I arrived safely in Evora yesterday after a short EasyJet flight to Lisbon followed by a car journey up into the desert-ish mountains of Portugal. I was slightly nervous that something might go wrong from the start of the trip, but luckily we were met by two cars and a van at the airport and whisked off to our hotel. I’m traveling with 13 students and my colleague from CTP, Nancy Reilly, and so far everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. After we arrived at the hotel, we had a quick dip in the pool and then went for a wander through town to find something to eat. It turns out we were supposed to have met our host at a particular restaurant, but something got lost in translation so we didn’t know that we had plans… Instead, we ate a very slow, but tasty, meal in a beautiful cafe near the San Fanciscan church and the Chapel of Bones. Rita, who is a PhD student from UCLA and a volunteer with the festival, met us at dinner and then took us to see the venue where we’ll perform on Tuesday and Weds. We had a yummy ice cream before checking out the space and meeting (finally) our host in person.
The space is a lovely, petite deconsecrated church in a small square. For our show, the audience will come in and walk around the stage to sit where the altar used to be. It reminded me a bit of a smaller version of the citadel Proto-type performed in when we went to Romania (Cisniadora – apologies on my bad Romanian spelling). The space was so lovely that it is almost a shame to do a show there! After talking with the technician and making some decisions about spacing and other details, we settled on a schedule for the week. Then, I did a short radio interview talking about the show. My student, Rosie Spearpoint, gave a student perspective on the piece as well. I was pleased that the students came across flyers and posters with the show on it and with their photos in some cases. I hope it feels like something special – more than a sunny holiday for them.
After seeing the space, everyone was tired so we retired to the hotel. Today, we had a day off so after breakfast some of us wandered through the gorgeous park (thanks for the wifi tip Jack Dale!) where Peacocks and beautiful plants abound, and then into the city to the market. Lots of nice produce was on sale (if only we had a kitchen!) and I bought a bottle of olive oil from Evora that I have high hopes for. We then went into the Chapel of Bones (amazing), which is a chapel where the walls are lined with the bones and skulls of the local people. The Franciscan monks dug up the graves in Evora to line the walls. It is a totally unique place, unlike anything I’ve seen before. After that, we went into the Cathedral next to the chapel and I lit a candle for my brother-in-law who passed two years ago and my dear friend and inspiration in all things Dooley Hitch who passed in 2004. It’s funny that I do this since I am not a practicing Catholic anymore, but I always do – I feel like there is something nice about taking a moment to just think of people who have been important to me and my husband but who aren’t around anymore. Maybe I’m a bit of a sap.
After the churches, we wandered around a few shops, bought some cork-based items and then sat in a square to drink a cheap beer and chat. It felt like an actual holiday! Post beer, we wandered a bit more to a park near the museum and more shops and then found our way to our lunchtime meet up with the whole group. We ate at a big table just next to our venue and our lovely host came to make sure we were okay. After lunch, some of us retired to the pool while others wandered around Evora. Now, we’re off to dinner and then to see one of the shows in the festival we’re here for. Tomorrow, we have a rehearsal of the piece, on Monday we’ll have a technical rehearsal, and on Tuesday we perform for the first time.
So far, I’m a bit in love with Evora and feeling pretty lucky to have been able to bring my students here. I hope that performing in this context, in this country, is somehow transformative for them all – even if just in a small way. We’ll see!