tlf news

Vol. xx #2

June, 1999

Charo Untitled

My name is Charo Revilla, actress from Spain. I called Fr. Jack Warner from Spain, and he invited me to spend a period acting with teatro la fragua (a show of confidence for which I'll always be grateful). And from one day to the next I was on Honduran soil.

I spent six weeks in El Progreso acting with teatro la fragua, and my eyes are flooded with beautiful images and my heart is overflowing with contradictory sentiments. Could it be that Honduras is paying the price for her overwhelming beauty?

These guys - the actors, with Jack Warner and Edy Barahona at the head - are bringing about incredible transformations in people of all ages. Barely pubescent and barely literate teenagers emerge from their three-day workshops dramatizing the Word.

After a difficult four-hour trip (which served as a detailed lesson in the scars left behind by the recent visit of Mitch), we arrived for a workshop in Sulaco, a picturesque town southeast of Progreso, nestled in a stunning mountain landscape crossed by a raging stream (whose current almost carried me away): cows, bulls and pigs running around loose; barefoot children drawn near by curiosity to view the strange spectacle of the arriving "gringa"; the women with weather-beaten faces but with a special sparkle in their eyes; and of course the young bucks flirting with anything female in sight.

Some fifty teenagers from smaller outlying villages participated in the workshop. In the first night's session I was flabbergasted: We're going to mount a theatre piece in three days with these kids? These are the kids who are going to act the Passion in the church on Sunday? They could barely speak, they couldn't even pronounce their own names, their shyness made them try to pass for invisible.

The fragua actors got to work: they made no bones about the work that was ahead for everybody and they stressed that all the kids had to store their shyness away so they could move ahead rapidly. The days passed quickly with alternations of theoretical sessions, physical exercises, voice, music and of course rehearsals. I was amazed at the evolution taking place in those kids. No one had ever bothered to help them discover that they had a voice to make themselves heard, that their own concentration is the source of creation, that their bodies could express beautiful images, and that they are a self that they could commit and share, and that could receive tenderness and praise.

I have to admit that on Sunday when they dolled themselves up in the best clothes and entered the church ready to act, I was more nervous and excited than any of them.

But their work didn't end there; they would continue presenting, in their respective villages, that story that after 2000 years still makes our hearts beat faster. And hopefully from those groups some new director will emerge to take charge of continuing this tradition of the youth creating their own theatre in these villages where otherwise that medium would never be known.

I wasn't present in the days directly following the onslaught of Mitch, but I became a part of the priceless work la fragua continues doing in the shelters and the schools.

On some days when the tropical sun beat down even harder than usual and energy levels were low, it was hard to get our spirits up to face the kids.. We knew the children were waiting for us with great expectation, but it felt like a chore to gather up the brightly-colored costumes and a few hats, a couple of guitars and tambourines and drums.

We would arrive at a shelter and a crowd of excited kids would surround us: "el teatro, el teatro." And that was the moment when something inside us changed, when we forgot the heat and our own sluggishness and we gave ourselves over to those kids in songs and stories; their little faces lit up with the songs, their little bodies shook with laughter and the stories made their hearts grow a little larger.

We toured during Holy Week, bringing the Word of God to all who wanted to hear it, in the form of the dramatization of The Passion of Jesus, a version filled with music and song and magnificent living paintings that put the spectator in touch with the spirits of Michaelangelo, Velásquez, Rembrandt and Leonardo. I trembled at some moments when I felt the audience applauding one or another specific picture. Were they feeling the same emotion I was?

And you'll ask yourself how they manage to accomplish all this. I would say that it's due to the wisdom, the patience and the coordination of Jack and of Edy, and to the enormous amount of work and effort on the part of the actors. They help each other and they grow together, as actors and as human beings. Those with more experience accompany the younger members on this difficult road of communication with an audience. They share eight hours or more of daily work, in which rehearsals alternate with a complete formation for the actor, including everything from music and voice to every form of basic physical training, passing through classes of ballet and modern dance.

They are not economists or doctors or lawyers; they are just guys full of energy who want to give their people hope and a desire to live.

In concluding this letter, I can only say that I'm very sad to be leaving Honduras, because I've encountered here a marvelous family which has taken me in as one of their own; and a theatre company from which I have learned many things, in which I have grown as a person and which it will be very difficult to forget.

Thank you.

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