Thursday, April 5, 2012

The wind down (up?)

   Well, I'm down to my last 2 weeks, just like that!  And, much like a workout regime made on the first of January,  I haven't been as diligent updating this blog as I'd hoped. (has anyone?)  So much has happened in the last month that has been amazing, frustrating, beautiful, stressful and relaxing it's hard to sum it all up.            
     But firstly it's been amazing. The students have been in full-on rehearsal for the remount of Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid.  with the first dress rehearsal last Saturday. (photos to follow, it looked amazing!)
      I have been using my class time to pick as many things of my To-Do list as possible, using the students as helpers and trying my best to make a lesson out of it,  it's been a bit hectic with all the rehearsals, wig fittings, occasional torrential downpours, a bout of sickness from some questionable ice and ultimately, just not enough hours in the day!
    The play is looking and moving great, thanks to director Alana Hawley, a graduate of the Festival's Birmingham Conservatory and one-woman energy source.  The kids clearly love her and she really tightened up the whole show and challenged the kids to do their best, even when it was difficult for them to hear.  It was inspiring to sit in on some rehearsals to watch her work, fine-tuning movement, facial expressions, dance routines and Vicente's back-flips, to get everyone to do their best,  even when it repeating it over and over

     This is a theatre school after all, so there has been all the drama, tears in the hallway,  disagreements, stubbornness and quiet in-fighting you would expect, but as a whole,  I have never been around a group of young people that were so supportive of one another,  so quick to comfort each other, so eager to learn, and ultimately,  so genuinely excited to absorb what you have to teach.  Without a trace of the "Too Cool for School" attitude so common in North America.  They know this is an opportunity that doesn't just come out of the blue, and pretty well without exception,  they are all willing to put themselves out there, in a supportive environment, with the support of one another without fear of reproach or being picked on or teased. (They save all that for me :)
      It's very inspiring to be around, despite the heat, crazy deadlines and the fact that I'm spending Holy Week alone doing scenic painting in the sun,  I really cannot complain.  The whole Es Artes team is a really talented group of individuals and I couldn't ask for more (except a classroom that isn't also a conference room, Yoga studio, rehearsal hall, lunch room, and lecture hall.)

      Space has been a real challenge during my time here,  Props can essentially be anything, and Salvadorans are loathe to throw anything useful out at the best of times,  so I struggle with on over-abundance of stuff and a shocking shortage of places to put it.  It would be a shame to lose the Es Artes space but for the project to continue, there needs to be a dedicated class space and performance space,  so donate if this project really speaks to you!, the donations really do make it here, and go towards getting the students here from the nearby communities by bus and providing them with two delicious meals a day courtesy of Nina Gloria, from whom I get a cooking lesson every time I walk into the kitchen, and because of whom I carry an extra 5 lbs with me as a souvenir.

Special mention here for Melissa Renaud,  who really stokes the fire of the Es Artes engine with her enthusiasm and ability to multi-task constantly, include everyone in discussions that would otherwise be behind closed doors,  really put in the overtime hours for the love of the project,  yet still be able to shut the laptop, and have fun.  We really notice the change in energy level when she's not here!

Also kudos to Koky Miranda, our local connection and man-about-town.  Give this guy a raise :)  who else can instantly legitimize any business transaction and get you anything you need, from pantyhose to a weekend at the ocean, with just a couple expletive-laced phone calls.  Just walking into a business with Koky gets you a 10% discount I swear.   He is single-handedly working to replace the US dollar with Ray-Bans as the Salvadoran currency.   He has made my time here so much more richer, by being able to transfer, in terms I can understand,  a political, socio-economic landscape so vastly different from Canada's, by arranging to get us out there, face-to-face,  to shake hands with it and eat sopa de pollo with it.   He has arranged some of the most memorable times here and he BBQ's a tasty bull's heart with lime!   We're starting a "Bring Koky to Stratford!" fund, so dig deep in your old Ray-Bans and donate! :)

That's all for now,  I have about a million photos,  which Ill be posting shortly!

Off to drink Fresca and paint!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bye bye Cynthia & Bodas de Sangre design presentations

"Bye bye/thank you Cynthia"and "thank you Melissa" party organized by the sutdents.

Song Melissa taught the students in her English class - they sang it at the party!

 A few photos of Bodas de Sangre design presentations... Here's César's maquette

 Carlos' maquette
Francisco's costume design
 Francisco's maquette
 Angela's maquette
 César presenting his costume design concept
 Erika and Raquel during their presentation
 Erika presenting her costume design concept
 Leydi explaining a change in her set, Lili helping out
 Angela explaining her "vision" of the play
 Tatiana taking notes
 Manuel José and Carlos during their presentation
 Ede during his presentation
Manuel José's maquette...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weaving demo in San Sebastian

nice little video of the weaving loom with Koky translating!

Also I have some more pics at my personal blog at;
 Here are some pics of our trip to San Sebastian, a nearby town known for it textiles,  the looms were at least 60 years old and handmade. right down to the gears.  The whole loom shuddered as we had a demonstration by the owner.  They make largely tablecloths, placemats, bedspreads and the like.

We were accompanied to San Sebastian by Mary Culham, the wife of the Canadian Ambassador to the OAS, seen here receiving a card made by the students as a welcome and thank you.  She and husband Allan Culham were responsible for the students travelling and performing in Washington DC last fall.  She paid a visit to Es Artes for the first time and gave a lovely speech to the students

Vicente working on his Tarjeta de Textura on the floor

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Escuela Taller Graduation

Graduation day for the Escuela Taller kids. Everyone looking proud and cleaned up. Lots of beaming parents and photo ops.

A little bitter sweet seeing as the school is closed now indefinitely but I understand there's probably some things happening to try and re-open it somehow. The Mayor vowed to fight to re-open it while he is governor. So, I guess I've figured out why he's not going to be the mayor anymore.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My 28th Birthday in Suchi

What a great birthday I had in Suchi! As the students were on their break from my class, a few of them came to sing me a song: 

3 Students then invited me to a restaurant for lunch - it was absolutely enjoyable and it permitted me to get to know them a little more. 

A Piñiata was waiting for us when we came back (my 1st ever!). 
Here's Vincente kicking it:

The poor cutest Piñiata on the ground...

À la suite de quoi we had my favorite cake (fruit cake... Hummm)... And later on a drink with the CUSO volunteers/ friends of the volunteers and 35 cents pupusas... Muy rico...

And not to forget, a very "provincially personalized" card made by Jeremy and signed by the students and staff:

...I'm still smiling...

Props pics!

Another week (nearly) done, the students did a great job with my turning paper and aluminium foil into aged "metal" decorations and medallions class.

Manuel Jose's impressive medallion!

And the always camera-shy Hector - Hernan (Doble H)

And here are a couple of shots from around Suchi - on some of our many trips to the Papelaria and Mercado! 

Afternoon ramblings

Well it’s been almost two weeks now. Looking forward to an early spring if the Groundhogs at home are right. I’m sitting at Lupita’s having an after lunch cappuccino while planning my lesson strategies for Saturday’s group. Also, next we start at Escuala Taller, the trade school. We’ve worked out with them to do a value-added course for the students as their program actually finished at the end of January. They will invite whoever wants to come to stay on for a month and we are going to go in and teach them basic design and technology stuff as it relates to theatre. All of which could become very useful for them in the future in trying to realize their own design ideas.

I’ll be doing physics and applied technology of Lighting and Sound which will include basic electricity and how all of the equipment works and why. I can’t totally speak for Jeremy and Stephanie about Prop-making and Design but the ideas we’ve been meeting about is showing them about basic design concepts and drafting and production techniques to be able to promote creativity and be better able to realize their ideas. I’ll leave it at that for now.

I like the idea of teaching them what ‘design’ means. I came up with the analogy that every day that they get dressed and do their hair, it’s a design choice. And all of these choices, no matter how seemingly insignificant, influence the things they make and do with their skills they’ve been learning at school. I’ve been involved in many discussions before at different conferences about how best to teach theatre design. We’ve never come up with a great answer beyond simply getting a good liberal arts education and then add some drafting skills and techniques on top of that. It’s certainly not that simple but I’m sure many people reading this would agree that being good at drafting doesn’t make you a great artist and just because you can’t draft, doesn’t mean that you can’t create great ideas for sets and costumes etc.

In my world, I am mostly dealing with how to to realize visions. Often I can influence that vision with my own, which is fulfilling too. It’s been interesting watching the kids enjoy learning new ways to see things and start to realize their own visions. It’s also interesting wading through trying to figure out whether certain things that come up are because of culture or just because they are teen-agers. There’s a lot of teen-age stuff, like attention span, but generally, I’m amazed at how intently they listen in my physics class about sound waves vs. Light waves and Atomic theory as it relate to basics of electricity etc.

For the most part, this trip has been great to not have a show dead line to deal with so we can concentrate on theory. I haven’t taught at Ryerson for a couple years now because I’ve been coming here. I’m finding I kind of miss it. Every time I teach I feel like it becomes clearer to me how to teach things. I was explaining to my translator Melvin that mostly I just keep talking until everyone in the rooms goes “Aaaaaggh”. It starts with a couple of students, then you try and explain it another way until a couple more get it. Then you just keep trying until hopefully they all get it. It’s been enjoyable for me to teach the same thing three time in a row. I teach during the week to the full time students and then on Saturday, I condense the week into one class for half of the Saturday students in the morning, then the other half in the afternoon. Now Next week, I will start the course again with the trade school students.

I could go on and on but I’m going back to my cappuccino. It’s an overcast day here and t looks like it might rain. The pace slows down here when the sun is not out. I think a siesta is is order. Eso es todo por ahora. Adios.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Onto Week Two of Classes!!!

Phew!  The first week of classes are behind us.  It was quite an amazing week!

The curriculum for this semester includes classes in Design, Props, Sound, Lighting, Technical Direction, Health and Safety, Entrepreneur Studies, Effective Communication, Conflict Resolution and English!!!  All of that in one week!  Once our wardrobe volunteer arrives in a couple of weeks we will also be finding time for that in the schedule too.  Wow!!

The students seem to really be enjoying themselves and I am constantly impressed by their desire to learn.  For example, I tried to end English class early by a few minutes on Friday and they were all so upset that we ended up actually staying 20 minutes late so that they could learn something more.  Crazy!

I think everyone is adapting well to life in Suchitoto and so far we have only been marked by brief interludes of illness.

So.... onto week two of classes.  We will post more pics as soon as possible.  And hopefully a video or two of Stephanie's birthday celebrations with the most awesome pinata you have ever seen!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

First week of Classes finito!

One of the students, Manuel Arce, working on his wire chair exercises in Props class with some nice lighting!

One of the dogs that greet us on our morning commute!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Live drawing class!

This is what our Live drawing class looked like today! Sometimes, people are pretty hard on themselves...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Information and Donation Link

In case these posts are making you want more information about this incredible project or to get involved I thought I would post some links that might be helpful:

You can find out more about the project on the CUSO International website.  EsArtes will be launching their own website in about a week.  The link is:

If you would like to make a donation to the project you can do so here:  Sharing a Dream

If you would like more information about the project in general or about how you can volunteer to help out in Stratford or become a travelling volunteer you can send an email to:  

Thanks for following along in our journey with this amazing project!

¿Un Cafe para llevar?

Jeremy et moi avons acheté un café au lait pour emporter ce matin, avant de se mettre au travail.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Some Pictures From Our Day Trip Into San Salvador

We were assured that this is not how you say hot dog in Spanish:

View from the parking garage. Reminds me of Havana.

All of the buses are personalized by their drivers.

Another shot of the city.