Theatre Language

El Laurel Lantern

A voice soars over the dark silence, piercing through the musty summer air; calling to be heard, announcing new beginnings with an upturned palm.

The other hand holds her skirt, gathered at her hip, the patchwork rags and neutral muslin already in sway.

Then the castanets begin.

The lights turn warm on her face, illuminating the whole stage. White to orange, yellows and golds, she begins to glow as the music builds.

In a tight-knit circle, eyes focused to center, all surround, gathering their energy and rhythm, clapping in time and answering in kind.

Sea Norabuena
Norabuena Sea!

 

My summer months have been filled with the tale of Daphne, Apollo and Cupid, choreographing an original piece for Repertorio Espanol, here in New York City.

El Laurel de Apolo is a Zarzuela:

“a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance.”

We have taken a script from the 17th century and added original contemporary music, and modern design and choreographic elements to bring this story to audiences at this historic Manhattan theatre.

The piece is all in high Spanish verse with English subtitles.

I don’t speak Spanish.

Well, maybe un poco.

 

When I was interviewed by the director for the job, I was taken by her energy and her vision for the piece, tying in elements of consumption, feminism, and politics. I loved her design inspiration and attention to detail.

But, what I really resonated with was her desire for collaboration.

Our first company rehearsal was a Meet and Greet in the director’s apt, complete with pasta, laughter, and introductions. The cast all brought research they had done on their characters and from the very beginning, a common thread was formed, and a common engagement.

Over cookies and fruit, I met the creative team, and soon we were throwing out ideas for Daphne’s transformation into a tree. The set designer brought out sketches, and the lighting designer added in color inspiration.

I could feel my excitement rise, as our voices joined for the new vision.

This is the kind of art I love. One made from many.

 

As I threw out my earnest attempts at connection during rehearsal, the cast and team smiled with encouragement, playfully teasing my pronunciation:

Gracias
De nada
Adios
Principio!
Como Estas?

While the cast taught me some new words, I found myself humming a song from my childhood, a tune I sang when I lived in Clovis, New Mexico, one I had forgotten:

Adios Hasta Manana
Adios Hasta Manana
Adios Hasta Manana
Adios adios adios!

I learned to speak in the small English village of Wheatley, but the first foreign language I heard was Spanish.

In between my Barbies and running through the summer sprinkler, I sang this song, a four year old bounding to her sandbox, and playing in the Southwestern American sun.

There was no awareness of separation, just the words pouring out in song, in fun. These were just other words to say the same thing, in a different way.

And now, I stood before a script and music score all in Spanish and created a physical story to be understood regardless of language.

A return to childhood.

A return for us all.

 

I sit in the theatre as the lights dim, dressed in silk and heels, my rehearsal pants hanging in my closet at home. Before me, the Nymph Iris walks downstage to a mic, holding her guitar, and posed for the first chord.

I see the director, the lighting designer, set designer, costume designer, composer, and stage management team; their faces towards the stage, awaiting the first note.

The subtitles light up in my view, but I know the story now.

No translation needed.

This language makes perfect sense.

Titiriti

The Wealthy Artist

Wealthy Spring Bloom

I have a vision.

I have a wish.

It includes you, and all who hear music and exhale. Those who see a blank page and fill it with curving pencil scrawl, those that look at a song and see a story, in chords and looping clefs.

It includes that bright yellow moment when the mind quiets and all that courses is simple creation.

It involves hands holding backs, weaving in support, the palms spread in gentle warmth, shoulders touching in a circle,  open just at the end so any can enter, and possibility is endless.

Colored in green.

 

But, it was not always so.

For a long time, the sprouts wouldn’t grow, drying in the soil, turning yellow then black.  They would shrivel in thirst, and then fall over to be picked and thrown away.  They longed for sunlight, but were held in the shade.

I thought it was safer there.  I thought I could control from there.

Have you felt this too?

 

One day, the sun shone in a new direction and I burned to ash in its glow.  The thirst was so great, I dove into the water and found freedom as I floated unattached to the comfort I believed I needed before.

And when I emerged, my roots lengthened and I saw for the first time my hands turn to sweet leaves, regardless of the shade or light.  I stretched my legs long, flexing my toes in powerful speech, forming chapters from my open palms.

This was when the vision occurred.

Maybe I wasn’t alone.

 

I have a wish for you, unfolding as the day begins.  It’s overflowing, clinking with treasured coins, cascading in golden streams.

Come out of the shade, and feel this Spring on your face, the flush of blood rushing as you take my hand, and simply say,

“Yes”

 

Come join in my vision.  I’ve created something so special, a community ready to lift you up. 

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