tlf news Vol. xv, #2 June, 1994

The Invitation

We got an invitation from the International Theatre School of Latin America and the Caribbean (EITALC) to send a member of the group to a workshop in Havana, Cuba. Jack decided to accept the invitation and I was the person chosen. I wasn't sure; I was afraid to go to Cuba because of the way people talk about it here. At the same time, it seemed to me a great opportunity to see for myself. I accepted.

I started in on the paperwork necessary for the trip. It was the first time in my life I had ever done such a thing; I didn't even know who to ask for help. And it turned out to be incredibly complicated. Finally I arranged to go to Cancún, México, where I would have to spend the night to connect in the morning with a flight from Cancún to Havana.

But that was just the beginning. EITALC was going to have the Cuban visa waiting for me in Havana; since I had to spend the night in Cancún, I also needed a Mexican visa. But to get the Mexican visa, I had to have the Cuban visa first. What a problem! I wouldn't have the Cuban visa until I arrived in Havana; but without having the Cuban visa I couldn't pass through México; and without going through México I couldn't get to Havana. I finally discovered where I could buy a Cuban visa in San Pedro Sula. Another series of trips to San Pedro and the Mexican consulate and all is finally ready. Off to Cuba!


At 2:45 in the afternoon the plane took off from San Pedro Sula, and an hour later we landed in Cancún. In immigration they took me aside and began interrogating me: they were sure I was planning on going wetback to the U.S. But all my papers were in order and they finally let me go. I went looking for a room in the city. Cancún is a very beautiful city; but it's obviously not a city for normal people, but only for the rich. I found a hotel to spend the night and the next morning boarded the plane of Cubana de Aviación (a Russian YAX) that would take me to Havana.

During the flight I was worrying about the workshop. The truth is that I was afraid of failing: I didn't know how other actors work, if it's anything like what I am used to in la fragua . Because I was buried in those worries, I didn't even notice the moment we arrived in Cuba. What a change of cultures: first from Honduras to Cancún and then from Cancún to Cuba. Three completely different situations.


They were waiting for me at the airport to take me to the Machurrucutu Hotel. The "hotel", a student residence of the University of Havana, was the best thing there was in Machurrucutu, a poor village some 30 kilometres outside Havana. As soon as I arrived, I had to choose amongst three different workshops; I blindly picked one on the technique of the clown, under the direction of an Argentinian, Guillermo Angelelli. (When I picked this workshop, I didn't know who Guillermo was; later I found out that he is considered one of the best young directors in Argentina).

The first night, after dinner, I ran into a little kid who invited me to get to know something of the village of Machurrucutu. He told me he hadn't eaten: there was no food in his house. In the afternoon I had found a dollar that someone had lost and I gave it to him; he said he was going to save it to get some sandals for his sister.

The next day I started my first day of work. We were 16 persons from all over: Argentinians, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, one Belgian, and two Cubans, Héctor Castellanos and Isnoel Yánez, with whom I came to be good friends. They belong to Theatre of the Elements and work in the Isla de la Juventud; the group was in Machurrucutu for the month. The work was really heavy, with a lot of physical exercise. In the afternoon we worked on clown technique. I was a wet dishrag at the end of the day.

The work demanded a rhythm and a schedule that I wasn't used to. I had to get up at 5:30 in the morning (I get up at 7:30 to squeak into tlf at 8:00) and dinner was at 8:00 at night (in Honduras I have dinner at 5:00 in the afternoon).

Guillermo explained the technique of the clown. It's based on immediacy: the work begins on stage and the clown works with mistakes. A clown never lets a mistake get by without showing it to the audience. When I had to get up in front of the group to try to get them to laugh, I was unable to elicit a chuckle. Frustrating.

Five days into the workshop, my companions were exhausted. I was too. It was a strange tiredness: in spite of the fact that the pain that the exercises had caused at first had worn off, all my muscles felt tired. Although with time my body responded better, and after 10 days of continuous work I had my first day off.


To get to the city we had to take a "guagua" (a bus in Cuban). I waited at the bus stop along with Héctor (my Cuban guide) and other companions. And we waited. And waited. Tired of waiting, we decided to "pedir botella" (hitch-hike in Cuban). Héctor went back into the hotel to look for Isnoel. At that moment a truck stopped and offered us a ride. We took off without our guide! The truck took us to someplace called Marianao. There we had to take another "guagua", and it was even worse: everybody fought to get on, and some of the passengers went hanging from the windows.

We decided to pay a private car (they operate as collective taxis) which took us to Havana. What a city! It seemed to me like New York (ok, I've never been to New York; but it seemed to me like the image I have of New York). We got off at a park in Old Havana tired and hungry. At that moment a señora came by selling cheese tortes; we couldn't pass up the chance to eat something.

In the late afternoon we went to the National Theatre for the inauguration of the Havana Theatre Festival. There were bits and pieces of theatre and dance taken from works that would be shown in the Festival. There was one dance piece in which a guy danced nude, covered with only a cape. What most impressed me was the audience reaction: if a guy danced nude in Honduras everybody would be scandalized, but the Cuban audience took it as normal. When the show ended, the problems began again: we had to look for a way back. Luckily one of the guaguas of the EITALC showed up and picked us up.


After the seven dropped out, the group became much more responsable and the workshop went a lot better. One day we were doing acrobatics: I was doing somersaults and Isnoel had to leap over me. He landed on my arm. He was all worried; it hurt at first, but it was no big deal. In the long run, I think the accident helped us work together better and solidified our friendship.

At the end of the month's work, we did a showing for the participants of the other workshops. I was really nervous. Guillermo gave us several exercises and situations that we had to improvise. I think the audience liked it; at least, Héctor, Isnoel and I felt that we had carried it off well. I don't know what the others thought; right after the showing I had to get ready for the trip home.

It's strange: I had wanted the month to go by as fast as possible, but now that I am back home and back at work in teatro la fragua , I miss the workshop. And although I'm not much of a talker, I miss the chance to talk with my companions and to exchange ideas and customs with them. It was a good experience, because I worked in a branch of theatre I had never touched before. And in spite of my shortcomings, I don't think I came off badly. At least I finished it.

Rigoberto Fernández

To contribute to the work of teatro la fragua :

Donate Online

Donate By Phone

Donate By Mail

Click here to make an online Credit Card Contribution.  All online donations are secured by GeoTrust for the utmost online security available today.

Call us from within the United States at 1-800-325-9924 and ask for the Development Office.

 Send your check payable to teatro la fragua to:

teatro la fragua

Jesuit Development Office

4517 West Pine Boulevard.

Saint Louis, MO 63108-2101

Return to the index of tlf news

Return to the home page of tlf

Contact teatro la fragua

Copyright © 1998 por teatro la fragua