Teatro Catalina 2018
In late January, Claire Calalo, faculty advisor for the 2018 Teatro Catalina trip, told me that Katie Fitzgerald, the founder of Teatro Catalina, wanted us to spend a week exploring the art of devised theatre with the members of her Nicaraguan Theatre Company.
Being the student leader of the trip I immediately had a million questions: What activities should we do? What to the Nicaraguans know about devised theatre? What do I really know about devised theatre? What is the goal of the week? How can we work around language gap? How are we going to fill 5 whole days with student led workshops? Luckily, I was not alone in this endeavor. I had an incredibly talented, and bilingual, faculty advisor, a professor in the department who specializes in devised theatre, as well as a group of six Santa Clara students who signed on to collaborate with me on this great adventure.
We had about eight weeks to prepare for our week in Nicaragua with Teatro Catalina. Every week the group and I would come together to discuss trip logistics, Nicaraguan customs and culture, and plan a week worth of activities and workshops relating to the topic of devised theatre and personal narrative storytelling. We boarded the plane to Managua with our luggage filled with peanut butter and jelly, our comprehensive workshop plan, and a tentative sense of optimism. I had said to the group many times before our arrival in Nicaragua that "we have to plan everything planned to a T, and expect it all not to go according to plan."
Our week in Nicaragua was nothing short of life changing. We spent a incredibly exhausting and fulfilling week facilitating workshops all about devised storytelling through writing, improv, movement, and music. Our initial lesson plan worked much better than we had originally thought, and a common catch-phrase of the trip was,"Well, that went surprisingly well!" The first three days of the week were dedicated to material generation in three mediums, acting, movement, and music. Each group member specialized in two or three activities such as gibberish improv, group orchestra, and human machine, to name a few. We heavily encouraged the Nicaraguans and Americans to work with each other as much as possible, despite the language barrier. The last two days were reserved for synthesis of material and rehearsal, as we planned to perform a version of what we had worked on and created throughout the week for the community on Friday afternoon. We encouraged the group to create and rehearse pieces that pertained to the theme of “El Hogar/The Home” and what it meant to them. After a few hours of rehearsal, some critique sessions, and alot of productive collaboration we performed 35 minutes of original material for over 50 community members; who without a doubt did not expect to be experiencing such a performance on Good Friday!
An impromptu post-show circle organically formed, and proved to be a beautiful ending to our week of group collaboration. People expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to forge new friendships, reinforced their love of theatre, dance, and music, and expressed a hope for a future where people can collaborate as effectively as we all had. The week ended in a fiesta, both celebrating Katie’s Birthday and a successful performance!
My experiences with Teatro Catalina has taught me so much, but one of my biggest takeaways from this experience is that there is an immeasurable amount of creative talent in this world, oftentimes tucked into corners of the world that few people take the time to explore. After spending a short week with Teatro Catalina my heart was filled to the brim with stories, friendships, and a deep sense of community, all thanks to the incredible people that I had the pleasure of collaborating with and learning from. None of this intense community building and connection would have been possible without our devised theatre based approach. It was a risk to break out of tradition and come to Nicaragua with an idea rather than a script, but thanks to the incredible people I had the pleasure of working with all of our hard work paid off in a beautiful final display of collaboration.