Amanda Muller Pino, left, Christina Catechis, Jake Wentlent and Anita Contreras Vegas, bottom, are part of the Theatre Department's production of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The show features students from both Binghamton University and Duoc Universidad Católica in Chile.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
A cultural collaboration on and off stage
April 25, 2013Tweet
It took little time for theater students from Binghamton University and Duoc Universidad Católica in Chile to become united as a cast after meeting in March.
“With (students from) the United States and Chile, it happens like this,” Theatre professor Tom Kremer said, clapping his hands loudly for effect. “We had a lunch together and people were shy with each other for about 10 minutes. That was it! I don’t know what the basis is for that magic, but it happens every single time.”
That “magic” and cast chemistry will be on display when students from both schools present a bilingual production of William Shakespeare’s classical farce “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The show will take at 8 p.m. April 26-27 and May 3-4 and at 2 p.m. May 5, in Watters Theater. Tickets are $14, general admission; $12, faculty/staff/seniors; and $8 for students (with ID). Students can see the show for $5 on opening night, but tickets must be purchased in person at the box office before 5:30 pm Friday, April 26. Faculty/staff will get the same discount on Saturday, May 4.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” co-directed by Kremer and Rodrigo Nunez (director of Duoc’s acting program), is the third production exchange between the schools. It follows “West Side Story” in 2007 (also co-directed by Kremer and Nunez) and “The Threepenny Opera” in 2009. After commencement, Kremer and a dozen Binghamton students from the show will travel to Santiago, Chile, and perform “Midsummer” there with the Duoc cast members in early June.
Even though “Midsummer” won’t contain supertitles like “West Side Story” and “The Threepenny Opera,” Kremer said audiences will understand the story.
“We are creating a play in two languages where no matter which language you speak, you will be able to follow the play,” he said.
Kremer and Nunez developed the concept of a bilingual “Midsummer” when Kremer was directing “GlenGarry Glen Ross” in Chile last summer.
“We have a philosophy: We decide to do a (production) and we don’t worry about how we are going to do it,” Kremer said of his collaborations with Nunez. “We go and make it work.”
“It is a comedy about love and youth, so for the age of the students, it works very well,” Nunez said.
Kremer turned to alumna Dallas DeFee ’09 to create the bilingual script that the joint cast used. DeFee, who received her master’s degree in 2012 from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, was familiar with the Binghamton-Duoc partnership. She not only had a role in “West Side Story,” but traveled to Chile to perform the second version, as well.
DeFee, who now is an actor/director based in London, began translating the Shakespeare script last fall.
“I had a lot of support from other actors,” she said during a visit to Binghamton in March. “There’s quite a pool of Spanish-speaking actors where I’m at now. I had many different readings, experiments and improvisations with these actors at different stages. It was invaluable help: They gave me the actor’s perspective and (insight into) how audience members would react.”
Adding another international element to an already successful cultural collaboration was exciting, DeFee said.
“I’m halfway around the world and still part of something that’s happening at my alma mater,” she said. “I had an amazing time as an undergraduate here and I support the department and like how it’s moving forward. I have a special place in my heart for this department. It makes me feel good to give back.”
The script was delivered a week before the Duoc entourage (Nunez, stage manager Valentina Videla Correa, 12 students and one alum) arrived on March 9. The bilingual project intrigued the Binghamton students.
“I was interested to see how (the show) would turn out,” said Katie Prew, an exchange student from Lancaster University in Great Britain who plays Helena. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Getting to work with new people is always fun,” said Jake Wentlent, who plays Bottom. “Since the show is in two languages, it’s exciting to see how the communication can work. And it really does work.”
Much of that communication was initially physical in nature, as movement is emphasized in the Chilean theater. The movement and physical training carries over to daily rehearsals there.
“You start with the body most of the time,” Nunez said. “Even if you are teaching an acting class, you start with the movement and move toward the acting.”
Carlos Sanchez-Elissalde, Duoc alum who plays Quince, agreed.
“Acting is my body, so I need that,” he said. “All of us need the stretching, jumping, screaming and fast movements. We need to be alive and full of energy.”
“Last semester, we staged ‘The Tempest,’” Nunez said. “We read the play once — and put the script aside. The actors stood onstage and did physical exercises. I was there just to see if something in their bodies could tell me something about the story of ‘The Tempest.’ It’s not just about studying the script.”
The physical training also helped break down language barriers, cast members said.
“In the beginning, it could be difficult because your partner was speaking another language,” said Duoc student Giordano Rossi Sara, who plays Lysander. “You have to be aware of the physical behavior and react to that physical language. On stage, there is another way to know the person and make the connection.
Developing a rapport on and off stage has been essential for the cast, said Kremer, who praised the members’ “eagerness to learn about each other and work with each other.”
“The strengths of this cast have to do with how well they get along,” he said. “Even though they don’t speak the same language, they are willing to go off together and work together outside of rehearsal. They can take an idea, go off stage while we’re working on something else and come up with new ideas. That is amazing.”
Having a lead role in an international partnership holds special meaning to students from both schools.
“It’s important to see that people who don’t necessarily have anything in common – other than we like to act – can meet, create a production in five weeks and end up liking each other,” Wentlent said.
“There are so many firsts for me,” Prew said. “I’m in America for the first time and I’ve managed to get a part in a production that is the first thing I’ve been involved in theater-wise. To be part of a bilingual production is exciting. I’m enjoying the process and meeting these great people.”
“I’m so happy for this production because it’s helping to make my school bigger and better,” Sanchez-Elissalde said. “Rodrigo and Tom are giving us the opportunity to get better as actors. We will never experience this anywhere else. It’s a great gift.”