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Theatre presents 'The House of Bernarda Alba'

For director Rodrigo Núñez, three authors have stood the test of time in their portrayal of women: Euripides, Henrik Ibsen and Federico Garcia Lorca.

“These are the best playwrights in understanding the female world – even better than Shakespeare,” Núñez said.

Lorca’s classic look at women in 1930s Fascist Spain, The House of Bernarda Alba, comes to the University stage April 24-25 and May 1-3. Núñez, a visiting artist from Duoc Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, is directing the Theatre Department’s final show of the 2008-09 season.

In the play, the controlling Bernarda Alba orders an eight-year period of mourning after the death of her second husband. Jealousy emerges among Alba’s five sheltered daughters when the eldest is courted for her inheritance by the handsome Pepe el Romano.

Pepe is the protagonist of the play, but never appears on stage.

“If it wasn’t for Pepe Romano, none of the events of the play would’ve happened,” Nunez said. “(Lorca) places this man outside of the play, but he’s the main character in the plot. By doing that, he underlines and makes stronger the idea of the imprisonment of these women. It makes the world worse.

“This is a play that talks about a lack of freedom and what happens to a society when people are not free. What Lorca is telling us is when that happens, love cannot grow.”

Núñez has strived to make the play less dark and heavy than it is usually staged. Lorca, he said, wanted the play to be a “photographic documentary of life at the time.” Núñez’s desire to keep a sense of reality extends even to the supporting characters: Natalie Deboer, an 11-year-old from Horace Mann Elementary School in Binghamton, plays a child mourner.

The play does present some production challenges, Núñez said: There is an off-stage world that must be real and believable.

“What is going on off stage on the street is as important as what’s going on in the house,” Nunez said. “You have to deal with the two worlds. If you don’t have that, the play doesn’t work.”

And then there is the actual stage: It is crowded. As many as eight to nine cast members are on stage at a time, Núñez said.

Those eight to nine are part of an 18-member, all-female cast that includes Allie Henkel, Nicole Paap, Wendy Abels, Kerrin Hawkins and Rose-Emma Lunderman and Rebecca Baker.

“Working with women in acting makes things easier because they have more intuition,” Núñez said. “For acting, that’s important.”

All performances are in FA-Watters. The April 24-25 and May 1-2 shows start at 8 p.m.; the May 3 show starts at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14, general admission; $12, faculty/staff/seniors; $8 for students; and can be purchased by calling 777-ARTS or by visiting

Núñez, who was at the University as a graduate student from 2000-2002 and came back to direct West Side Story in 2007, will return to Chile this summer to continue directing. He hopes to return to the University in a year.

“You’re not going to get rid of me easily,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll be back again. I’m like Terminator.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08