From October 20-31, the Northeastern Department of Theatre presents the world premiere of a new translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s classic The House of Bernarda Alba by Associate Professor Antonio Ocampo-Guzman. Ocampo-Guzman also directs the production which features designs by faculty Janet Bobcean and Frances Nelson McSherry as well as award-winning guest artist Jeff Adelberg. More than 50 Northeastern students are involved in making the production.
Ocampo-Guzman, an actor, director, and educator, is originally from Bogotá, Colombia. He has been at Northeastern since 2007 and received tenure in 2013. Antonio trained as an actor with the Teatro Libre de Bogotá, and published La Libertad de la Voz Natural: el Método Linklater in 2010. Internationally, he has taught in Mexico, Catalunya, Ireland, Canada, Greece, Sweden, Panama, and Colombia.
Why did you choose to create a new translation of Lorca’s play?
Antonio: In 2006, I started to teach annually at the Estudio Corazza, a private acting studio in Madrid. Most of the actors were exploring Lorca. Hearing the text in Spanish was revelatory to me after years of working exclusively in English. The sounds brought me back to my adolescence, when I first discovered Lorca and theatre. On some level, these texts were the beginning of a process of integration for me: my two languages coming together at last in my artistic endeavors.
In 2009, I started preparations to direct Lorca’s play Blood Wedding here at Northeastern. Most of the translations available were very good, but unspeakable on a stage. I’ve often encountered this challenge: translations that are completely literal are good at conveying the anecdote of the story but seldom are as vital, as gut-wrenching as the original. It seemed that the clear next step in my bilingual theatre artist path was to tackle the translation. This was a deep experience for me. When the opportunity came along to direct a second Lorca for the department, the natural choice was to tackle the translation again. I find Spanish (Castilian, to be precise) to be rough – both in the combination of speech sounds, but also in the temperament of the people Lorca writes about. The main goal of my translation is to find some of that roughness in the way these people talk – something that is earthy, visceral, not pretty at all — and yet, utterly poetical as well.
How are the cast members responding to Lorca’s writing?
Antonio: At this stage of rehearsals, cast members are beginning to scratch the surface of the world that he has created on stage, a world that reflects the immensely complex world he lived in. The actresses often challenged by the roughness, coming, as many of them do, from a world that wants things to be reduced to niceties and politeness. Many find the anger easily, but they are struggling to find other layers under it, such as shame, sorrow, and desire. Hard though it is, I think Lorca’s play is very fertile ground for actor training – it is so demanding.
What has surprised you most during the rehearsal process?
Antonio: As we have investigated the themes of the play, the cast discussed how difficult, demeaning, and threatening the culture of misogyny, harassment, and abuse can still be today. The repression of female sensuality and sexuality happens throughout the globe, in varying degrees of intensity. The yearning to achieve self-fulfillment is, I imagine, something that young women across the globe face – look at Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai’s plight. And, the institutions that generate oppression are as alive now as they were in 1930s Spain. It is said that Lorca finished writing this play two months after his disappearance and suspected assassination, right before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Those who speak truth to power continue to give their lives for their ideals.
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