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....