tlf news Vol. xi #3 September, 1990

Themes And Opinions / Billy Peña

A few days ago I had the unforgettable experience of visiting teatro la fragua in El Progreso, Yoro. I knew beforehand that the experience would be unique since I would be getting to know persons who dedicate their entire waking hours to the theatre: to the theatre that is born from the roots and the guts of a people and which serves as a vehicle of communication and expression for that same people from which it springs.

And so it was that last Thursday afternoon, I returned (after thirty years) to visit the former Golf Club of El Progreso, now converted into a real theatre, forward-looking and experimental. And I suddenly felt myself transported. I felt myself in the midst of theatre people, especially since the members of teatro la fragua were preparing to launch their "Third Season of Artistic Expression", which opened Friday with the work HONDURAN STORIES. During my visit I saw a group installing the lighting system, others were putting finishing touches on the settings, while a class of children were doing a ballet barre under the direction of the ballerina Flor Alvergue. Impossible that such things could be going on in the very place in which thirty years ago one only drank and played golf! But it was a beautiful reality. And I could easily have believed that I was in the guts of a theatre in New York or Paris.

I met the founder of la fragua, the Jesuit priest Jack Warner, who established himself in El Progreso some eleven years ago and since then has dedicated all his efforts to directing the teatro, and to taking the teatro to the towns and villages. IF THE PEOPLE DON'T GO TO THE THE THEATRE, THE THEATRE HAS TO GO TO THE PEOPLE: I think that's the basic mystique of Padre Warner, who is professionally assisted by the eleven young men who make up teatro la fragua. Warner, trained in the dramatic arts at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, arrived in Honduras in 1979 with the idea (a bit quixotic) of founding here a theatre company. He arrived under the inspiration of "El Teatro Campesino" which Luis Valdez had iniciated in California. Warner began to recruit youth from the streets and the pool halls, as well as from the churches... and they began a heavy training routine such as all actors must go through. And now, eleven years later, teatro la fragua offers its audience a repertory of national and international plays, and throughout the country more than 600 youths are dedicating themselves to the theatre with avid interest, but without losing sight of the work and the sacrifice which (in this exceptional case) the theatre represents.

"Art and religion spring from the same roots in man: from our need to be in touch with something beyond ourselves," Fr. Warner has said. His mission is to help people to realize themselves, experiencing and participating in the theatre.

teatro la fragua's "Third Season of Artistic Expression" opened last Friday (18 May) and will continue until July 7. Apart from the magnificent productions of la fragua , the following groups will appear: SON CINCO, a modern dance group; COLECTIVARTES, which will be presenting a concert entitled "Portraits"; EL TEATRO LATINO (Puppets) with a work titled EL GLOBO. Aside from the HONDURAN STORIES, teatro la fragua will be presenting SOLDADOS, an excellent drama which faithfully paints our reality which is all too often dehumanizing. And July 6 will see the screening of the film entitled ¡TEATRO!, a documentary about teatro la fragua filmed in El Progreso and directed by the Northamericans Ed Burke, Ruth Shapiro and Pamela Yates. Ms. Yates is a noted independent filmmaker who has to her credit some 20 films about Central America and who in 1986 received an Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood for her documentary film WITNESS TO WAR. And to finalize the season, teatro la fragua will present "Las Dos Caras del Patroncito

I believe that the existence of a theatre such as la fragua is not only something of enormous importance, but something essential in our society. It has received amazing acceptance in spite of the fact that many of its plays denounce a social system which is for many oppressive. These theatrical works, as I mentioned above, reflect the sufferings of the people. They serve at the same time as a way for the same people to see a portrait of itself -- a portrait made not through the sophisticated lens of a camera, nor by a painter's idealizing brush, but by the movements, the language, the acting of actors who convert the suffering and the joys of the people into the sublime -- and objective -- formula of art. This is the reason that teatro la fragua enjoys such popularity in the rural areas and small towns of the departments of Atlántida, Colón, and Santa Barbara, as well as in its home base, the city of El Progreso.

The works that la fragua presents put the people in direct contact with their historical past as well as inspiring them to have faith in a better future. It is a theatre, that is to say, which not only delights, but which also instructs and constructs.

From this column of the people we congratulate Fr. Warner and all the members of teatro la fragua, not only for the selfless love they feel for Honduras; but also for the consciousness, the faith, and the optimism which, through the drama, they awaken in all Hondurans. We hope this "Third Season of Artistic Expression" will be one more in their line of continuous successes.

--Billy Peña,
TIEMPO: 21 May, 1990

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