The 2017 Teatro Catalina arts service trip to Chinendega, Nicaragua was a transformative experience for eight current SCU students and three Theater & Dance alumni, lead by faculty advisor Claire Calalo. Every partnership between Santa Clara University and this program is unique, and this year proved to be a milestone for the collaboration in many ways.
For the past several years, a group from SCU has traveled to the rural village of Villa Catalina during their Spring Break to share their artistic skills, to form and strengthen relationships between artists across borders, and also to learn invaluable lessons from Teatro Catalina participants and directors. Children at the elementary school play theater games, explore creative movement, create unique musical ideas and rhythms, and learn the skills of storytelling.
Young adults in the Teatro Catalina program teach the SCU students and elementary-aged children their own theater games and songs as well. They provide leadership and collaborate on the rehearsal and production of our annual performance. Beautiful friendships and fruitful mentorships have developed over the years, with many SCU students and alumni staying in contact with and returning to visit their friends, witnessing the growth of Teatro Catalina participants, and seeking artistic and social exchange with Nicaraguan artists.
Teatro Catalina founder and SCU alumna Katie Fitzgerald has been fostering relationships within Nicaragua to create opportunities for her students to perform theatrical works by Nicaraguan authors, as well as to develop the skills they need to tell their own stories in dance, music, and drama. This year, she was contacted by the Sergio Ramirez Foundation, who commissioned a performance by Teatro Catalina of "El Perro Invisible" (The Invisible Dog), by this renowned children's book author. The performance was held at the Foundation's headquarters in the author's hometown of Masatepe, a few hours by bus from Villa Catalina.
For the first time, the focus of the Spring Break trip shifted to the production of three performances in less than one week, with one in Villa Catalina that resulted from a new partnership with a local theater group, one at a locally televised event in Chinandega, and one on the road (Teatro Catalina's first tour bus experience!). The week was an incredible whirlwind of workshops, rehearsals, choreography, set and costume design and production, and ultimately a successful suite of performances. A truly special and unforgettable experience, this trip inspired artistic visions for Americans and Nicaraguans alike, and created lasting bonds across language barriers and cultural differences that will last a lifetime.