Happy Saturday, BE family. You know when the universe aligns perfectly and sends shooting stars into your path to redirect you and steer your heart in the right direction?! This happened to me recently. A few weeks ago I received an email titled, “Hola from Nicaragua” and opened to read an outpouring of passion, impact, and strength from Katie Fitzgerald. Katie is the founder of Teatro Catalina, an organization in Nicaragua making impact through theatre education founded on the idea that “Theatre creates space for dreams. And dreams create hope for the future.” I read through her email, overwhelmed and ready to answer the call for action in any way I could. By the end of the email, I was researching flights to Nicaragua to connect as quickly as possible.
Before FFB was created, I used to work with a non-profit in South Africa with a similar mission of bringing empowerment and education to youth in areas where they might not otherwise have access. So when Katie reached out, the story of Teatro Catalina felt familiar, meaningful, and so perfectly aligned with FFB, that I knew we had to team up. Teatro Catalina similar to FFB, focuses on building up the entire person through connection and community.
Teatro Catalina recently launched a fundraiser to raise $10K for a 10K run in November. Read below about how this meaningful event is propelling them forward!
“We are so excited to announce that Teatro Catalina is taking the next step to become our own non-profit organization. Becoming a non-profit will open up avenues for further development and growth, allowing new opportunities to expand our theatre education program, produce a larger quantity of shows and help more young people pursue their dreams. To get us started on this new path, some of our Teatro Catalina youth and staff have challenged themselves to run a 10K race together to raise funds for our future.”
For the next three Sundays, our FFB Run Club #BroadwayJoggers will be running in support and with our Nicaraguan buddies to help prepare them for the 10K on November 11th! Join us in NYC, Nicaragua or your city and if you’re able, please donate what you can. Even a few dollars goes a really long way in supporting their program and their goal. Check out my interview below with Katie, who is an absolute treasure and the powerhouse behind Teatro Catalina.
Katie! I truly feel like the stars aligned to bring us together. I couldn’t feel more inspired by what you’ve created and I’m so overwhelmed and grateful to be sharing the story of Teatro Catalina with Fit for Broadway. Where did this journey begin for you? How did Teatro Catalina come to life?
The feelings are totally mutual, Jane! I’ve been such a fan of Fit for Broadway and being able to connect with you is really a dream come true! I’m so grateful for your willingness to be a part of Teatro Catalina and to help us share our story!
As a I look back, I realize that Teatro Catalina has been a lifelong journey for me. My love for all things theatre and Broadway started at a young age. My mom is a musician and always had music playing in the house. She would gather my siblings and me around the piano to sing songs from “The Sound of Music” and “Les Mis”. Theatre became a special bond between my mom and me and we were always going to see shows. Besides attending theatre productions, though, I actually wasn’t involved in theatre growing up. I was incredibly shy and thought the only way you could “do” theatre was by being on stage. It wasn’t until college that I realized there was this whole other world behind the stage where I could utilize my gifts and talents and be a part of this beautiful community that I had always felt so connected to.
My first trip to Nicaragua was in 2004. I was volunteering with a non-profit organization and they were just beginning construction on a new community called Villa Catalina. Most of the residents of this community had been displaced by Hurricane Mitch. I immediately fell in love with the people and country of Nicaragua and I made it a priority to come back each year. Over the course of several years, I had the incredible privilege of watching Villa Catalina transform from an open field to a flourishing community and along the way I formed the most amazing friendships.
While I was studying theatre at Santa Clara University, I took a transformative course called Social Justice in the Arts. It was in that class that I started to lay the foundation for Teatro Catalina as I gained an understanding of how theatre and the arts can be used as a tool for social change and empowerment. I received a grant to build a small stage in Villa Catalina and by 2010 I had graduated college, moved to Nicaragua and gathered a group 12 young people who brought Teatro Catalina’s very first production to life! And like they say…”The rest is history!”
What’s the mission statement of Teatro Catalina?
Teatro Catalina uses theatre education to empower young people in Nicaragua to dream, give them a voice and help them recognize their full potential.
We initially felt connected as young, female entrepreneurs building community and creating impact. We relate on so many levels. What tools do you use to get through the ups and downs of this journey?
First and foremost, my faith keeps me grounded. In the midst of what often feels like a crazy and ever-changing journey, it’s the one thing that remains constant for me. Prayer helps me to stay focused on the things that are most important and gives me a sense a peace as I face daily challenges and struggles.
Secondly, I lean heavily on my support system. I feel so fortunate to have the most incredible family and friends. I would not be able to do this if it weren’t for their endless amounts of encouragement and support.
You are encouraging such a positive, healthy lifestyle for everyone in Teatro Catalina. How has healthy living been a part of your story?
Growing up, I was always super active. I played several different sports and loved being a part of a team. This type of goal-oriented/relational fitness routine has always been where I’ve thrived. Theatre has this sort of “team sport” feel to me, as well. As a cast and crew, we are united as we work towards accomplishing a goal and at the same time, we have to be very aware of the fact that it takes not only mental stamina but also physical stamina to do what we do. As a leader, I want to make sure I am modeling and encouraging a healthy lifestyle for the young people I work with.
You mentioned social media has really saturated the area with an awareness for fitness and health. Can you dive in a little more to the changes you’ve seen over your time in Nicaragua?
I would say within the past year or two, I’ve really started to notice more people here in Nicaragua becoming increasingly fitness/health conscience, especially young people. I know this may sound insignificant, but we recently had an LA Fitness open up here in Chinandega, and to me, that is a big sign of change. With the internet becoming more accessible and information being so readily available, I think a lot of people are taking advantage and seeking out the how and why behind a healthy lifestyle. As an organization, we want to be on the forefront of inspiring this type of change in our community and that’s one of the reasons why I was so excited to make this connection with Fit for Broadway!
You all have a 10K coming up! I’m so excited to get FFB Run Club #BroadwayJoggers synced up so we can train together on Sundays leading up to the run in November! What sparked the idea to run the 10K with your group?
I heard about this 10K race happening in our city and I thought it would be a great way to kick-off the next big phase of our organization: starting our own non-profit! I wanted to be able to rally both our young people here in Nicaragua and our supporters in the US around a tangible goal. So we are training here in Nicaragua and also fundraising as we go along. This is the first time any of our young people have done something like this and it’s been so exciting to see how committed they are to accomplishing this goal!
Teatro Catalina, from what I can tell, serves the entire person; mind, body, and spirit. What pillars build the foundation of Teatro Catalina?
I believe that theatre is this all-encompassing art form that, like you said, serves the whole person but I’ll focus on the one aspect that guides everything we do: relationship. At the end the day, it’s not about the final production, it’s not about whether or not our actors have their lines memorized or how their costumes look, it’s about this journey that we go on together. It’s about encouraging and building one another up. It’s about making sure these kids know and understand that they matter. That even if they live in a rural village in the middle of Nicaragua…their life and their dreams are important. It is in those moments of deep relationship that I see the most life change happening. When kids understand that there are people who really care about their future, it gives them the confidence to pursue their dreams.
What does Teatro Catalina mean to you?
Honestly, more than anything, I’m just proud of what we’ve created and of what Teatro Catalina has become. I’m proud of all the people (both here in Nicaragua and around the world) who have helped make this dream a reality. I’m proud of what we stand for and the example we set in our community. I’m proud of the leaders we’ve developed and how they now have the confidence to build into others. I’m proud that we are shedding light on the importance of arts education here in Nicaragua and that we are on the forefront of developing a theatre community here in Chinandega. Most of all, I am proud of all of our dreamers (our “soñadores”) who are changing this city, this country, and ultimately, the world!
Quote to live by…
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
This quote has been a part of my journey since my first trip to Nicaragua and I come back to it often. I’m a firm believer that the things we are passionate about…the things that bring us joy and excitement, are also the things we can use to create more good in this world.
We are teaming up to share BE moments from your amazing group. I’d love to hear yours. “Teatro Catalina inspires me to BE_ ”
Teatro Catalina inspires me to be a storyteller.
Theatre is about storytelling and one of my greatest joys is getting the opportunity to share the stories of the people I have met here in Nicaragua, especially the young people who are a part of Teatro Catalina. Whether it is through pictures, videos, blog posts, or conversations, I love finding creative ways to share their inspiring and important stories with the world.
How do we get involved from the US?
Follow us on social media (@teatrocatalina)! We love sharing stories and making connections (i.e. Fit for Broadway)!. Currently, we are looking to form more partnerships with theatre companies, school theatre programs and theatre professionals who would be interested in building relationships with our young people and helping us cultivate the skill sets of our artists. We are always looking for people who can to teach and train from afar (virtually) or by visiting us here in Nicaragua! And lastly, monetary donations are always welcomed and appreciated as they help to keep our programs running and allow us to increase our impact!
Check out their video below and join us tomorrow, October 21st in NYC for a fun run at 10AM EST.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details, location, & time.
Check out these links to learn more about Teatro Catalina!
- The Story of Teatro Catalina!
- Hamilton in Nicaragua!
- Their Blog!