess what the highlight of our day was today!

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

We have arrived!

Tuesday, January 11
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!