Staged Reading of Calderón de la Barca’s To Love Beyond Death
On Wednesday, November 7th, MFA students in UCLA’s Department of Theater
performed a staged reading of our translation of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s To Love Beyond Death (Amar después de la muerte). Under the direction of Professor Michael Hackett, this talented cast of young actors brought to life the story of Don Álvaro Tuzaní and his star-crossed love Doña Clara Malec, two Moriscos torn apart by the violence and greed of war. It was a night of firsts for us: To Love is our first tragedy, our first historical play, and our first time tackling the famously baroque language of Calderón de la Barca. It was also the first time this yearly staged reading included music as a key component of the performance, as music evocative of Spain’s Andalusi heritage wsas played to resurrect the culture which is so threatened in the play, and drums of war —played to great effect by Professor Hackett himself— resounded throughout scenes of violence and destruction.
This is the fourth year that we have been fortunate enough to collaborate with our colleagues in Theater, and it was perhaps our most challenging project to date. As translators and scholars of comedia, we are often aware of the profound resonance these plays have for our contemporary society, but To Love presented us all with higher stakes than previous performances. The play deals with tragic loss of culture, political suppression, and violence based on ethnic difference, so it was more important than ever to have the conversations necessary to do the story justice as we prepared the stage reading. We are immensely grateful to director Michael Hackett and his cast of first-year MFA students, as well as their supporting cast of first-year theater undergraduates, for all of their comments, questions, and most especially for raising concerns about how to approach a play which is as difficult as it is important.