Program brings Spanish-language theater productions to Yale stage

The multidisciplinary Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies (CLAIS) presents the second in a new series of theatrical events — “El Monte Calvo” by Colombian playwright Jairo Aníbal Niño — on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2.

The play, performed in Spanish, is produced and directed by Spanish lector Barbara Safille and features faculty actors from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. It will be presented at 8 p.m. each evening at Jonathan Edwards College, 68 High St.

Known as the Latin American Theater Series, the new program both brings acclaimed Hispanic theatrical productions to the Yale campus and produces plays at Yale with students and faculty taking acting roles. The series premiered on Nov. 2 with a performance by a two-person theater group from Argentina.

With the launch of the new program — which also hosts visiting theater groups, critics, playwrights, and performers from Latin American countries — CLAIS aims to promote the vibrancy and diversity of Hispanic culture at Yale and beyond. The program is just one of an array of activities sponsored by the MacMillan Center-based council, including academic courses, cultural events, lectures, and scholarly research.

Supported by the Theater Studies program and faculty members from a variety of disciplines, the new program had its roots in a course called "Theater and Poetry Workshop" taught in the Spanish department by language lectors Safille and Sonia Valle. With CLAIS funding, Safille directed two plays in the workshop, including “La Hija Del Capitan,” a play by Ramón Del Valle-Inclán, which featured students as actors and faculty members playing many supporting roles, and “Retablo de la Verdad y La Mentira.”

“The purpose of the project is to demonstrate the relevance of Latin American theatrical tradition. Yale students will benefit in different ways: it will help them attain higher levels of proficiency in Spanish; and it will complement dramatic literature classes, contributing to a more profound knowledge of Hispanic culture,” write the program organizers — a group that includes Moira Fradinger of the Department of Comparative Literature, as well as Safille and Sonia Valle from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Jean Silk from CLAIS.

The Latin American Theater Series is also committed to integrating New Haven´s cultural diversity onstage “to better represent the international profile of our city,” say the organizers. Noting that bilingual performances in English and Spanish will reach multicultural audiences, they contend that the project will act as “a pedagogical extension” of Yale artistically, influencing the culture of the community beyond its walls. This, they say, is in keeping with an American theatrical tradition whereby “the best playwrights and most innovating companies emerged from academic institutions.”

The program organizers aim to stage their productions at local venues off campus — such as the Little Theater on Lincoln Street or the New Haven Green — and to perform at other institutions, like schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and parks, “targeting the most neglected segments of our community.”

The council also supports theater activities in collaboration with New Haven’s Sister Cities. Last year the council co-sponsored a theater forum workshop with the New Haven/León Sister City Project, which brought together 30 people from a broad spectrum of community organizations to learn theater techniques known as Forum Theater. Many participants are now using those techniques in their work in local hospitals, churches, and non-profit organizations, say organizers of the project. 

 

A delegation of some 25 women of all ages from New Haven’s newest Sister City — Tetlanohcan, Mexico — were recently in New Haven for another Forum Theater Project, presenting their plays “Sueños Perdidos” and “Mariposa Viajera” to local audiences. The plays, says Stephanie Bifolco, spokesperson for the Mexico Forum Theater project, dramatize issues that affect the women in their daily lives, including most notably the hardship of living in a community where many of the men have migrated to the north.

 

The third event in the series is a lecture by Cornell professor Debra A. Castillo who will talk about her work with Hispanic theater production at Cornell. The lecture will take place Thursday, March 28, at 5 p.m. For more information, contact Silk at jean.silk@yale.edu.