Ian Rans and friends hit the road for Mexico: Part 3
Also in attendance were some of the connected locals who helped make the show possible, including an awesome woman named Marcy Essy who moved to Akumal from Iowa in 1985. Essy is now one of the main business people around, but when she first arrived here in the '80s she was living out of her camper on the beach. The last 20 or so years have been good to her, as she slowly progressed from a laid-back hippy to a laid-back hippy with several high-end condos to rent.
In no small way, Akumal has had the same journey. It's still ragtag, but burgeoning.
The town has managed to attract a solid tourist base of travelers from around the world who definitely don't want to see Akumal go in the typical spring break, frat-boy direction. The leading business people in the city tend to agree. They're quite an interesting group -- all laid back, professional, personable, and, impressively, all female. With their help, the festival found its charitable side: All of the shows will ask for donations to build a playground for the children of Akumal Pueblo, the less touristy side of town.
Perhaps the most surprising moment of the celebration was when a dance troupe suddenly erupted in a Mayan ceremonial dance and scared the bejesus out of me (again, through dance). No small feat. I'm not sure what the performance was supposed to symbolize, but I can only assume it harkened back to a time when people who looked like that killed people who look like me. It was still beautiful, though. Perhaps more so because of that.
|Photo by Frank Chevrier|
After the party, we headed over to local watering hole La Buena Vida. Most patrons were there for a drink, but I was there to do a cameo in a short film. Well, that and drinking. The guys from Token Media and Matt Olson have some of the nicest gear I've seen in person; I'm surprised it got through customs complete.
Several sketches are being shot, all with a telenovela-style narrative. This has been the comedians' number-one job thus far, and every word of the script has been written in the last four days. Akumal has been in the middle of an uncharacteristically rainy spell since we've arrived, which not only jeopardized my tiny scene but the others to be shot as well.
La Buena Vida has been the backdrop for many of the sketches, and most of the bonding. There have been arguments and putdowns. There have been laughs and hugs. One of the comedians even found out that he's about to be a father again via text message here. The bar's love of early 90's dance music is a real head-scratcher, though. This has got to be the first time Us3's "Tukka Yoot's Riddim" has been played by anyone in over a decade.
To further complicate things, Dan Schlissel made some very nice challenge coins for the group. If you're not familiar, a challenge coin is usually given out to members of the military after a war, or, I assume, when something particularly scarring has happened.
The rain didn't stop, so my film appearance was bumped to another day. Coins clicked on the bar, and we would still be there long after dark. Thankfully, someone (me) brought an iPod to break up the several hours of C+C Music Factory. The night ended in a pool with a bottle of rum. Nerves are beginning to show with some of the comedians.
Amazingly, the first shows are tomorrow. More amazingly, the opening act features local children doing a dance performance. Our three will be a trial by fire. A lot of what this festival will become will be decided then -- both by the tone of the acts and in the attendance. Months of work and preparation are on the line, and I can see the stress in the organizers' faces.
But screw it. It's a comedy festival. We're here for a good time.