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A Night at the Theater: Los empeños de una casa

 

Never one to pass up an opportunity to watch a comedia in action, I was lucky enough to get one of the few remaining seats for a Saturday performance of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Los empeños de una casa by the Joven Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico, directed by Helena Pimenta.

 

Staged in the Sala Tirso de Molina, a black box theater in the Teatro de la Comedia complex, the players made strategic use of a sparsely set stage: two opposing doors represented gateways to the dangerous outside world of Toledo and the inner mysteries of the house, and four floor-to-ceiling reproductions of era appropriate erotic paintings covered in gauzy black curtains alternately hid lovers from sight and revealed their desires. The stripped-down stage and excellent lighting effects allowed the masterful verse of the play to shine with all the pathos and humanity with which they are imbued.

 

This adaptation of the play was made particularly enjoyable by many of the staging decisions, including the presentation of character asides within a kind of freeze frame: characters spoke to each other or the audience at their leisure, while those not meant to be aware of the goings on froze in place or reacted in slow-motion to the continuing action. A similar technique was used in the JCNTC’s 2016 production of Lope de Vega’s La villana de Getafe, offering a workable solution to the issue of the asides which trouble so many modern actors.

 

However, one of the most charming pieces of stage work involved the use of props to illuminate and clarify what can be often an overwhelming number of character relationships and intertwined plots in Sor Juana’s twisty comedia. These many enredos were visualized throughout using skeins of thick yarn, with the various characters assigned specific colors which were stabbed through with crotchet needles, tangled, or unraveled to represent romantic couplings and uncouplings both real and longed for. The opening monologue of the wonderfully antagonistic Doña Ana, played by Georgina de Yebra, introduced the humorous storytelling technique of laying out the relationships with colorful yarn, a convenient reminder throughout the play of where each character’s desires lie, and by whom they were being thwarted.

 

At 120 minutes, the tight pacing swept the lovers through a whirlwind night of confusion which was made all the livelier by various musical interludes. In these moments characters expressed their thoughts and feelings through song, joined on and off-stage by supporting actors/musicians with all the energy of a Rogers and Hammerstein show, which were so fun that I, at least, was left somewhat disappointed that the production didn’t commit to a full-blown musical format.

 

Aside from the minor changes in the plot —including changing the role of Don Rodrigo from father to brother to better reflect the actor’s age— this adaptation reimagined an ending where Leonor’s leftover suitor, Don Pedro, finds his match in the cross-dressed Castaño. While the adjustment occurs so quickly at the end that there is almost no time to dwell on the implications of a gay relationship for this particular play, Pimenta’s choice to embrace the comedia’s queering of seventeenth century Spanish society represents a larger trend in modern presentations of comedia on both sides of the Atlantic.

Laura Muñoz

Diversifying the Classics Visits UC Riverside

On April 24th, from 1:00-3:00PM, we will be taking our show on the road. Destination: UC Riverside.

 

One of the goals of Diversifying the Classics is to share the scholarly work that we conduct during our translation meetings at UCLA with the larger Los Angeles community, to engage in a meaningful dialogue with students, actors, and theatergoers attracted by the endless possibilities of Hispanic Golden Age plays. Last year we presented our work at two workshops: the first, in November 2016, at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (in Pasadena), and the second in May 2017 at Cal Poly Pomona.

 

This April we will visit UC Riverside, where Dr. Erith Jaffe-Berg, Chair of the Department of Theater, Film & Digital Production, is organizing an event that will allow us to share our work with the Latino/a Play Project. The LPP is a student-driven group that puts on a play or reading every quarter, performing on campus as well as at the Barbara and Art Culver Center in Downtown Riverside. Dr. Jaffe-Berg is the group’s faculty advisor for the academic year, and has proved invaluable in creating a connection between our initiative and LPP.

 

We look forward to introducing the students to the rich possibilities of Hispanic classical theater by discussing our recent translations. We will also share five or six previously translated monologues and dialogues with LPP members, who will in turn prepare and offer a brief reading of the pieces. The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session open to the entire audience.

 

We invite you to join us in what promises to be an engaging and interactive afternoon. Stay tuned for an update on the specific event location.

 

 

 

 

April 7 CMRS Symposium on Henry VIII and Calderón’s La cisma de Inglaterra

The Los Angeles Bilingual Foundation of the Arts is staging a classic of the Spanish Golden Age during April 13–22. In La cisma de Inglaterra, or The English Schism, Calderón de la Barca tells the story of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the English break with the Catholic church. While this rich drama of severed religious bonds and the dissolution of centuries of connection between England and Spain suggests comparison with Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, the English context also allows Calderón a dramatic space from which to advise King Philip IV of Spain against contemporary abuses of authority. Calderón’s complex political and psychological portrait invites audiences to reconsider England and Spain in the 17th century as well as the quest for power that continues to drive politics in our own time.

 

In preparation for this enticing theatrical event, the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the Asociación Internacional de Teatro Español y Novohispano de los Siglos de Oro (AITENSO) will host a symposium organized by Susana Hernández Araico of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Speakers will include Marta Albalá Pelegrín and Javier Patiño Loira of the Diversifying the Classics project, as well as other international scholars of Spanish Golden Age drama.

 

The full schedule, registration, and transportation information is available here: http://cmrs.ucla.edu/event/enrique-octavo-henry-viii-calderon-1627-la-comedia-y-la-corona-spanish-play-power/.

The Labyrinth of Desire at USC

Caridad Svich’s The Labyrinth of Desire, an adaptation of Lope de Vega’s La prueba de los ingenious will be performed at USC’s Scene Dock Theater from March 29-April 1. Directed by Denise Blasor, Labyrinth tells the story of Florela, who is abandoned by her fiancé when he sets off to win the heart of the beautiful Laura. Florela’s relentless and ingenious efforts to win back her beloved drive the plot of this romantic comedy, which subtly explores the broad range of emotions we feel when in love: delight, excitement, and vulnerability, as well as an irrational sense of infatuation, possessiveness, and jealousy.

 

Performance Dates & Times

 

Thursday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 31, at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 31, at 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 1, at 2:30 p.m.

 

Tickets

Tickets purchased in person at the USC Ticket Office: students, $8; faculty and staff, $8; seniors, $10; general public, $15.

Tickets purchased by phone of online are subject to an additional $2 per ticket fee and a $1 order fee over the entire order.

 

Parking

Discounted parking is available for $10. Please inform the gate officer you are attending a School of Dramatic Arts performance.

For more information, go to: https://dramaticarts.usc.edu/the-labyrinth-of-desire/

2018 Nuevo Siglo Drama Festival at The Chamizal National Memorial

The 2018 Nuevo Siglo Drama Festival will take place April 7-14, 2018 at The Chamizal National Memorial (El Paso, Texas).

 

This year’s festival will feature contemporary plays by Luis Valdez and Xavier Villanova as well as original versions and adaptations of classics by Lope de Vega, Calderon de la Barca, and Cervantes. This is a new direction for the festival, which has traditionally focused on Hispanic classical theater.

 

On Saturday, April 7, Los Actores, a company from El Paso will perform Luis Valdez’s Bernabé, a play about the personal and spiritual journey of a man who is widely believed to be crazy and suffers social marginalization in a small town in Mexico. Bernabés deep connections to his mother, the natural environment, and his Aztec ancestors accompany him on the way to the play’s dramatic conclusion.

 

On Sunday, April 8, the XIPE Colectivo Escénico of Puebla, Mexico will present Aquerón: The River of Tragedy, by Xavier Villanova. Featuring actresses Aline L. Bernal and Cinthia Pérez Navarro, and directed by Martín Balmaceda, Aquerón is an allusive and highly symbolic account of human migration from Mexico to the United States, which calls attention to questions of personal and cultural identity, social injustice, power and vulnerability.

 

Wednesday, April 11 will bring Nuevo Siglo’s first classic, Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño. Cuba’s Jazz Vilá Project, a company dedicated to encouraging youth interest in theater, will present Calderón’s timeless reflection on free will and predestination, the story of King Basilio, Segismundo—the son he has imprisoned—and the revolt that imperils a reign.

 

Another canonical favorite, Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna will be performed on Thursday, April 12 by Ciudad Juárez’s Telón de Arena theater company. In the words of Telón de Arena’s Perla de la Rosa, Lope’s famous meditation on despotism, justice, and solidarity is as relevant as ever in today’s Mexico, a “betrayed motherland,” where “the voices of the characters in this mythical town echo in the depths of our hearts.”

 

Rosaura, Paula Rodríguez and Sandra Arpa’s adaptation of Calderón’s Life is a Dream told from the point of view of its main female character, will be staged on Friday, April 13. Teatro Inverso, a Madrid company that aims at preserving Hispanic classical theater through modern interpretations, sees Rosaura, not Segismundo, as the driving force for change in the story, as she asserts herself in a patriarchal society. Using modern theatrical techniques, Rodríguez and Arpa actively engage audiences in Rosaura’s fight to right the wrongs she sees around her.

 

The festival will close on Saturday, April 14 with El Merolico: Entremeses Bululuados, performances by Mexican company EFE Tres Teatro of Miguel de Cervantes’ fast-paced entremeses, or comedic interludes. Combining the figures of the “merolico,” a typically Mexican kind of charlatan street merchant, and the “bululú,” a traditional figure in Hispanic theater who performs several roles in a one-man-show, EFE Tres will transport to modern-day Mexico three of Cervantes’ short works for the stage: “El Viejo celoso,” “El retablo de las maravillas,” and “La cueva de Salamanca.”

 

For more information, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/cham/planyourvisit/2018-siglo-festival.htm.

Love’s a Bitch at UVA

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching Dave Dalton’s Love’s a Bitch, an agile and very funny adaptation of Tirso de Molina’s Don Gil de las Calzas Verdes, at UVA: http://drama.virginia.edu/news/story/576

 

Dalton, an assistant professor of drama, has made a name for himself with adaptations of the classics, including a pro-wrestling-inspired version of Wagner’s Ring cycle and lively takes on Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore and Lope de Vega’s Dog in the Manger. In Love’s a Bitch, he combines freshness and humor with a keen eye for the stakes of the text.

 

Dalton pares away much of the bewildering complexity of Tirso’s play, but leaves enough of its whirlwind quality to keep the audience guessing about what will come next. From the very first scene, his adaptation has a kind of x-ray effect, peeling back the layers of the original to reveal its raw ideological and emotional core. Instead of a cross-dressed Juana relating her erotic travails to a servant, Dalton opens with a powerful scene of the runaway discovered by her father. Defying him, she forces him to give her his clothes and continues undaunted to Madrid to right her wrongs. And this is just the beginning!

 

The production’s pared-down scenery helped the audience focus on the language and characters, while the extravagant costumes, by Gweneth West, underscored the key connection between dress and identity in the play. The acting was strong across the board, with the two female leads, Mimi Robinson as Juana and Natalie Pernick as Inés, as real standouts.

 

In Dalton’s hands, the comedia is not only well served but hugely invigorated. Here’s to many more such adaptations and productions!

 

—Barbara Fuchs

A TALK ON “LOPE DE VEGA ON TELEVISION” BY ESTHER FERNÁNDEZ (RICE UNIVERSITY)

On November 28, Professor Esther Fernández of Rice University presented her research on “Lope de Vega en la televisión” in UCLA’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. As her subtitle (“del cartón piedra a la ciencia ficción”) suggests, Prof. Fernández is interested not only in how Lope-lovers have taken his plays from the stage to the screen, but in how the great playwright is being reinvented and repackaged for today’s public. Where TV audiences could once see faithful adaptations of Lope’s plays, they now see him appear as a character in inventive, modern stories about contemporary urban life, romantic intrigue, and, yes, science fiction. Behind this phenomenon, there lie important questions about the relationship between culture (and in particular literary classics) and politics, which Prof. Fernández also raises. To what extent do current efforts to popularize Golden Age literature still need to grapple with the Franco regime’s celebration of Golden Age literature? Do modern political attitudes explain the appeal of Lope de Vega relative to, say, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, who is generally constructed as conservative where Lope, the Phoenix, is associated with a bold individuality and daring independence of thought?

 

Prof. Fernández’s research is thought-provoking and full of fascinating examples from fifty years of television. We thank her for visiting us at UCLA!

 

Paul Cella.

UCLA DEPARTMENT OF THEATER PERFORMS STAGED READING OF LOPE DE VEGA’S THE WIDOW OF VALENCIA

On Wednesday, November 8th, MFA students in UCLA’s Department of Theater performed a staged reading of our translation of Lope de Vega’s The Widow of Valencia (La viuda Valenciana). The Widow and her servants, Julia and Urbán, were surrounded by a plethora of suitors, some more bumbling than others, in a comedia both daring and remarkably funny. Following his wonderful direction of A Wild Night in Toledo in 2015 and What We Owe Our Lies in 2016, Professor Michael Hackett once again led a talented cast of young actors, and delighted us (as well as the general public) with what has become the highlight of our year—a most satisfying culmination to our calendar, which begins in January with a new play and ends in the fall with this fruitful cross-campus encounter. With the input and insights of our friends in Theater, we begin each new project with more confidence in our ability to translate for performers and performance. We are grateful to the Arts Initiative Grant and the Center for 17th-and 18th-Century Studies for their support of our partnership.

 

We thank Michael Hackett and his students for a terrific show!

 

WORLD PREMIERE OF ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF WOMEN AND SERVANTS BY LOPE DE VEGA

From November 9-18, McMaster University’s School of the Arts will perform Women and Servants, a play by Spain’s great Renaissance dramatist Lope de Vega (see complete schedule and information below). Lost almost since its creation in 1613-14, and rediscovered only recently, in 2014, by Alejandro García-Reidy in Spain’s National Library, Women and Servants has never before been staged in English. Come see this witty, subversive comedy, where women and servants defy their masters—conspicuously absent from the title—as they affirm their freedom to live and love as they choose.

 

On Saturday, November 11, at 7pm, immediately before the 8pm performance, the play’s English translator, UCLA Professor Barbara Fuchs, will present “Love Knows No Master,” a discussion of the play’s challenging representations of personal autonomy, liberty in love, and the defiance of social norms. After the show, Professor Fuchs will join the cast and production team onstage for discussion.

 

Performance Schedule:

November 9 (Preview), 8pm

November 10-11, 8pm

November 15-18, 8pm

November 18, 2pm

 

Location: The Black Box

L.R. Wilson Hall

Price $20

$10 for students and seniors

 

Tickets available from Compass, or School of the Arts: (905) 525 9140 Ext. 27671

 

For more information on performances, visit: http://sota.humanities.mcmaster.ca/2017/11/01/women-and-servants/

 

For information on Barbara Fuchs’ lecture and discussion, see the poster below or visit: http://sota.humanities.mcmaster.ca/2017/11/07/love-knows-no-master-visiting-artist-lecture/

Women and Servants

Staged Reading of The Widow of Valencia

Join us on Wednesday, November 8th at 7:30PM for the staged reading of out working group’s latest translation, The Widow of Valencia.

 

 

Written by Lope de Vega between 1595 and 1599, this juicy play centers on the figure of Leonarda, a young widow, and her posse of suitors, who circle her house at all hours, hoping for a glance, a smile, or a kind gesture. Leonarda, however, is in love with Camilo, and in order to maintain the pious and reserved life that was expected of widows at the time, she devises a plan with her servants, Julia and Urbán, to lure him into her home. To add to the general sense of confusion, Lope sets the play in Valencia—one of the most vibrant and festive Spanish cities of the time—during Carnival, when amorality, chaos, and false identities were normalized and accepted.

 

Clever, compelling, and entertaining, The Widow of Valencia takes on universal themes of love, pride, and social standing, yet it remains unique in its daring portrait of intrigue and female sexuality. Directed by UCLA theater professor Michael Hackett, first year MFA students in the Acting and Directing Programs will bring Lope’s enthralling Golden Age characters to life.

The performance is free, but reservations are required. Please visit http://www.1718.ucla.edu/events/widow/

 

Jennifer L. Monti

widow poster