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Diversifying the Classics: Translating for Performance

On May 2nd, 2017 we took our work to Cal Poly Pomona, where we held a workshop on theater and translation for performance that was attended by one hundred students, teachers, and professors from the College of Arts and Letters. The two-hour event, organized by Cal Poly Pomona Assistant Professor Marta Albalá Pelegrín, proved to be dynamic, informative, and engaging, as discussants and members of the audience interacted openly and had the pleasure of attending two dramatic readings of selected monologues by Bernardo Solano, Chair of the Department of Theater and New Dance, and theater professor Linda Bisesti.


The members of Diversifying the Classics: Translation for Performance prepared a booklet for the translation workshop that was available beforehand, so that students could work with it during the event. It contained original translations of two monologues from the early modern plays The Truth Can’t Be Trusted and One House, Many Complications, by Mexican playwrights Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Juan Ruiz de Alarcón. The group’s original translations faced Dakin Matthews’ translations of the same scenes. Several students in the audience had also prepared their own translations for the workshop as part of a class assignment, so that they could contribute to the discussion while acquiring a deeper understanding of the nuances of literary translation.


Professor Barbara Fuchs opened the workshop with a presentation on the Diversifying the Classics project. Jennifer Monti, Adrián Collado, and Robin Kello further contextualized the workshop by presenting on transatlantic Golden Age Theater, and Alarcón’s and Sor Juana’s plays, while Paul Cella and Laura Muñoz acted as discussants. The workshop familiarized the audience with Hispanic Golden Age Theater and the intricacies of translating for performance, and was met with enthusiasm and delight. The discussion was followed by a truly engaging and fascinating Q&A session moderated by two group members (Javier Patiño Loira and Marta Albalá Pelegrín).


Translating for Performance allowed us to bring our work to Cal Poly Pomona, share our passion and interest in Hispanic Golden Age Theater with students and professors, and ultimately captivate a modern-day audience with a small taste of the immense theatrical repertoire from Spain’s Golden Age of drama.



Jennifer L. Monti


Comedia Summers: New Award from the Pine Tree Foundation Supports Students and Translations



The Comedia in Translation and Performance working group recently received some fabulous news: the Pine Tree Foundation awarded Diversifying the Classics a grant that will allow us to complete the translation of two more Golden Age plays between now and the summer of 2018!


The funds will specifically support graduate students from the working group who will spend their summers editing, annotating, and writing introductions to plays that underwent draft translations during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years. These students will also prepare the plays for publication (in print and online) and for their debut performances in UCLA’s Department of Theater (a fall quarter tradition).


The first of these plays, which is currently being workshopped, is Lope de Vega’s The Widow from Valencia (La viuda valenciana, c. 1595-1600). The play begins with Leonarda rejecting a series of potential suitors in order to protect the freedom she gained with her husband’s death. But, when she discovers that disguise can offer its own freedoms, she engages in a clandestine affair from behind the protection of her veil. Lope presents us with a balancing act of visibility and invisibility, liberty and imprisonment in the pursuit of personal desires.


Thank you to the Pine Tree Foundation and to its director, Szilvia Szmuk-Tanenbaum—a passionate scholar and supporter of the Spanish Golden Age comedia—, for making our project possible!


Payton Phillips Quintanilla

About…Productions: Your Ticket to Seeing Spanish Classical Theater through a Social Justice Lens


About…Productions is a current partner in the “Classics in the Classroom” pilot project, a K-12 curriculum-building area of Diversifying the Classics. Co-founder and Producing Artistic Director of the company, Theresa Chavez and Teaching Artist Sayda Trujillo are collaborating with members of UCLA’s Comedia in Translation and Performance Working Group to develop a series of lesson plans using our translation of Guillén de Castro’s comedic play The Force of Habit (La fuerza de la costumbre, 1610). At the center of the play are siblings separated at birth, the brother raised by his mother wears robes and knows how to sew, the sword-wielding sister grew up with her father and is skilled in battle. As the plot unfolds, we’re faced with questions about gender identity and nature versus nurture, and power structures not just in a family unit but the broader social context.


About…Productions’ Chavez and Trujillo are experts in embodiment and dialogue exercises from the traditions of Agosto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed. TO traditions offer a guide to recognizing discrimination and marginalization faced by the disenfranchised and approaches to overcome social divisions, with steps to community building and resistance. To develop lessons for The Force of Habit, the company uses their model, Young Theaterworks (YT) program, a literacy-based theater residency for underserved, at-risk high school students, primarily in East L.A. Our graduate students are observing YT in the classroom and community spaces, learning about engagement with underserved students and arts-based educational tools. Lesson development for The Force of Habit with About…Productions has been an exciting opportunity to incorporate methods in theater arts to create safe spaces to talk about family dynamics, patriarchal social structures, and factors that contribute to forming and performing who we are. The working group will be providing open access (via its website) to all materials created from this initiative, so as to reach teaching artists, teachers and many more students nationwide.


Veronica Wilson



We are once again collaborating with the Department of Theater at UCLA to present a dramatic reading of the group’s most recent translation efforts, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón’s What We Owe Our Lies (Los empeños de un engaño).


What We Owe Our Lies (Los empeños de un engaño, c. 1621-25) depicts the efforts of two women, Leonor and Teodora, to pursue their love against the dictates of their brothers, who are trying to arrange reciprocal marriages for them. Occupying different floors of the same building, the two women are not particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of having their marriages arranged for them, and contend instead for the love of Don Diego de Luna, a stranger in town who ceaselessly roams up and down their street, attracting the attention of everyone in the neighborhood. Their amorous pursuits lead them into an intricate web of lies and obligations which pile up into seemingly insurmountable obstacles.


Under the direction of Michael Hackett, professor of Directing and Theater History, first year students from the MFA program will have the opportunity to practice their craft while engaging with the theatrical tradition of the Spanish comedia. For many of the students this will be a new experience. As it has always been the group’s aim to be a resource to the theatrical community, we will be involved in our capacity as translators and students of comedia in the rehearsals leading up to the performance. Part of what makes this collaboration so exciting is that members of the Working Group learn just as much about dramaturgy as the students learn about Golden Age Spanish theater. The opportunity to engage with practitioners is especially invaluable to us as translators, as it allows us to witness first-hand what works and what doesn’t on stage. Is a joke too obscure for an actor to pull off? Is the language clear as well as poetic? Does the staging make sense? These are all questions that can only really be answered in practice, and it is always a truly informative—not to mention fun!—experience to see practitioners at work.


We invite you to join us on Wednesday, November 2nd for what promises to be a night of laughter and fun. For more information on booking, please visit http://www.1718.ucla.edu/events/lies/


Laura Muñoz