1. Put yout hand up
It all started one Monday morning when we were working on theatre roles. We had a problem - there was a small part that needed filling in the MESA theatre production of Antigone, and no one to fill it. We were so desperate that even the UK volunteers were asked.
Now I should tell you that I am not naturally the most outgoing, extroverted person in the world, despite how I may seem. For this reason, I was as surprised as anyone to look up and see my hand in the air, volunteering itself - and by association, me - to be queen. It was not from some burning desire in my soul to act in the Spanish language, for sure - at the time, my repertoire consisted of 'hello', 'sorry' and 'milk gives me diarrhoea'. However, my hand had decided and so it was to be.
2. Keep your head down
The first two weeks afterward were spent half in relief and half in anxiety that no one mentioned it again. They were fourteen glorious and worrying days of costume design, bioconstruction and Scottish dancing. Half a beautiful, pensive month of chikungunya and attempting to convince Lorena (our wonderful cook) that veganism exists.
I’d started thinking that they’d found a replacement, until Sandra found me in the garden one windy Saturday. Fallen banana leaves crunched under her feet, and I looked up from my sketchbook. “Miau,” I said.
Which may seem absurd to you, but was in fact a well thought out greeting.
It’s a little known fact that in a world divided by its languages, only the Miau is universal – there’s nothing worth saying that can’t be said with cat noises and mime. In recognition of this fact, her reply was “Miau miau.”
That's when I knew she meant business.
3. Lots of legwork
Contrary to expectations, I was not given a script in the first practice. Instead, I was told in slow, delibarate Spanish to stand in a circle with my fellow actors. We did stretches, then star jumps, then laps of the Casa Comunal. Exercise - not my idea of a good time. However, the following week I taught voice exercises, which was much more my thing. Welsh is a language spoken in only two countries in the world, but now there is a group in El Salvador who not only know how to say “Amser Cinio” (dinner time), but know how to shout it very loudly and for a long time.
4. Eyes ahead
I was starting to feel confident in my abilities, when I first saw the script. My lines were few, but despite spending hours every week studying, I couldn’t understand them. Pronounciation was a little easier, but for someone unused to the language “pues sere capaz de oirlo” is a legitimate tongue twister and “ahora que estoy acostumbrada a las disgracias” is only marginally easier.
Giving up was not an option, so after days of muttering them under my breath and repeating them in the shower, they now roll off my tongue like my first words.
5. Die a tragic death
We haven’t had time for many rehearsals, and the day of the play is nearing, but I know that we’ll succeed. People who were stiff as boards the first day have loosened up, and the jellyfish like me have stiffened enough to play royalty. There’s only one thing left to do for this Greek tragedy, and that is to die.
Here’s to hoping I don’t giggle.
Written by ICS volunteer Branwen Hughes