UC Riverside performs The Widow of Valencia - Diversifying the Classics
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UC Riverside performs The Widow of Valencia

By Aina Soley-Mateu

UC Riverside’s Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production recently staged La viuda valenciana by Lope de Vega, for the world premiere of Diversifying The Classic’s translation (The Widow of Valencia, which can be read here). The text, directed by Melanie Queponds, included a good deal of Spanish added back by Queponds, in collaboration with Diversifying the Classics, to create a “Spanglish” text that, while still comprehensible to modern anglophone audiences, doesn’t let anyone forget that the jokes they are laughing at were, in fact, written in Spanish more than 400 years ago.

Queponds first met Diversifying the Classics five years ago, in 2018, when we were invited to UC Riverside for a collaboration where theatre students read scenes and monologues translated by us. Five years later, this initial event had a spectacular payoff, in the production of The Widow of Valencia, performed from February 16 to February 25. Professor Kimberly Guerrero, Artistic Director for the Department, wrote in the program that diversifying the classics was, after all, “helping our students and audiences fall in love with plays and playwrights they may not have previously been familiar with.”

The story of a desirous widow who has a lover brought to her by night, on the condition that he must not see her and no one must know, never fails to surprise modern audiences. It reminds us that 17th-century women knew how to work around the constraints of “honor,” finding a way to be true to themselves while keeping up appearances. The cast, led by Renee Fagan as Leonarda and Aaron Martinez-Dueñas as Camilo, brilliantly brought the play to life as if the stage at Arts 113 were the streets of Valencia themselves. The marvelous set, designed by Kerry Jones, certainly helped achieve this effect. Rachel Millar and Jorge Santiago were impeccable as Julia and Urbán, Leonarda’s loyal and quick-witted servants; and of course, the play offered plenty of opportunities for Ryan Ansara, Kobe Darby and Pier Garma to show their comedic chops as the unfortunate trio of suitors Lisandro, Otón, and Valerio. The cast, crew, and creative team really showcased the charm of this carnivalesque play. All in all, the production was excellent, and we had a great time doing one of our favorite things: seeing one of our translations come to life!

For any readers who missed this show, the department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production will stage The Widow of Valencia online, on July 20, 2023. You can find more information about that and the rest of the season on their website.

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