"Dramas De Barros," meaning "Dramas out of Clay" is our first full-fledged drama conference in El Salvador. The month long project was planned and is being implemented by Sara Davis, who serves as the Production Manager at the Arts at Center Street at our headquarters in Tennessee. The conference began with auditions and workshops. The 26 participants were then given parts for an original play written specifically for their community by Gregg Garner. As they work on their acting technique and memorizing lines, Davis is able to help them dialogue about the issues presented in the play (things like respect for the elderly, the allure of immigration to the U.S., gang violence and children's early exposure to violence). The entire community is looking forward to their performance next week!
The morning of Saturday, December 12, registration began for the drama segment of the G.O.D. Int’l youth conference in El Salvador. In true Salvadoran time, about 35 youth trickled in the doors of EsArtes, an arts facility in Suchitoto where the program will hold all rehearsals. From ages 10-19, shy and curious youth filled out registration forms with their ages, experience and t-shirt size, had their photo taken, and were given instruction for their scripted auditions.
Youth were not the only ones to attend auditions, and continue in the workshop segment of the drama track. Part of the impetus for student attendance at the program was that teachers would be able to chaperone their students and simultaneously learn techniques that they could then implement in the drama programs in their schools.
Marina teaches drama to three quarters of the students attending the drama portion of the conference. At the end of the week she testified in a meeting for principals of 60 schools in the area that throughout the week she learned the process by which students received individualized instruction and feedback preparing them for their parts in the play they would later perform. With the same gracious humility she displayed all week, she expressed her plans to implement these methods in teaching her students in months to come.
Auditions were followed by a series of workshop activities that tested the ability of our students to express emotion using their faces, bodies, movement, posture, stage directions, and to determine the depth of their creative range. What we discovered was a group of youth deeply intrigued and enthusiastic about acting. Willing to hit the stage for any kind of impromptu exercise, overflowing with laughter and quick to try again, it quickly became clear that where a love for drama existed, an outlet for adequate training was new to this group.
Sulma, 17, has long excelled in her drama program in school. For high school seniors in language arts, it is common for them to perform a series of plays. This replaces study of literature and exercises in reading and writing in their final year of school. For Salvadoran youth, a drama could be anything from walking in a parade in character, to re-enacting a much beloved folk tale, to performing an original piece. Noticed by her teachers for her poise and talent, Sulma was given the task of authoring multiple plays for her class in school.
The detriment of such a program is that youth are given the task of creatively communicating about their world without the necessary tools for understanding. Thus, their plays may communicate true-to-life dramatic events or lament the extreme violence that plagues their country, but doesn’t offer critical thought or questions to provoke dialogue. A result of this week’s conference was a collaboration between the school system near our headquarters and our organization that will help to equip teachers with the knowledge they need to effectively educate their students, who are hungry to learn.
Of the 25 participants in the drama program, half also participated in the one-week Bible Conference held by the Latin America Regional Team. These youth spent their days cultivating their ability to worship, pray, read the Bible and think critically about the application of Scripture. Their only breaks in the day were to participate in the drama track.
A heavy emphasis of the Bible Conference was Mark 4, when Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the varying types of soil. The youth were encouraged to examine their lives and determine what kind of soil they are, and what kind they would like to be. They were encouraged to turn on their minds, not to be people with little to no attention span, from whom the world expects little to nothing. It is our prayer that as these youth learn to examine Scripture and to think critically while they receive a biblical education, the lessons they learn will come out in their dramatic abilities and in the stories they desire to tell on stage.
Drama is powerful for this group, not merely because they love it and not merely because they have the energy and the time for it, but because they need to be given an opportunity to speak and be heard, and to express the good things they learn from God’s word in application to real life situations, struggles and joys.