It was a great privilege to get to participate in the first ever Esperanto Performing Arts and Film Festival in April 2014. My young daughters and I had a wonderful experience there. Such a tight-knit group of friendly people, very inclusive and welcoming, and very kid-friendly as well! My girls felt loved and special, surrounded by Esperanto-speaking companions who adored them.
My 11-year-old was the youngest one of the actors in the readers’ theater-style play, and Jennifer Bondelid did an amazing job including her and treating her with the same professional respect, encouragement and guidance that she gave all the adults. With Jennifer’s helpful suggestions and one-on-one coaching, she progressed tenfold with her acting and diction in only a few days. In fact, her ability to read Esperanto improved dramatically as well; even though she’s grown up speaking Esperanto with me at home, she hadn’t ever really quite gotten fluent at reading it. But after participating in the play, her reading proficiency had definitely gone up a few notches. She even wrote Jennifer a nice letter in Esperanto a few weeks after returning home — something she’d never been willing to tackle before. The festival really boosted both her enthusiasm for Esperanto and her abilities.
I was lucky enough to get to teach Esperanto every morning to the beginners at the festival in a cozy little meeting room at the back of charming book shop / cafe at the center of town. It was especially delightful that most of the festival venues were walking distance from each other — every morning, I just walked a few blocks to the cafe and taught my class. The beginners were full of excitement to learn and it was fun to help them tackle the ins and outs of Esperanto vocabulary & grammar. Jennifer and Chuck Mays did a phenomenal job getting the technical and logistical details arranged for showing videos to the students.
The most wonderful part of the Festival was our performance at the end of the week: the culmination of all our hard work, showcasing the theatrical, musical, dance, and film talent that we had among us. The play, a phenomenal piece of work which took up the first half of the program, was so moving and well acted that it brought me to tears multiple times. I felt such incredible awe at the talent I saw before me. The second half was a medley of beautiful dancing, musical performances, recitations of poetry and so on. The banquet which followed was the most delicious Esperanto banquet I have ever tasted — and I’ve been to a lot of them — featuring perfectly cooked salmon that had been probably caught that day right off the Whidbey Island coast where we were. And last but not least, the evening ended with a marvelous Esperanto film festival, which filled my daughters with delight. The funniest video and our favorite, was the one that had just been filmed that week, by our friends during the festival. I was again amazed that I was surrounded by such talented, knowledgeable filmmakers.
I can honestly say that the Esperanto Performing Arts and Film Festival was the best Esperanto event that my daughters and I have ever attended together. All three of us had bonded so closely with our festival friends, that it was very difficult to wrench ourselves away and return home. Goodbyes were filled with hugs and many tears. There is just something magical about creating art together, especially in Esperanto, that connects people like nothing else. It was an experience my daughters & I will never forget.
With only about two months of home study under my belt, I didn’t think I was ready for the Kino-Teatro-Festivalo. However, after speaking with Ĵenja, I decided to dive in. She assured me that the classes would give me a real boost in learning Esperanto and that I could choose how much I wanted to participate in the creative opportunities that would be available.
I made the right decision! The classes were very helpful and there were many opportunities to practice speaking with people who are fluent and patient. The various talks and presentations were educational, entertaining, pleasantly challenging, and kept us all engaged in learning. If you’re thinking of signing up for the Festival…go ahead, you’ll be glad you did!