tlf news

Vol. xviii #2

June, 1999

Beauty is a Weapon

Gabriela Curras

Ask me to describe to you, in a nutshell, my experience at El Progreso's teatro la fragua and all I could start by writing is... it made me realize I "didn't know anything." I recently graduated in theatre from Kent State University (in Kent, Ohio). Years of preparation and the endless piles of books (providing eternal night-reading), even working in the theatre arena outside the college world, could never provide you with the education that teatro la fragua can.

Putting aside my own personal politics (which rate experience complemented with a formal education superior to becoming a mere "information genius") the time I spent here in El Progreso gave me the tools to understand a lot more about my craft. But it all really started when I touched Central America for the first time this past January. Culture shock is an understatement. All you can ever read about third-world countries becomes empty images produced in your head. When you see it first-hand it can change your life forever. I'm sure it has changed mine. Here, everyday "necessities" become luxuries, including education. Honduras has an astoundingly high level of illiteracy which echoes throughout all aspects of life in the country.

One of this theatre's main functions targets precisely what this country lacks: education. Jack Warner's mission, in collaboration with all the people involved with teatro la fragua, has achieved a very important role as educator for and of the people. The spreading of the Gospel, in intimate connection with the art world, is one of its main aims. (The marriage of the two is quite refreshing, I must add.) Thus it goes back to when the Church provided the highest quality in education and entertainment.

Everyone at teatro la fragua is very inviting and made me feel very welcome upon my arrival. They have a very relaxed and pleasant environment and I must admit the aura of professionalism that is enforced at teatro la fragua took me by surprise. Moreover, the intense training and preparation that the actors undergo is very complete and demanding. Their daily schedule shows a resurrection of the Golden Age of film in the U.S., where "actors" were really all-around entertainers. Dancing, singing, acting -- you name it, teatro la fragua has it. As far as influences? Big names shower Jack's directing from Mozart and Rembrandt to Boal and Baryshnikov. However, it does not imply that their work purely feeds off these influences without originality and creative license. On the contrary, their unique style has been able, as an open temple that invites different religions, to harmonize it all together. Their work exhibits a range of material gathered throughout Jack's life that has been shared and filtered through his and the actors' eyes, considering, of course, their target audience.

teatro la fragua has found a new following in Tocoa, a city located about five hours east of El Progreso, surrounded by African Palm plantations and beautiful landscapes. Last year, a married couple from Havana, Cuba -- actress and director Mavis Yanet Delgado and musician Juan Llompart -- came to work with la fragua. Jack offered them the opportunity of pioneering a project under teatro la fragua's wing, following in the popular theatre style of la fragua and extending their repertoire out to remote areas. The group, who call themselves Teatro Guaymuras/la fragua also give follow-up to theatre workshops that teatro la fragua has started in surrounding communities. Teatro Guaymuras is still in its primitive stage, as far as resources, yet professionalism reigns in their work.

While in Tocoa, Mavis and Juan asked me to give the troupe a dance workshop. The group's interest and effort in learning new things that can help them to further develop their craft is truly inspiring. It made me feel guilty for not staying longer and sharing more. I also had the opportunity to share in a production they held at "Cooperativa Canadá", a community that does not yet have electricity, much less seen theatre before.

Setting up the curtains (tied from two trees) and lights (made of paint-cans and using the car battery as energy source) was in itself a spectacle for them, especially for tons of little kids that followed with their awaiting eyes every step we took. But magic was truly made when the Guaymuras troupe began their show and every face in the audience lit up with a smile of enchantment.

For two hours the audience clapped along, laughed and smiled approvingly of the acting, singing and dancing that went on there that magical night. It was theatre at its best -- giving to a people who lay forgotten in a remote area of Honduras, teaching, sharing and bringing a bit of joy to their everyday routine. Teatro Guaymuras/la fragua introduced them to a new way of expression and communication. In response to the community's excitement and involvement, they hope to be back and elaborate with theatre workshops.

Theatre has the power to reach all types of audiences. Most theatres have chosen the bright-lights, big-city scene. teatro la fragua's power lies in the fact that they have reached out to more remote areas that are basically deprived of the arts. This has created an ever-growing and enthusiastic following that has made teatro la fragua what it is. It has become a forum where "life" is represented, discussed, and pains are alleviated. Trainer, entertainer and educator -- theatre has truly found power if it can balance all these things. la fragua has, and much more. teatro la fragua has become a weapon in fighting injustice, idleness, loneliness and illiteracy.... Makes me think maybe the United Nations and governments from around the world should contemplate founding their own la fragua theatres.

I did graduate from Kent State. I did graduate Magna cum laude. I have worked in theatre regionally and professionally. I knew, liked, and now borrow Augusto Boal's idea that "Theatre is a weapon". But I never truly understood it till now. I've met so many people who have told me theatre and the arts (especially theatre) is a complete waste of time if I really want to "make a difference". If anyone still feels that way I take the liberty to invite you to spend a day or two at teatro la fragua, then... maybe we can talk.

To all of you: Jack, Oscar, Chito, Pedro, Javier, Hector, Luis, Yuma, Isidro; (and in Tocoa) Juan, Mavis, Yolanda, the twins Marcia and Marlén, Juan Carlos, Carlos, José Luis and Guicho; who fight with beauty, creation, love and passion. And to all who have ever come in touch with teatro la fragua, I extend to you a humble thanks and many blessings. Your work is truly an inspiration.

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