[No Translation Necessary]
|Ready to play, listening to instructions. These six- and seven-year-olds are the|
youngest among the performers.
This past week I’ve been hanging out with a group that's putting together a children’s theater production next weekend. It will tell the story of how the spirit of the lake made this land habitable for humans, and gave our village—Ajijic—its name. It's adapted from a legend passed down to a local artist, Antonio Lopez Vega, from his abuela. The kids are all local and have been attending a free summer camp at the ex-pat Lake Chapala Society (LCS). At a previous camp they had drawn pictures to accompany the story as Antonio read it.
|Antonio instructs the young musicians.|
Note the unusual instrument--rock
played on rock--a tinkling sound.
That experience inspired him and a couple of smart and energetic gringos, Jennifer and Thom Stanley, to see if the legend could be told in a more theatrical manner. They enlisted the support of the ex-pat Lakeside Little Theater where the production—whatever it would become—could be staged. One thing led to another. A ethnomusicologist from Guadalajara helped them create indigenous instruments. This fellow knew some specialists in pre-Hispanic dance from way down south in Chiapas. A travel grant from LCS brought them here. A professional puppeteer volunteered her time.
|Again you can see the attention paid to instructions|
The dancers created and began training a local troupe. Interest burgeoned. Some folks who had been volunteering at the Theater lent their various talents in lighting, sound, and costume and set design and building. Creating the performance became the focus of this summer’s LCS children’s camp. Jennifer’s skills are custom-made to organize and deftly handle communication among all the different stakeholders. I have been enormously impressed by how well organized and equipped the project is, and that’s down to her. The buy-in by the kids, their parents, and all the volunteers has been tremendous.
|The variety of props created was astounding testimony to |
In a couple of weeks, dozens of papier mâché and cardboard props—aquatic creatures, primarily, and masks—have been made and imaginatively painted by the children. As they work they are read and re-read the legend by Antonio, and they practice their lines. Some of the kids will be “puppeteers”, bringing the props to life as well as creating several shadow scenes. Others will play some of those fascinating indigenous musical instruments. A dozen will act as the chorus, responding to the narration. The fantastically costumed dancers will perform. Those original drawings from the first year will be projected onto the cyclorama throughout the performance.
|At the theater which was very well |
equipped. Premiere next Friday
All of this speaks to me on several levels. Working with the kids brings back the best parts of my experiences as an elementary school teacher. I feel at home in theater, find the people there smart and funny, and this experience has been true to form. Theatrical storytelling was what I did before teaching, including the use of puppets and special effects. I’m especially drawn to legends in creating these performances, and native-based mythologies share common elements whether they arise north or south of the border.
|Rehearsing the titeroteros, or puppeteers, on how to bring the serpent to life.|
So far my involvement in this project has been as a cleaner-upper, a distributor of painting supplies, a photographer, very occasional opinion-giver, and I’m enjoying goofing around with kids and adults alike. I’m looking forward to doing more work with this group, whatever form that work, and the group, might take.
In the meantime there’s lots of other fun stuff to do and see, and I’m really enjoying gardening at LCS. My socially conscious spouse has begun volunteering at a local “food bank”, and loves it—more about that soon. We still begin and end our day on the balcony among a growing number of potted plants, speculating and recounting, wondering if this is really the end of the rainy season after four days without...Na-a-ah.