Sitting in a circle this morning at the first rehearsal of the musical Like Water for Chocolate, I could not help but be moved by the stories being shared. Each member of the creative team and cast members spoke lovingly of their own families, their connection with the cultural foods which helped define their growing up. The diversity of backgrounds was terribly moving. “I’m half Dominican and half Jewish.” “My Paraguayan father taught me to play the harp.” “My mother was ill, so the lady who raised me from Colombia, taught me Spanish.” “I’m Mexican Indian and European.” “I’m Croatian but raised in Chile.” This is the world that is represented by our American theatre culture, and it spoke volumes about Sundance’s commitment to being a global artistic organization.
It took much work to get all ninety participants here. They came from Mexico, Tanzania, London, and all point in the US. Eight projects. Three with music. One in Kiswahili. One partly in Mandarin. The dining hall at Banff which overlooks a giant mountain range is filled with laughter and many languages. This is the start of our 2011 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at Banff. We will be here three weeks, and at the end, each of the eight projects will share their work with the Sundance community.
Our rehearsal halls are named after characters in Robert Redford’s films, so one is either rehearsing in JEREMIAH (Johnson), GATSBY (Jay), HUBBELL (Gardiner), THE KID (Sundance), or PEPPER (Waldo). Food is plentiful, rooms are warm and cozy as the snow drifts down outside on and off.
The Motto of the Banff Centre is “Inspiring Creativity” and the land we sit on, like at the Sundance Resort in Utah, is ancient Native land, filled with the spirits of storytellers who came before us. Elder Tom Crane Bear arrives tonight to bless the Lab tomorrow.