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International Studies & Theater, 2008
Alcala de Henares, Spain
Lilly Senior Keystone
Action Fund Recipeint
Institute for Global Citizenship Student Council
Macalester International Organization
Pluralism and Unity
Sitting at Mac (Buddhist student organization)
If life is art, then Hector Pascual Álvarez has found his true calling. “I always knew theater would be an integral part of my life,” he says, recalling that “I was actively involved with Macalester’s theater productions every semester and I directed Lorca’s The House of Alba my senior year.” Those college experiences evolved to a mission of healing communities by involving them in theater.
"Hector brings the capacity to care for every person into every conversation. Time after time at the Keystone retreat, his ability to go deeper encouraged others to more deeply reflect as well." -Karin Trail-Johnson, Associate Dean, IGC
The link between performance and community showed itself early. “There’s a connection that’s born on stage, a way the narrative brings together the audience and the players, the behind-the-scenes workers, but it’s easy to lose sight of that once the curtains close. With every production, I found our community growing more tightly knit. You run the risk of forming cliques when you work side by side with the same crew of theater majors, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the outside world. I didn’t want to get lost in the theater community—I wanted to tap into the theater experience and use it to connect with others.”
Pascual Álvarez kept his eye on a global perspective, from his involvement in Macalester International Organization to his participation in a peace conference at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, organized by history professor Yue-Him Tam. “It was an honor to address the assembly and an incredible opportunity to be immersed in such a fascinating culture.”
With his dedication to his studies, international organizations, world travel, and jam-packed extracurricular schedule, Pascual Álvarez was already busy abroad. He managed to keep the Macalester home fires burning as well: A resident assistant for three years, he actively worked to build a community on campus, including an occasional nocturnal pillow fight during finals week.
In his junior year, Pascual Álvarez received an Action Fund grant from the Civic Engagement Center to work on a theater project with Latino youths at the Guadalupe Alternative Program School. For three months, he worked on an original, collaborative theater piece about immigration, integration, and oral history, finally staging the finished story at a local public library. The experience challenged Pascual Álvarez to find common ground with kids who were new to acting. “At first, they were shy and inhibited, but they became more willing to share their stories and I realized that sharing the experience of migrating and leaving their families behind was therapeutic for them. One boy read a beautiful piece he’d written about saying goodbye to his mother when he’d left Mexico and crossed the border in the middle of the night. Everyone in the room was crying when he finished.”
Leaving Macalester posed new challenges for Pascual Álvarez. Spring semester of his senior year was hectic, and it wasn’t only about deadlines or senior capstone projects. Buried beneath was a current of anxiety about the future. “I reached a point at which I felt emotionally incompetent, unable to understand or process feelings and emotions. I felt like an automaton fulfilling tasks.”
Whidbey Island and the Lilly Senior Keystone retreat changed that. “The retreat provided a great structure to think about vocation without the worries that usually come when thinking about the future,” he says. “I left with a renewed energy, with strengthened bonds of friendships and with a real sense of commitment to a life in the arts.”
After graduation, Pascual Álvarez’s experiences with the Guadalupe Alternative Program and his independent project on post-colonial theater inspired a yearlong Watson Fellowship research project. “Social Acupuncture: The Role of the Theater Director in Community-based Performance” included journeys to Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. The goal? To study how performance can heal communities suffering from trauma. His work included two months at the Center for Theater of the Oppressed, an arts and civil rights organization founded and directed by the late Nobel Peace Prize nominee and 2009 UNESCO theater ambassador Augusto Boal.
Now back in Spain, Pascual Álvarez continues to build the connection between communities and theater, conducting theatrical guided tours and developing a theater solo performance. “I’ve learned firsthand the power of theater,” he says. “It’s more than just entertainment, more than just telling stories. When you pull back the veil and let people share their personal struggles with the world, theater has the power to heal.”