Holy Cross’ Bilingual Theatre Production Engages Campus in National Conversation

Fascism, misogyny, the patriarchy...'Fuente Ovejuna' takes on major issues that resonate with audiences across time and language
December 4th, 2017 by 


Led by the play's main protagonist and heroine, Laurencia, the women of "Fuente Ovejuna" rise up to take their village back from an oppressive commander in the 2017 fall theatre production. Photo by Patrick O'Connor

For Edward Isser, professor of theatre at the College of the Holy Cross, the choice of what show to produce this semester carried more weight than usual. On account of the current sociopolitical climate in the United States, Isser viewed the fall theatre production as a medium through which to engage the Holy Cross community in a national conversation.

“I felt (and continue to feel) that I have an obligation to respond to our contemporary situation as both a teacher and as an artist,” Isser shared. “I was blown away watching the women’s march on television and sat glued to the seat, thinking about my obligations and capacities (particularly as a man) to productively contribute to the movement.”

“Fuente Ovejuna,” a classic work of the Spanish Golden Age dating back to 1614, aptly met his requirements. The play tells a tale of oppression, resistance, and retribution in a small Spanish village terrorized by a dictatorial oppressor.

“The core issues of ‘Fuente Ovejuna’ — the relationship between patriarchy, misogyny, and a totalitarian mindset — are recurring constants in Western culture,” Isser explained. Despite these connections, Isser was driven to utilize his artistic freedom to adjust the historical setting of the play, but intentionally chose to steer clear of a contemporary one.

“The contemporary situation in America is so raw and divisive that a contemporary setting would not provide the distance necessary for critical reflection,” said Isser, who decided instead to set the play in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

The play, above all, was meant to be provocative, to push boundaries, and to perhaps even disturb.

The audience experienced the palpable fear of the play’s women as the commander and his soldiers moved from verbally objectifying the women to exploiting their power to subjugate them.

“I’ll have you one way or the other. No point in resisting,” the commander (played Andrew Farina ‘18) says Laurencia, the play’s main character (played by Emily Arancio ’20).

Audiences were confronted to consider: What are our individual and collective responsibilities in the face of fascism? Do we respond with action or do we remain passive?

The impact of the play’s action was also largely due to decisions made surrounding language. Isser — who doesn’t speak any Spanish himself — was captivated by the intensity of the play’s original Spanish verses, describing them as “inherently passionate and dramatic,” “expressive, evocative, and emotional.” It became clear early on that much would be lost if the play was fully translated into English, so Isser turned to the Spanish department who collaborated with him to develop a bilingual script.

The decision was an experiment and a risk.

After Isser had translated the play into modern English prose, it was up to Daniel Frost, associate professor of Spanish, and Helen Freear-Papio, director of the Foreign Language Assistants Program and lecturer of Spanish, to reintegrate Lope de Vega’s poetic verses of the 1600s — akin in stature to those of Shakespeare.

“Had we just chosen to translate what Ed had written into modern Spanish, in many ways it would have been much easier, but the magic of the Spanish would be lost,” says Freear-Papio.

This posed a major challenge was for the actors who had to not only master a language they did not speak, but also perform it convincingly.

The oppressive commander struts before the townspeople of

The oppressive commander struts before the townspeople of Fuente Ovejuna, flaunting his bravado and power. Photo by Patrick O’Connor

“The hardest part was transitioning between Spanish and English naturally and maintaining rhythm and character,” said Farina. “Spanish and English are two drastically different languages in terms of the way they sound, the way they are spoken, and the way they flow.”

Frost, Freear-Papio, and Helen Lokos, visiting associate professor of Spanish, worked with the actors individually, in groups, onstage and off over the six weeks of rehearsals.

“We focused on treating the words not as a poetic text to be recited, but rather as ideas and sentiments that the characters were conveying,” shared Frost, who explained that the vision was always to powerfully capture the challenges and humanity that is shared across time and languages.

In either language, the strength of the play’s women was undeniable. While the men of the town remained passive and immobile, the women rise up to take matters into their own hands: “Let us march in the name of justice! Why let the men hem and haw over strategy when we are the ones who suffered? Our vengeance will strike fear into the hearts of men everywhere!”

“I think [‘Fuente Ovejuna’] is a good parable in that it explores the fact that these concepts and issues we’re dealing with aren’t new and the repercussions of that,” Nora Grimes ’19 was quoted saying in Worcester Magazine’s coverage of the production. “As a woman, I feel very empowered and I feel like I’m making a difference by doing this.”

“It gave me insight into the atrocities that were committed towards women for centuries because of the structure of society,” says Alif Kanji ’18, who saw the production. “The feminist undertones that emanated from the main character, Laurencia, showed the power women have when heard. It was encouraging that the school decided to put on this specific show in the midst of this political climate.”

| More

 

Comments (1)
  1. Dhalia says:

    I’ve just yesterday read about this on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuenteovejuna), and now a friend shares this article on FB. Can’t be a coincidence!

12/04/18 Holy Cross Religious Studies Professor Is Sought-After Expert on New Religious Movements
11/30/18 Holy Cross Earns High Marks for Dining Services
11/30/18 Holy Cross Classics Professor Discusses Evolving Military Rations With HISTORY
11/20/18 Holy Cross Professor’s Caffeine Research Highlighted in the Media
See All

The Newar Craftsmen of Kathmandu Valley: Objects of Devotion from Nepal
12/10/2018
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
James A. Giambrone, an independent scholar and long-time resident of...
See More >>


The Newar Craftsmen of Kathmandu Valley: Objects of Devotion from Nepal
12/11/2018
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
James A. Giambrone, an independent scholar and long-time resident of...
See More >>


The Newar Craftsmen of Kathmandu Valley: Objects of Devotion from Nepal
12/12/2018
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
James A. Giambrone, an independent scholar and long-time resident of...
See More >>


The Newar Craftsmen of Kathmandu Valley: Objects of Devotion from Nepal
12/13/2018
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
James A. Giambrone, an independent scholar and long-time resident of...
See More >>


The Newar Craftsmen of Kathmandu Valley: Objects of Devotion from Nepal
12/14/2018
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
James A. Giambrone, an independent scholar and long-time resident of...
See More >>


The Newar Craftsmen of Kathmandu Valley: Objects of Devotion from Nepal
12/15/2018
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
James A. Giambrone, an independent scholar and long-time resident of...
See More >>


Multi-faith Community Prayer Day
1/21/2019
Featured
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
Multi-Faith Prayer Service, Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
1/28/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
Open to the Public
See More >>


MLK Book Read: Session 1
1/28/2019
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
We are excited to announce the fourth annual MLK Winter...
See More >>


Crusader Internship Fund Orientation Session
1/28/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 409
Come to the Crusader Internship Fund Orientation to learn all the details...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
1/28/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
1/29/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


MLK Book Read: Session 2
1/29/2019
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
We are excited to announce the fourth annual MLK Winter...
See More >>


MLK Book Read: Session 3
1/30/2019
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
We are excited to announce the fourth annual MLK Winter...
See More >>


Crusader Internship Fund Wait List Info Session
1/30/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
1/30/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Little Women
1/31/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little Women Book by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


Lecture: Speaker - Jill Lepore
1/31/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Ballroom & 328
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
1/31/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Little Women
2/1/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little Women Book by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


Little Women
2/2/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little Women Book by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


Little Women
2/3/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


MLK Book Read: Session 4
2/4/2019
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
We are excited to announce the fourth annual MLK Winter...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
2/4/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
2/5/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Crusader Internship Fund Orientation Session
2/5/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 403
Come to the Crusader Internship Fund Orientation to learn all the details...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
2/6/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Little Women
2/7/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little Women Book by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
2/7/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Little Women
2/8/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little Women Book by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


Little Women: The Musical
2/8/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the...
See More >>


Little Women
2/9/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little Women Book by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


Little Women
2/10/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Little WomenBook by Allan Knee, based on the novel by Louisa May AlcottMusic...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
2/11/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Faculty Conversation Series-175th Anniversary
2/13/2019
175th Anniversary
Dinand Library Faculty Room
Subject: Mentoring: Spiritual Director as Model/MetaphorFaculty Conversation...
See More >>


Mimecast Info Table
2/19/2019
Center for Career Development Open to Campus Community Only Categories: Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 5
Stop by the Mimecast Info Table speak to representatives...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
2/25/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Lecture: Samuel Moyn on the Christian Invention of Human Dignity
2/26/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Samuel Moyn, professor of law and history at Yale University,...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
3/11/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting
3/11/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


The Living Museum Exhibit
3/12/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


Faculty Conversation Series-175th Anniversary
3/14/2019
175th Anniversary
Dinand Library Faculty Room
Subject: EloquenceFaculty Conversation Series on Ignatian Pedagogy. The...
See More >>


Holy Cross College Choir Concert
3/15/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
The Holy Cross Choirs are back from their tour down the East...
See More >>


Organ concert - Benjamin Alard
3/17/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Benjamin Alard, OrganistChurch: Saint-Louis-en-Île,...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
3/25/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting
3/25/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


175th Jesuits and Music Concert
3/29/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Many Holy Cross musical ensembles and performers will join...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/1/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


53rd Annual Hanify-Howland Lecture
4/2/2019
Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture
Holy Cross Campus
The 53rd annual Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture will be held April 2, 2019 in the...
See More >>


Science Engineering & Technology Networking Night
4/2/2019
Mathematics and Computer Science
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/2/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/3/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/6/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/8/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/8/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/9/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/9/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/10/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/10/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/11/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/13/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
O'Neil Hall 112
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 154
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Haberlin Hall 219
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to the Public
See More >>


Holy Cross College Choir Concert
4/27/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Giacomo Carissimi was the first great composer of oratorios,...
See More >>


Chapel Artist Series Organ Concert - Pavel Kohout
4/28/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Pavel Kohout, OrganistInternational Concert Organist, Prague,...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/29/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Dance Concert
5/1/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Dance ConcertMay 1 at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PMFenwick Theatre – 2nd...
See More >>


175th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt
5/17/2019
Featured Employee
Outdoor starting at Hogan
This Scavenger Hunt is being put on by the Mission and Identity Subcommittee...
See More >>

See All