Mexican theatre class to put on homemade production

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Isabelle Tavares

When students walked into their first day of SN495, Mexican Theatre course, only half of them knew the extent they were going to get into the depths of Mexican theatre. The duration of the course consists of reading plays and learning about Mexican history, then putting on a production of their own.

The students will perform at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4 in West Science 2902 Lecture Room A.

“The first or second day of class we were told that we’re going to put on this production ‘whether you like it or not.’ It was in the syllabus but none of us expected it going in,” senior public relations major Timber Wolf said. “I didn’t think there was any acting, we all took it thinking we were going to read and learn about plays, but then he was like, ‘by the way, we’re going to put on a play for the Spanish department.’”

The class of 10 students read three Mexican plays and chose two that they wanted to
perform.

“Some people had no idea getting into the class that they’re performing,” professor and Language Department Head Tim Compton said. “I love how these students, most of whom haven’t performed before have taken this on. There’s a real feeling of accomplishment to step up before people they have never seen before, take on a character and project
their voice.”

“El Censo” and “El Viaje de los Cantores” were the two plays chosen by the students. “El Censo,” Spanish for “The Census,” is a comedy from 1945 detailing a family that runs an unregulated business out of their home, meanwhile they are being tracked down by the Mexican census for evading taxes. The play is a statement about the lack of trust between the Mexican government and its citizens, Wolf said. The second chosen play is a lot more serious.

“El Viaje de los Cantores,” or “The Journey of the Singers,” is the true story that tells of when 18 people died of asphyxiation in a train passing from Mexico to the United States.

“It’s really sad and a big contrast from El Censo, which will be played first. It’s been really crazy learning about what was going on and why people were willing to risk their lives so they could provide for their children,” Wolf said. “This seems really dark but I guess that’s the point.”

Compton provided students with adapted versions of play scripts to make the production more audience friendly for non-Spanish speakers, Wolf said. Students were told to pick parts and start reading. Compton decided that whomever had a larger role in the first play would have a smaller role in the second. Wolf said some people really took to the drama and
some didn’t.

“The challenge is to draw people out and get them to talk as if someone is at the back of the room, when that’s not really a part of their personality,” Compton said.

SN495 students spend about five or six hours a week reading, perfecting pronunciation and rehearsing, Wolf said. The class has “been really heavy on rehearsal” for this production in December. The students turned the play into something bigger than what it was intended to be.

“If we have to do it, we’re going to do it really well instead of looking like its something we’re forced to do,” Wolf said. “It has been really unconventional for class and we’ve gotten a lot of history of Mexico and Spain in doing this. There’s a lot of context to understand why this is so funny and it’s a really fun way to learn instead of getting talked at for an hour and 40 minutes.”

Compton said people should come to gain insight into Mexican history.

“Mexico is our neighbor and friend. The things that I see in the news is ridiculous, frankly. Mexicans are great people, and getting little glimpses into what mexicans live through is a great opportunity,” Compton said.

Wolf said that they have worked hard and are excited to share the production with people.

“It’s going to be a pretty great production. [It’s] only 10 students with the guidance of a professor working hard to make something so fantastic,” Wolf said. “We’ve all worked really hard to make it something people actually want to see.”

The production’s main audience is people in the Spanish department, but is free and open to the public, Compton said. Subtitles will be displayed on a screen behind the actors for those who don’t understand Spanish.

“My goal isn’t to make a fantastic performance that will stand for the ages, but to have a greater appreciation for
theatre,” Compton said.