Oct. 30, 2014
Shakespeare Goes South of the Border with La Perdida
The drama of Shakespeare will merge with the Latino style of magical realism next month when The Catholic University of America Department of Drama presents La Perdida, a full-length musical directed by M.F.A. directing candidate Elena Velasco.
La Perdida will be performed in Callan Theatre, 2801 Harewood Road, N.E., Washington, D.C., Thursday and Friday, Nov. 20 and 21, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 22, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 23, at 2 p.m.
With a book and lyrics written by Kathleen Cahill and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, the play is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale set in pre-revolutionary Mexico in the early 20th century. It tells the story of a don who believes his pregnant wife has had an affair with his best friend. The actions he takes affect him and his newborn daughter for the rest of their lives.
Velasco, who is of Peruvian descent, graduated from Catholic University in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in drama. After working professionally in theatre for many years, she returned to CUA several years ago to continue her education. She is directing La Perdida as her thesis.
She said she chose the play because it was written by women and promotes multiculturalism. Because the play deals so heavily with themes of life and death in colonial Mexico, it ties in naturally with the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, a Mexican celebration in which families gather together to celebrate and pray for their loved ones who have died. The same skull imagery and masks associated with the holiday will be a part of the production.
“What I love about this play is how it explores the fascinating nature of life and death and how we respond to it in so many cultures, including the Mexican culture,” Velasco said. “In the Mexican and Latino culture, we really have a connection to our dead. Of course we are going to mourn our dead, but there is a celebration of their life and we believe they continue to live through us. And I think there’s a beauty there.”
Velasco said she also likes La Perdida for its blend of dance, drama, and music, including Mexican folk music. For her production, she incorporated elements from mime, acrobatics, and gymnastics. In uniquely challenging roles, two actors portraying the spirits of life and death remain nonverbal through the entire play, but crawl and climb all over the stage.
“I knew I wanted to do something that would be a fusion of various performance languages, so it would have to rely in some ways on those nontraditional communication styles rather than traditional verbal text,” Velasco said. “Musicals just naturally do that — infuse the world of music and the world of dance.”
Because of the play’s multicultural dimensions, it has attracted interest from the University’s Center for Global Education. The center will hold a special invitation-only performance of the play on Nov. 18 as part of its 2014 International Education Week. Guests will include representatives of a broad selection of embassies in Washington, D.C.
“Embassies have always been very strong partners in our work at Catholic University,” said Mario Ortiz, associate provost for international affairs and associate professor of Spanish. “This is a way of extending our gratitude and inviting them to campus and letting them enjoy a professional performance by our wonderful drama department.”
Velasco said she is pleased La Perdida is already opening the door to cross-cultural dialogue in this way. She said she also hopes that the show will inspire audiences to reflect on the concept of forgiveness, a major theme for the play.
“The don has a journey in this play,” she said. “He needs to forgive his friend for what he suspects, but more importantly in many ways, he needs to forgive himself. Until we can forgive ourselves for our past transgressions, we can’t move on and we see that with him.”
Tickets are $15 for general admission; $10 for seniors, CUA alumni, faculty, and staff; and $5 for students. For more information, visit drama.cua.edu or call 202-319-4000.