Update 11 -- Sustainable Theater Workshop -- Shifting expectations

Shifting expectations -- August 8, 2012


So I’m wondering now, was it unrealistic of me to think that a program, any program, especially one running in an agricultural city severely lacking resources, would run the way I expected? To me, one of the biggest reasons I decided to come to San Rafael was that I genuinely believe kids here deserve and are entitled to high quality, organized, continual arts programming. So for me it’s not okay that things are not running up to speed. But on the other hand, I have to work within the structures in place here. I have to be aware of the cultural nuances at play and the social dynamics already established before I arrived.  I can’t expect to come into an extremely patriarchal, male-dominated society, as a single, young, American female coming to teach a weird, artsy program and not have backlash. The backlash for me has been mostly passive aggressive on two fronts. One: I haven’t been openly expressing my feelings about the trip to the organizers (Definitely a lesson in personal growth and professionalism on my part). Two: They feel/know I’m not completely happy with the way things are going, but are not really open to addressing those concerns on a professional level.

There’s also the problem with many theater arts programs, in the U.S. as well, where organizers coming from a non-performance background routinely underestimate the need of performance-based programs. You need consistent time, space and support in order to construct performance, otherwise, it’s like trying to build a house on an uneven foundation. For this particular workshop, a lot of frustration had to do with the interruptions in the program days. But after three days with the same group of kids now, I can feel and see the difference. When I am able to actually do the work I came to do, all the other issues don’t feel so drastic. I think the first week (when I wasn’t working with the kids) I was feeling like I came to Haiti for some kind of family vacation, which, in the right context is amazing, but a family vacation and a trip to do a theater workshop imply two sets of very different expectations.

A few lines from a personal journal entry:

This is making me doubt myself. Am I not strong enough? Did I make the wrong decision coming here? What invisible scripts am I re-performing that make me feel so worthless/outcasted in these types of situations? Did I bring this on myself?

I have shifted my expectations slightly and it’s definitely made a difference in how I feel about being here. A problem with much of my work, regardless of location, is my relationship with perfectionism. So the trip hasn’t gone exactly as I had imagined, instead of forcing my previous thoughts about how things should have gone, I am trying now to be more flexible and appreciate this unique experience for what it is, and not harbor over what it isn’t. This resolution came after many weepy Skype calls, journal entries, a nightly cries.

Check in again soon,


PS. Check out this video I made from my some of my Haiti footage.

[vimeo 47395443 w=500 h=281]

Fun stuff - Medium from Shelah Marie on Vimeo.