Thursday, January 10th
Today was our first show, at a sports complex in Tuxla Gutierrez that is serving as a refugee camp for over 800 people from Ostuacan, Tecpatan and other communities along the Rio Grijalva in northern Chiapas, which flooded this winter. The complex is called the ” Instituto de Seguridad Social de los Trabajadores del Estado de Chiapas” (ISSTECH.) Our contact for this performance was Alejandro Alarcón Zapata, Director General of Chiapas Solidario por la Alfabetización (CHISPA), who also happens to be Rudi’s neighbor near San Cristóbal. His organization is a state office which advocates and teaches literacy; the literacy worker’s we’ve been working with are Alejandro’s employees.
Before the performance, Rudi and I were briefly interviewed for CHISPA’s television program on the local Channel 10; our performance at ISSTECH was also taped. We don’t know yet when the broadcast will be, but I will post that info as soon as possible. Supposedly the piece will also appear on YouTube. Stay tuned… Photos will be forthcoming, too.
The refugees were sleeping on the floor of a basketball gymnasium, and hanging their laundry out on ropes between the trees around the grounds. A flock of chickens and turkeys occupied the small, fenced-in playground. When we arrived, the people were mostly just hanging out in the courtyards and under the food pavilion. We chose the our performance area: a section of courtyard backed by the basketball gym, where the people could pull chairs over easily from the dining pavilion and surround us on three sides.
The literacy workers performed first. I was dressed and ready to go when they started; toward the end of their first number, I left the swimming-pool building we were given as a dressing room, and immediately pulled so much of the audience’s attention from the performers onstage that I had to go back into the pool building and hide. But this gave me a problem: Rudi was next to the stage and was expecting me to watch the first part of the show from there; but there was no way I was going to go out there and not pull focus. So I waited, and decided that when the literacy workers finished their last number and took a bow, I’d make the biggest possible entrance I could: when they left the stage, I screamed, allowing my voice to echo across the pool, ran out of the pool area and slammed the gate, and ran screaming all the way over to Rudi, who had to calm me down. I tried some quickie-pantomime to show that some kind of Loch Ness Monster had attacked me from the pool, but I don’t think it played too well. Anyway, afterward Rudi said the entrance in general was a good decision. How was I going to appear and not pull focus? There was no way. And this will be an ongoing issue on this tour.