Hi there! My name is Tanner Walters, and I am the Assistant Director and Dramaturg for Loyola’s production of The House of Bernarda Alba.
The House of Bernada Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca is set in rural Spain in 1936, in the home of the formidable Bernarda Alba, who rules over her adult daughters with an iron fist. The sisters have just begun their eight-year period of mourning after the death of their father, and are told by their mother: “Pretend we bricked up all the doors and windows!” As you can imagine, problems arise — but I won’t spoil anything for you!
The play was written at the onset of the Spanish Civil War. This was a conflict between the conservative Nationalists (backed by rich landowners, the Catholic Church, and the military) and the Republic, supported by the poor, socialists, and intellectuals like Lorca. Though Bernarda Alba was finished before the war played out, the issues and tensions very much exist in the lives of the women in the play.
A unique part of working with a play in translation is that it gives us the opportunity to examine how other translators interpret the original Spanish. While we chose a translation written by Emily Mann, known for its simplicity and faithfulness to the original Spanish, we have been referencing a translation by David Hare. This, in addition to the Spanish, gives the actresses a chance to find different meanings and layers to the text. We’ve found that the understanding the choices made be different translators gives our actresses more specific choices that are supported by our translation.
Apart from the language itself, the Spanish culture itself adds another rich layer to the play. We have been working on immersing ourselves in this culture to add authenticity to the women in the show. We got the chance to speak to Loyola’s Jesuit music director, Father Charles, to get a brief Catholicism 101. He filled us in on Catholic rituals that would have been a part of their everyday lives, and thankfully made sure we were all doing the sign of the cross correctly.
We also had the opportunity to bring in Irma Suarez Ruiz, a talented Spanish flamenco dancer from the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, to teach our actresses a flamenco dance. This really let them tap into the Spanish sensuality that permeates the play. As our instructor said, “There’s no room for humility in Spanish dance!” Turns out, we have some natural flamenco dancers in the cast! Now, we have incorporated flamenco into the actresses’ daily warm-up.
Stay tuned for more updates from Andalusia! For tickets to the show, click here!