Diversifying the Classics | BLOG
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WORLD PREMIERE OF THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY BY HENRY ONG

 

The Blade of Jealousy, Henry Ong’s adaptation of Tirso de Molina’s La celosa de sí misma, will be playing at 7pm every Sunday from June 24th to August 26th, at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. Directed by Denise Blasor, Ong’s play dramatizes in modern-day Los Angeles Tirso’s exploration of how social circumstances affect self-identity and the capricious nature of love. Blade, first developed as part of the UCLA Golden Tongues initiative to adapt the comedia to contemporary LA, demonstrates the lasting relevance of the questions that the Spanish playwright explored four centuries ago.

 

Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA. 91423

 

For an interview with the playwright, https://better-lemons.com/featured/playwright-henry-ong-sharpens-his-blade-always-aiming-to-pay-it-forward/

 

For tickets, https://thebladeofjealousy.brownpapertickets.com
For theatre information: http://www.whitefiretheatre.com
Be sure to use discount code TBOJ.

ANNOUNCING LA ESCENA – LOS ANGELES’ FIRST HISPANIC CLASSICAL THEATER FESTIVAL

September 21-23, 2018 will bring LA ESCENA, Los Angeles’ first Hispanic classical theater festival, to the Greenway Court Theater (544 N. Fairfax).

 

Cutting-edge Mexican company EFE Tres will present Lope de Vega’s El príncipe inocente (The Innocent Prince), a meditation on political power and culpability reimagined as a dialogue in a prison cell, and El Merolico (The Mountebank), a reworking of Cervantes’ comic interludes as delivered by a traveling performer in small-town Mexico (in Spanish, with English subtitles).

 

Playwrights’ Arena will present the fourth Golden Tongues, brand-new comedia adaptations from LA playwrights in staged readings: Madhuri Shekar’s School for Witches, or Friendship Betrayed, based on María de Zayas’ La traición en la amistad; Janine Salinas Schoenberg’s Like/Share, a riff on Calderón’s Los cabellos de Absalón; and Michael Premsrirat’s La locura de los ángeles/The madness of angels, adapted from Lope de Vega’s Los locos de Valencia.

 

Sylvia Blush and Jean Carlo Yunen Arostegui will direct Women and Servants, Lope de Vega’s exploration of class, loyalty and desire in a very modern Madrid. The play, only recently rediscovered after 400 years, has been translated into English by UCLA Professor and LA Escena director Barbara Fuchs.

 

Schedule and ticketing information to follow. For inquiries, please write to LAEscena2018@gmail.com.

 

LA ESCENA is made possible by the UCLA Center for 17th– & 18th-Century Studies, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Center for European and Russian Studies, Latin American Institute, and Departments of Spanish and Portuguese and English, as well as by the generous support of UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

 

For more information and updates, follow us on Facebook (La Escena Festival), Instagram (@la_escena_festival), and Twitter (@LAescenaLA), and keep an eye out for our hashtags #diversifyingtheclassics and #laescenafestival

 

Coming Soon: 90 Monologues from Classical Spanish Theatre

While Shakespeare’s name is widely recognized, few outside of Spanish-speaking countries or the world of academic Hispanism are familiar with his Spanish near-contemporaries Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Yet many dimensions of Shakespeare’s plays (lovers’ struggles, mistaken identities, complex plots, witty servants, but also isolation, death, social and moral downfalls) appear also in Spain’s theatrical Golden Age, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which includes plays as compelling and rich as those by the British playwright. 90 Monologues from Classical Spanish Theatre features excerpts of plays written by both Spain’s best-known classical playwrights, and less familiar writers such as Guillén de Castro and Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, as well as the protofeminist nun and intellectual from New Spain (modern-day Mexico), Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

 

The book of monologues, forthcoming from Juan de la Cuesta in summer 2018, is part of Diversifying the Classics, a multi-pronged initiative directed by Barbara Fuchs at UCLA that aims at fostering awareness and appreciation of Hispanic classical theater among actors, students, academics, and theatregoers alike. The primary aim of this bilingual facing-page anthology is to offer material for actors who are interested in expanding beyond the traditional Shakespearean corpus, while also opening the doors to an immensely rich and relatively unexplored body of work.

 

The anthology includes a variety of excerpts ranging from comic to tragic, and featuring a number of different characters: kings and peasants, adolescents and elders, fathers, lovers, and buffoons. 90 Monologues from Classical Spanish Theatre also offers many monologues written for and about women, as they address issues that are as personal as they are universal—love, marriage, self-respect, jealousy, and intellectual equality among others. While in Elizabethan and Jacobean England female roles were played by boys or young men, in Golden Age Spain those roles were played by women, which impacted the plays and monologues written for them. Famous examples include the speech by Laurencia, the young peasant heroine of Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna, who vividly describes her kidnapping and berates the village men for their cowardice, and one by Hipólita, the young protagonist of Guillén de Castro’s The Force of Habit, who says goodbye to her sword after living as a man for twenty years.

 

Golden Age playwrights created immortal characters whose lives and psychologies resonate far beyond their time and to the present day. Their monologues are malleable and versatile, while the translations, though faithful to the original, steer clear of anachronisms and reflect the lightness of spoken English, bringing the characters and themes home for modern-day actors and audiences. 90 Monologues from Classical Spanish Theatre will provide today’s actors, students, and theatergoers with a compelling reason to look beyond Shakespeare as they explore the work of extraordinary Hispanic playwrights who have been in the shadows for far too long.

 

Jennifer L. Monti

Collaboration between UCLA and UC-Riverside

On April 24, Erith Jaffe-Berg, Professor and Chair of UC-Riverside’s Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production, and the Latino/a Play Project, a talented group of undergraduate actors and directors, hosted us in Riverside. We were treated to fabulous performances of scenes and monologues from Hispanic classical theater. Given the students’ excitement about the comedia, we encouraged them to explore the tradition further as they develop the personal repertoires they will carry with them as the next generation of theater practitioners.

 

Our visit was about celebrating the enthusiasm of scholars and actors for early modern Spanish theater and laying the foundation for future collaborations. As UC-Riverside’s LPP explores the classical corpus for future projects, we will look forward to helping them select a play that tackles the social and political issues they want to put on stage. We also look forward to possible collaborations to bring the comedia to Riverside schools.

 

We are thrilled to be working with Professor Jaffe-Berg and her students, and we congratulate them for the important work they do to promote Latino/a theater!

 

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