Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christina Shook Hands with the Michael Jackson...

... of Haiti!

Here is an update from Bond Street Theatre ensemble member Christina Pinnell, who is currently in Haiti.

During our workshop planning session on Monday, we had a chance encounter with Haitian singer, Gracia Delva in our hotel. He was very kind and asked us about our work. He also encouraged us to go outside of Port au Prince and work in the countryside, which we are already planning to do. We aren't entirely sure what he said, but Morlon seems convinced that he will invite us to hang out with him and Wyclef Jean in his "palace" and we will get to do shows with children and then Bond Street will be in a movie. Here's hoping! At least he has our card.

Monday was our first workshop day with the artist members of FAVILEK. We had a late start at first because everyone's clock seems to run at least 30 minutes behind here and then we had to renegotiate the terms of our collaboration. Originally we had agreed to work with 2 groups of 15 women each, one in the morning and one in the afternoon for 5 days. It seems, though, that because of NGO presence in Haiti, most people expect food and transportation to be provided for any sort of workshop or training. We were not prepared for this on our shoestring budget, but with the help of our trusty Haitian partner, Morlon, we were able to make everyone happy. Well, if not happy at least agreed. This cultural misunderstanding brought out a lot of emotions for Anna, Josh and I. Coming from America, where everyone has so much to spare, we of course want to give all that we can. However, when it came down to brass tacks, we could only afford to feed and transport half the original number of women scheduled to attend the workshop. This all came to light in the morning session and we were still expecting the later group. We were prepared to work with the second group just for the day since they were already on their way, however, the FAVILEK members told us it was better that they "didn't get a taste" of the work because they were not going to be able to participate in the whole 4 days. Ultimately, we were there to serve their group, but we were a little shocked by the whole thing. Yet, we have come here to learn and now we know.

In the workshops we have been focusing on strengthening the ensemble and physical expression. We have had some bumps and the women are pretty vocal about what they like and don't like to do. I would say we had a beautiful breakthrough today with a walking in space exercise. We are encouraging them to fill the space and to take turns with focus. I'm not sure how to describe the exercise, but imagine the transformation of 15 individuals walking around like psych wards patients in nonsensical circles within a square on the floor to 15 empowered, strong women who command the space and move as one. Yes, that is a terrible description, but that's what happened today and luckily we have some of it on video. The most important part is the women felt the difference and know they accomplished something through the exercise. I'd say that's pretty cool.

I must say that these women are truly amazing. They each have experienced horrific trauma and tragedy in their lives. Sometimes it is easy to forget that because they are just so open, loving and willing to try what we are presenting. . .until someone asks you if its ok to sit out an exercise because she has bullets lodged in her knee and hip from the coup shootings in '94. That is a pretty sobering reminder. I make a mental note to make sure to ask about injuries at the beginning of our next workshop, but then again that might take up the whole first day. I have to remind myself that though, one commonality the members of FAVILEK share is their traumatic past, namely rape, the more important thing they have in common is the fact that not only have survived, but that they desire to make art and beauty where there is none. Maricia, the first FAVILEK member we met back in January, for lack of a better explanation, lost a chunk of her bicep when her house fell on her in the earthquake. She does have some physical limitations with her arm, but she made some adjustments to the exercises and I'll be damned if she wasn't climbing up on top of the pyramid in the acro section today, These moments are gifts, plain and simple.

Tomorrow is our last day with FAVILEK, but we have a meeting with KOFAVIV and then dinner with Li! Li! Li! in the evening. After the workshop today, we met with Solidarites and will performing for the children in the tent camps in Delmas 60 for the upcoming Carnivale celebrations on March 4th. In between, we will go to Jacmel to perform in the Carnivale there, teach workshops with a Haitian theatre company and hopefully get in a little rest and beach time. Our schedule is packed until we fly home on the 7th, so if you don't here from us, its because we are busy!

Anyway, that's all for now. Bon swa and kiss kiss!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Haiti Update

On February 16, BST ensemble members Anna Zastrow, Christina Pinnell, and Joshua Wynter got on a plane to Port-au-Prince.  They are kicking off our Haiti project, working with two women's groups KOFAVIV and FAVILEK to use theatre to address the sexual violence in the tent camps.  Support this project here.

Here's what Anna has to say!

Here we are in Haiti, all's well so far. Internet connection not so great.

Friday we had a meeting with Favilek main members about workshops, which went really well and everyone's very excited about working with us. We set up a schedule to do workshops next week (Mon-Fri); one group in the morning and one in the afternoon. After that we will see how to proceed for the following week. The plan at this point is to first do general physical theater workshops, and then proceed to work on their show.

Today we presented our show to Favilek, as a first showing with them as our first audience. It went great, they appeared to really enjoy the show. We had great fun together. At the end, they got up and danced with us! One of the older ladies greeted us with kisses when she arrived, and kissed us as we left. This was sweet and lovely.

Morlon has joined us and yesterday we had a full day of rehearsal.  He's very expressive and creative. And silly!

Saturday we walked through the neighborhood and further on to find a market where we could buy a bucket. We walked all over. It was no problem. Especially with Morlon with us. We had had (or at least I had) the impression that it wasn't really ok to walk down the street, and we really needed a driver. But this was fine. We walked past several camp communities, and past the presidential building that was in ruins.

Tonight there was pre-carnival festivities. We wanted to go out and find another restaurant down the street as opposed to eating at the hotel restaurant. But all the street lights were out, and it was dark, and it really wasn't a good idea to be walking around out there at that point. Which revealed itself to be true, because when we stepped out for a moment, I was confronted by a very aggressive and hostile man. I didn't understand what he was saying, but politely greeted him with a "bon soir" which apparently aggravated him further.

Morlon then made sure to inform us that this man was not a real Haitian man: he was perhaps born in Haiti, but he was not Haitian, because Haitians are very friendly and generous people.

We are doing the workshops at a space a bit farther away, but we can take a taxi, or walk even (we walked all the way back from the space to the hotel, when we checked it out the other day). So we are not using or paying for a driver and car every day. Some days we will need to, though.  (On the other hand, the accommodations are more expensive.)

We are still looking to set up more performances and workshops, and I am in contact with Sinema Anba Zetwal and Solidarite but haven't gotten to meet with them yet. We have not met with Kofaviv yet. We have a full-day workshop planned with Li Li Li on March 2.

That's all for now.