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!