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Misadventures in the Sugarcane & the Ladies Play Bball

Program Summary

This summer’s program, Spanish on Stage, was designed to spotlight the Spanish language, specifically Dominican Spanish and its cultural underpinnings, through the use of theatre. However, because we were not able to round up a cohort of American youth that would have counter-balanced such an exploration, the stage morphed into a tool to highlight social injustice, specifically that of the mistreatment of Haitians, with the staging of Luís Pie by Dominican author Juan Bosch. Additionally, under the direction of Orlando Muñoz, the young actors continued to hone their theatre skills as many were repeat theatre offenders, in the most positive sense.

Many of La Ceiba’s youth were exposed to theatre for the first time during Kyle Waites’ theatre skills and games workshop in 2010. The interaction sparked the formation of a community theatre group led by Cucuyo Director Orlando Muñoz. The group staged an outrageous production of Se vende una burra upon Cucuyo’s return in 2011. And it seems to be catching on. An additional workshop was added into the schedule due to demand from youth who were interested in acquiring theatre know-how but not quite prepared for a full-length production.

While Orlando’s home was filled with the sounds of farm animals, moaning Haitians, and gossipy nail salon clientele, just down the gravel road, the pounding of basketballs against a steamy concrete court. Cucuyo had never contemplated sports as an extension of the arts until the community leadership, in 2012, expressed a definite interest in basketball. The court at the Juan Pablo Duarte community center may get more use than the center itself as young men, scrounging up a ball, consistently close their day with a couple of hours of pick-up bball. The love and dedication to the game was definitely present, but none of the kids have ever had access to formal coaching.

Enter Fred Raphael, teacher and coach at the International School in Brooklyn, New York. Learning names and language with astonishing speed and easily adapting to pretty much any situation under the hot hot sun, Fred was a veritable MVP this year. Fred led five workshops per day, from 10am to 7pm, for players aged 6 to 25, even opening a space for female participation in an all girls workshop. The workshop culminated in final tournaments for each group complete with prizes and cornflakes. 

Meanwhile, in the background, we were fortunate enough to once again count on the presence of Buenos Aires resident and ESL-certified instructor, Lauren Stephenson for a twice-daily English language workshop. When Cucuyo launched in 2010, teaching English was not in the plans. However, in light of the community’s persistent interest, Lauren deftly stepped up to the whiteboard and has been doing it ever since. Interest and participation remains high—a reflection of Lauren’s engaging teaching abilities and her all around lovability. This year, students presented a mock cooking show in English during Cucuyo’s final exhibition. All the English speakers learned how to make chicken and rice or pizza a la dominicana!

All of this great stuff was lovingly documented by Bianca Bidiuc’s keen photographer’s eye in between her duties as a workshop interpreter. For those interested in seeing the program brought to life, visit the gallery or Cucuyo Arts on Facebook. Bianca’s photos give staff and participants the perspective necessary for understanding that our humble summer program is more magical than we can take in while we’re up next to it.

Program Goals & Key Outcomes

Open up parameters for participation

  • Participation of over 80 youth aged 6 to 25
  • Many female participants engaged in sports for the first time 

Ensure that each participant walks away with concrete skills

  • Beginner’s theatre participants wrote and staged their own sketches
  • Advanced theatre group prepared for a full length production of Luís Pie in just two weeks
  • Fred introduced the concept of the lay-up and worked on defense and ball handling skills daily, while creating a culture of teamwork

Create a fun experience for the participants

  • Continued demand and consistent participation in English workshops year after year evidence fun, engaging environment
  • Basketball class size grew daily in 4 of the 5 age groups
  • Players arrived early to practice and were very enthusiastic regarding the final tournament
  • Staff bought treats to celebrate all tournament participants

Provide thorough language support for staff

  • An interpreter was present full-time to instructor during workshops
  • Spanish language classes were not given due to instructor’s heavy workload

Honest documentation of the program

  • Bianca shot candid photos and video throughout the program
  • Production of post program report

Encourage continuity by inviting youth to be leaders and create their own summer programs

  • Key community members were informed of changes in staff’s lives and that Cucuyo’s funds are exhausted which raises question marks for future programming in the community
  • Director Orlando Muñoz plans to follow the basketball participants with continued coaching and the creation of a community team 

Conclusions & Future Intentions

Despite the staff’s multiple new family and professional commitments and a bank account that now sits at zero, we recognize that the Cucuyo program continues to serve a purpose and add value to the lives of those involved. Because of this, we are not willing to close our doors and walk away.

This summer, La Ceiba’s youth expressed great ideas for future workshops—urban dance, computer maintenance and repair, baseball. At the same time, high school teachers in the US have expressed interest in traveling to the DR with a group of their students. At a minimum, Cucuyo is well positioned to consult with and facilitate such experiences for these groups and, in turn, continue to bring unique opportunities for arts, exchange and growth for the youth of Bonao.

In this way, Cucuyo does indeed sacrifice autonomy but it alleviates the funding and many of the time constraint issues that are currently standing between us and continued programming. Another option would be for the director and or staff to privately fund the program through their own salary and soliciting material and cash donations from family and friends as we did this year. Though not necessarily a sustainable option, it is a viable option as we watch to see where Cucuyo is headed. 

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