Diversifying the Classics Visits CSUN
As part of our ongoing outreach to local universities, members of the Comedia in Translation and Performance Working Group visited Cal State Northridge in the spring to discuss our work and engage with students. Barbara Fuchs, Marta Albalá, Laura Muñoz, Javier Patiño, and Robin Kello presented to the Spanish class of Adrián Collado, also a member of the working group, on the history and varied initiatives of Diversifying the Classics. Because education in early modern drama is so often Shakespeare-centered, many of the students, though Spanish speakers, were not familiar with Hispanic classical theater. It was wonderful to share the vibrant tradition of the comedia and its broader social context.
Generous questions from the students then led into the core activity of the evening’s visit—performance. The students had previously prepared scenes from our translations, including The Force of Habit, Wild Night in Toledo, and The Widow of Valencia. A particular crowd pleaser was an early scene from The Force of Habit, in which Félix, raised by his mother to stitch and keep house, and his sister Hipólita, reared by her father to wield a sword, must suddenly conform to conventional gender roles. Touching on the performativity of gender—and who gets to decide how gender is performed—this scene dramatizes an issue of special contemporary importance and serves as an example of the continuing cultural relevance of the comedia. At CSUN, the performance highlighted both the pathos and humor of the scene.
The majority of the students in the class are native Spanish speakers and are bilingual in Spanish and English. Hosting bilingual conversations on early modern drama and promoting plays that are understudied to diverse university audiences, our working group engages with these plays as living texts that continue to delight audiences. The CSUN students were welcoming and excited to explore the comedia tradition, and we look forward to sharing our work and these plays with more California universities in the future.