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!