tlf news

Vol. xix #2

June, 1998

A New Dream

YUMA: One more time, teatro la fragua ventured forth beyond the frontiers of Honduras. Destination: Spain.

CHITO: To act in Spain! A dream. But now one more experience as an actor of teatro la fragua.

YUMA: It all began the 20th of February, 1998.

CHITO: At 9:00 in the morning we were all in the teatro doing last-minute packing: personal baggage, costumes, musical instruments. We were all keyed up, helping each other to make sure all the pieces were ready. At that moment we were one single person. Seeing all of us united that way, closing up and carrying off suitcases, was a premonition of success. I said to myself: if we act like this in Spain the tour will be a triumph.

YUMA: Nobody could believe it. After weeks of rehearsals and many long hours of preparing details of the tour, the hour had actually arrived to set off for Spain.

PEDRO: The tiredness that resulted from so many hours of intense work to get the tour ready had dampened my enthusiasm. But the moment we entered the San Pedro Sula airport: We're on tour to Spain! With the start of the trip, we embarked on a major and very demanding committment: to demonstrate to the Spanish world that in a certain place on earth, in the middle of the American continent, in a small country submerged in poverty and economic backwardness, there exists a tiny light which bears the name of teatro la fragua.

CHITO: I felt a great tranquility. I felt at the same time that I was carrying on my shoulders a backpack loaded with a heavy responsibility.

PEDRO: We actors who work in teatro la fragua are trying to rescue the true values of our Honduran traditions from the jaws of indifference and oblivion.

YUMA: The truth is, I was scared. It was the first time I had ever flown.

PEDRO: We are trying to save our Honduran culture from the devastating claws of the communication media. Millions of television screens in Honduras bombard us daily with a barrage of images and words that almost all come from outside and are foreign to the cultural reality of their targets.

YUMA: I couldn't believe that the hour had really come to board a flying machine like the one waiting for us on the tarmac of the San Pedro Sula airport.

PEDRO: teatro la fragua also strives to be an educational alternative for the all-too-many Hondurans whose poverty denies them access to education and to entertainment. This is the struggle of teatro la fragua: to communicate our Honduran culture to the very sons and daughters of that culture. As has been said many times, «A country without culture is a country without life.»

CHITO: I felt a heavy sadness mixed with a great joy. I was joyful because I left knowing that my long-awaited son had been born to our home; I was sad because I was going to be far from him for almost two months.

PEDRO: We boarded the plane. And along with us boarded the dreams and the reality of many Hondurans came.

CHITO: When the plane took off with all of us on board, I said a prayer that everything would work out well.

PEDRO: My imagination wouldn't let me sleep. My mind was churning with thoughts of Spain, of the people, of the land. I asked myself, «How are they going to accept us?»

CHITO: As an actor, you're never sure if people will accept your work, in this case the Spanish public.

PEDRO: The repertory we carried with us was dense and varied: religious (The Passion), a classical/sociopolilitical program for high schools (Fuente Ovejuna and The Two Faces of the Boss), and as the core of the repertory, A New Dream, our collection of Honduran folk stories.

YUMA: Our first show was Wednesday, February 25, for high school students in Valls, a city near Tarragona, the city that was our base of operations.

EDILBERTO: The first contact with the Spanish audience!

«We were surprised, and certainly intrigued, by this unique way of doing theatre.»

JUAN: I was really nervous: How was our first Spanish audience going to react? -- They were only high-school kids, but frequently high-school audiences are very restive....

«They taught us that you can effectively express what you want to say with a minimum of means."

JAVIER: I was so nervous -- it was the first show in Spain; and, yes, they were just high-school kids, but we know too well what high-school kids are like in Honduras -- I was so nervous that I lost my concentration. I fell in a back flip. But the fall woke me up and instead of making me more nervous it got me back on track and the show came off very well.

«These pieces have made us aware of the dreams and aspirations, of the everyday reality and of the fight to survive of a whole people.»

PEDRO: Those Spanish kids were surprised and very satisfied with what they saw. The applauded us with their hands and with their laughter.

«Thanks to these shows, we have been able to understand part of the problematic of a third world society.»

JUAN: I gave thanks to God that the audience was very satisfied. And that they were able to understand our language.

«We've gotten to know the whole context of the Third World: the simplicity of the design, the originality, the content of the works, the music.»

JAVIER: The response of the students really had an impact on me, and their reaction filled me with delight: to see how they reacted to the representation of my country, of my teatro. OK, I'm not ashamed to admit to you that I felt an ear-to-ear happiness as I looked out on those students applauding and laughing.

«What originality! The works come across in a humourous tone that at times seems more than a bit ironic.»

EDILBERTO: After the show a bunch of girls arrived at the dressing rooms asking for the guitarist. I couldn't believe it. But whether true or not, there's no harm in dreaming.

«Of the three pieces, I like most 'The Two Faces of the Boss.' It is more charged with direct social content and exposes very clearly the need of the Honduran people.»

JUAN: This was the first manifestation of what was to become the phenomenon of the Spanish Fan Club.

«The protagonists communicated their pain to us, leaving us with a smile on our lips but a bitter taste in our thoughts.»

PEDRO: We had begun our conquest of the Catalonian audience.

«The thing that most impressed us was the style of staging the works. From this very simple and direct style we learned many things from them: how they live, what they do, how they are treated, who they are.»

YUMA: It was just the beginning of a job that we knew was going to be tough.

JUAN: The next day, La Selva del Camp: we did the first show of the Passion, in a small but very inviting medieval chapel.

EDY: A medieval chapel. The Passion in a medieval chapel!

JAVIER: The official European première of teatro la fragua was two days later, in Tarragona, Catalonia, in the Teatre Metropol.

PEDRO: The Teatre Metropol is a beautiful building. It's based on the form of a ship.

JAVIER: It was constructed at the beginnng of the century by a disciple of Gaudí. A couple of years ago it was fully restored, with the addition of state-of-the-art technical support.

EDY: The lighting system, the stage itself, the seating....

YUMA: And luxurious dressing rooms for famous stars.

EDY: The minute I saw the theatre, my nerves started jumping.

PEDRO: We made our first entrance at top energy level, ready to give it everything we have. The theatre was full.

YUMA: Bursting at the seams.

EDY: Bit by bit the audience warmed up to our four short stories. We began to feel the laughter, the total approval of the audience; and then constant interruptions of applause. Yes, the audience was responding! Yes, the audience was with us!

PEDRO: As the show developed, the audience was more and more amazed. Applause and hearty laughter told us clearly that they liked our work. If there were any doubts about our professionalism, being a theatre group coming from a poor city in an underdeveloped Honduras -- those doubts were dissolved in the applause and the laughter, which were the most eloquent form of approval and congratulations for what we were doing on the boards.

YUMA: The people couldn't stop laughing.

EDY: When the show ended the applause was deafening. People were delighted with our work, and the sincere congratulations that poured in showed clearly that we had managed to make this small segment of the Spanish people identify with the people of Honduras.

YUMA: They had never imagined a spectacle like that of la fragua: simple and direct, without the need of the fancy scenery and costumes that they are used to seeing. And of course with an agreeable and varied program that left the audience wanting more.

«All the elements work together in a clear and direct way to communicate your message .»

JAVIER: Like we say in the introduction, «If behind the smile we leave you thinking, that's what we are after.»

«It's so impressive that you don't need scenery or all that expensive costuming!»

PEDRO: The truth is, the show was really a hit. That Catalonian audience wasn't used to a theatre style like ours, a style that's grown out of the roots of our own Honduran culture. Those people who applauded and laughed so hard just weren't used to our way of communicating and expressing our roots.

«The thing that most impressed me was the humility of the style.»

EDY: To me, no time had passed; it all happened in fractions of a second.

«There's a great professionalism in the way you develop your own particular style of theatre.»

PEDRO: The commentaries were universally favorable: both critics and ordinary people in the audience at the Metropol gave us the nod of approval. We felt their acceptance and we were jubilant: we embraced each other, we jumped up and down, and thanks to God were on the lips of each one of us.

EDY: The success of the rest of the tour was assured. From that moment on, everything depended on our professionalism and above all on our unity as a group. Nerves bit by bit took a back seat.

PEDRO: The group went on winning the attention and the affection of the organizers of the tour, the Oscar Romero Committees in all the cities we played; we and they were working together to build a solid bridge between our two cultures. The people who attended the shows were grateful and satisfied. Sometimes the audience would wait to have a talk with us after the show; in these talks they showed every sign of being very interested in our country. That made me feel very proud. I was really doing a patriotic duty. I felt like my country's ambassador in Spain.

CHITO: When all was said and done, we did some 30 shows in 18 different cities.

PEDRO: It became a marathon of show after show. We played several beautiful theatres like the Metropol, but we also played in much more humble alternative venues: community centers, union halls, churches, schools. In that we maintained in Spain the style of work that characterizes teatro la fragua, taking theatre to the most humble contexts, to the people who don't go to the theatre. The difference we found in Spain was that no matter how humble the context, there was everything we needed of resources to do the show. It's not like that in Honduras: in many villages we can't even count on electricity.

JAVIER: Valls, La Selva del Camp, Tarragona, Tortosa, Valladolid, Burgos, Madrid, Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, Santa Coloma, Cartagena, Murcia, Albacete, Linares, Lleida, Santa Margarida, Igualada, Reus.

PEDRO: The spirit of Lempira was conquering Spain with arrows of art and culture.

JAVIER: We appeared a lot in newspapers all over Spain. Of all that was said and written during the tour, one of the things all of us like most is a piece written by Marino Peinado of Tarragona. We would like to share that with you, our readers and our friends who support us in all parts of the world.

NOTES ON teatro la fragua

Jack Warner and the actors of teatro la fragua willingly accept the classification of their theatre as neo-medieval; and rightly so, if we look to their origins. At the same time, if we look at their evolution and their willingness to strike out in new directions -- more as a result of a natural restiveness than of a preconceived plan -- we can spot a blood relation with two stars of contemporary theatre: Brecht and Fo.

Evidently we're not just trying to jump on the opportunists' bandwagon in this year of the Brecht centennial and the Fo Nobel Prize. For both would endorse the freshness, the coherence, the commitment, the struggle...and the good work of a group of young men who offer their voices and their art to a Continent which, like them, has a lot to say to us.

The concept of «Brechtian dialectic» is present both in the content and in the technical aspects: an investigation and a verification of the human condition in the midst of social and historical contradictions. Man is torn between opposed forces because society, natural or imposed, is based on a constant struggle. Goodness and generosity face off against injustice and selfishness in a world dominated by exploitation and greed.

The theatrical concept of la fragua is at the service of a harsh reality, the harsh Honduran reality. Their works include parables that house a critical sense that points toward and evidences the origen of their journey, the Gospel.

The spectator is the one who must pull out the lesson and apply it, deducing it from the characters -- actor - character - persona. A truly epic theatre in present-day Honduras cannot take any other form: pieces that «bring alive» the conflicts and hopes of the audience, which plunge the audience into the action. Thus the stage/audience estrangement is non-existent; in its place is an attempt to awaken and maintain a reflective and critical perception in the face of what is happening.

As to the theatrical resources, they are legion. At times the spectator knows in advance what is going to happen, which makes possible a new interpretation of what happens. Other times the audience is invited to think when the action is interrupted by song or poetry. Often, signs and masks identify and define the dynamic of inversion... or convert the actor into the judge of the character he interprets.

We could add other deliberate stage resources: scenographic anti-realism, with the stage machinery unmasked and the lighting instruments fully visible...etc. Ah! And let us not forget a direction of the actors which obliges them to accentuate «theatricality».

I almost forgot. They have in common with Fo the fact that they have not been given -pardon me, should not have been given- the Nobel: they would lose the source of their freshness.

--Marino Peinado (Tarragona)

YUMA: I give thanks to God that we're all home safe and back with our families. And I give thanks to the Oscar Romero Committees for giving us this opportunity to act in Spain, and by means of our acting to share our culture.

CHITO: And to establish a relationship with people who are far from the reality of our Honduran culture. But the bonds of brotherhood have now joined us together. They, working in their context for a true solidarity with the Third World, while we as a theatre group continue to try to rescue our cultural roots. I feel very satisfied with the true love that those wonderful people have demonstrated, and who truly received us with their hearts wide open.

YUMA: One of the many things that fills me with satisfaction is that many people now know that we exist, that we too are a part of this world. It impressed me how many times people asked me where Honduras is -- and now I know that when they look at a map they will look for us and they will remember us and what we shared in our shows.

CHITO: And may God bless them all for the good works they are doing for others.

The actors of teatro la fragua in the Teatro Bartrina in Reus,
the last stop on the tour of Spain.

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