Vol. xliii # 3
The School of Art that is Forging Me
Fourteen years ago, in a typical Honduran neighborhood, one of those that go unnoticed by the first world and that are chronically loved by poverty, where the sun sets with a warm bath of light and the dust caresses insistently to cling to the peeling walls of those humble dwellings... a Bach prelude was sounding.
That melody broke the normality from a small television set in Tony Diaz's apartment, where he invited his friends to share everything from Mozart biographical films to documentaries on the exploits of Van Halen. Tony was an actor conceived in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, came from one of the poorest neighborhoods, and dedicated his free time to sharing his knowledge of music and educating others through his work as an actor at teatro la fragua.
I met Tony during a gathering of friends in my barrio, where he, in an impromptu invitation, convinced Peter and me (who grew up together with me on the block) to go to teatro la fragua. to see his performance in a presentation of Harold Pinter's "The Dumb Waiter".
I had never seen a play, much less visited a theater. My contact with art was almost nil, limited to a few paintings done with Professor Menjívar at the Eduardo H. Chevez School back in 2003, the same place from which I would be expelled the following year for bad behavior, fights and suspicions of gang involvement. In 2005 I arrived at Centro T. Loyola as a last chance to get off the streets and learn a trade; there I met Hector Lezama, who also worked at teatro la fragua., and for whom I would not be the best student due to my repeated attitude problems.
We arrived to see Tony's performance on a Saturday in 2008. "This is the third call, let's begin," they said, and immediately Chito and Edy entered the stage. Between awkward silences gave life to two killers who develop a psychological struggle while waiting for their next victim; then Tony and Esteban joined the stage, as the youngest duo among the la fragua actors at that time. I was filled with amazement, not only at the acting; I was struck by the lights, the curtain and the audience. What are these people doing here? Then I looked back at the stage and wondered why here, why in a city like El Progreso, shouldn't this be merely for cultured countries, is it for the money, who knows? We were there with tickets to get in for free and we certainly could not make an economic contribution since as Tony's guests we also came from a neighborhood with a lot of poverty and violence, Colonia Palermo.
After the theater presentation it was some months before we met again with Tony; this time he invited Peter and me to receive the theatrical workshop "The Gospel Live", oriented to the staging of the play The Assassination of Jesus and that was also replicated with many young people in remote villages of the country.
After a couple of workshops I was given the opportunity to stay. Jack Warner received me in his office and told me that if I wanted to be part of the cast I would also have to work in the maintenance of the theater with his technician Walter Gonzales (RIP). The condition was not easy, but it would be an essential foot in the door to get involved in all the work processes of the theater and its discipline, from which I would learn a lot.
As time went by I acted in more than 15 plays, also taking part as a musician in many other shows after having received guitar lessons with Tony, knowledge that little by little forged me on the boards.
Beyond the walls of the theater, for almost seven years I volunteered to offer theater workshops in different NGO'S in the city, an experience that would help me to found a volunteer program within our theater (VOARTE), generating recreational activities for children and young people in rural areas in El Progreso, Yoro.
Later on, I had the opportunity to work closely with Jack. I became his shadow for six years, learning from him how our theater moves and breathes, as well as how to carry the responsibility of keeping the project alive. La fragua; at this stage it would make me commit to its mission far more than I ever wanted to. I reflect for a moment and thank Tony for pushing me this far; the streets would never have promised me so much.
The mission continues: Today, September 27, 2022, we meet with Hector Lezama, photographing those affected by the recent floods during this rainy season. The sadness of our people is palpable; an atmosphere of abandonment and coldness pervades the improvised plastic roofs where those who have left their homes to avoid the threat of the Ulúa River are sheltering. On that same levee of the Ulúa we sat down with Lezama, took out a guitar and a drum and tried to displace the sadness with music. The river did not stop roaring, but we forgot for a moment that we were gathered there because of a tragedy that coincided with all of us; and although that act did not diminish the water entering the houses, it was enough that one of the songs filled the hearts of those present with hope to reaffirm that art does not necessarily exist to entertain, but also to console the afflicted.
Tomorrow, together with the cast of la fragua, we will take on the task of continuing to bring hope and perhaps a smile to the victims. We will be touring as many of the shelters as possible in this northern part of Honduras, which will probably take a few days or weeks; it doesn't matter, we will be there.
Our Christmas agenda is also just around the corner; the message of peace and goodwill will reach the neighborhoods of El Progreso through our theatrical productions with pastorelas and Christmas carols. In these troubled times when solidarity is so necessary, we will go to the most vulnerable corners; we will be in the plaza, on a soccer field and perhaps even on a busy street corner.
We are teatro la fragua., a theatre that breathes and moves forward, a mission that forges and commits us, and which, in the face of political indifference, motivates us with greater strength and pride to continue awakening the creativity of the people and their spirit... The spirit of change in Honduras.
"Earth, Air, Fire, Water, you and we are teatro la fragua.".
Luis F. García.
Administrative Director of teatro la fragua.
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