A Dusty, Hot Place Full of Mosquitos
tlf news Vol. xiv #1 March, 1993

A Dusty, Hot Place Full of Mosquitos

I first heard of la fragua when a friend of mine who had been traveling to El Salvador presented me with an evocative photographic calendar that described the company's work. I had recently been rewarded a Fulbright grant to Honduras to teach theatre and dance. I was looking for any information about the arts in Honduras. la fragua, my friends assured me, was one of the few functioning theatrical troupes.

I met Jack Warner while attending a festival of plays about Morazán (Honduras' national hero) in Tegucigalpa. He graciously invited me to come up to El Progreso and work with the company on the development of a dance/theatre work. As I prepared for the trip, the people of Tegucigalpa described El Progreso as "a dusty, hot place full of mosquitos." I arrived with trepidation about both the locale and the company.

I was picked up from the town of Siguatepeque in a quaint bright yellow pick-up truck. The people who met me were the actor Oscar and Jack's secretary Rosa (who is also Oscar's wife). They had drive all day on their day off to come for me. Together we ate delicious fresh fish at Lago Yojoa, a picturesque mountain lake between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

From the lake we drove into El Progreso. It was indeed hot and dusty, but full of vibrant life (including pigs, roosters, and horned cows) and vibrant people; coconuts, cantaloupes, pineapples, bananas, bicycles, children, vendors were everywhere.

Oscar and Rosa showed me the hotel, the theatre, and their home. I had requested a VHS machine and monitor to see the video documentary ¡TEATRO! before I began to work. Imagine my surprise when the actors brought me a television and a VCR scrounged from their neighbours. Together we watched the video in the typical hotel room.

The first day of rehearsal was a challenge for all involved. Ten young Honduran men struggling to understand the Spanish and ideas of a New York City Black woman. Everyone was enthusiastic at first, then patient, then tired. The heat of El Progreso rose as sweaty bodies tried to perform complex dance and vocal phrases. We talked about trying to create a performance work about flying, dreaming, and taking a stand. I don't know if anyone understood the idea, but we began to work on it anyway.

The actors at la fragua are disciplined and hard-working. They arrive at the theatre at 7:30 a.m. to clean up before beginning rehearsal at 8:00. Each morning we did dance warm-ups, theatrical exercises, and improvisations. In the afternoon sessions we developed songs and texts that would be related to the theme. I found the la fragua actors willing to try anything, but full of personal preferences. Sometimes they acted like children, laughing, running and cracking jokes. At other times they showed incredible discipline by policing their own attitudes. In an important meeting led by Guillermo, the actors agreed to be more punctual, show more respect in rehearsals, and prohibit one of the actors from participating in the play because he had missed two rehearsals.

The la fragua staff was very supporting in helping me adjust to life in El Progreso. I learned how to lock the bicycle, which roads to take, and how to manage an umbrella and a tote bag while moving over rutted roads, etc. The hotel staff was gracious and accomodating. I even convinced the cleaning boys to take exercise class with me in the evenings.

The rehearsal process moved along faster than I had anticipated. The actors began to come up with their own ideas and act on their own initiative. I enjoyed watching the actors perform the work and struggle to perfect the rhythms, songs and dances.

For me, the theatre is about communication and empowerment. teatro la fragua has been empowering the people of El Progreso for fourteen years. The young boys of the company have now become young men with families and visions of their own. The theatre has become the vehicle through which they are able to express their Honduran view of the world.

teatro la fragua is a beautiful place, a gem in the barren Honduran theatrical landscape. In the dusty town of El Progreso there is a theatre company with paid, skilled actors, its own equipped performance space, a strong administrative staff, and an artistic director with vision and perseverance.

Oscar, Rigo, Moncho, Guillermo, Dago, Obdulio, Chito, Edilberto and Edy, Wil and Rosa. Thank you for your hardwork. I think that I finally got your names right.

--Anita González

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