Historical drama opens theater season
‘Fuente Ovejuna,’ Temple Theaters’ first production of 2004–05, tells of a peasant uprising in a Spanish town
Starring in Temple Theaters’ first production of the season, Fuente Ovejuna, are (from left) Evan Jonigkeit, a senior communications and theater major, as Frondoso; Austin Durant, a junior theater major, as Cmdr. Fernando Gomez de Guzman; and TaLena Bennett, a junior theater major, as Laurencia.
Temple Theaters will open its 2004–05 season on Thursday, Oct. 14, with Fuente Ovejuna, a living history lesson about a peasant rebellion in a 15th-century Spanish village of the same name.
The Temple production, directed by theater professor Daniel Kern with musical direction by guest designer and local composer Jay Ansil, runs through Oct. 23 at the Tomlinson Theater.
Written in 1612 by Lope de Vega, one of the geniuses of the Spanish Golden Age of Drama, this recent translation/adaptation by Adrian Mitchell with music by Paddy Cunneen was first produced by England’s Royal National Theatre.
“This play contains romance, songs, dancing and even comic elements, which are unique in a story that involves so many ‘tragic elements,’” said Kern, who, to prepare for the production, extensively researched the period in which the play takes place and also the period during which de Vega wrote it. “This [combination of conflicting elements] is the style that Lope de Vega is known for and hopefully part of its charm.”
The story centers on a small Spanish village ruled by a military tyrant. When the town mayor and his daughter are unfairly arrested, the village revolts and kills the despot and his men. A judge is called in to find out who is responsible for the treasonous act. But, even when tortured, the villagers refuse to confess. When asked who killed the commander, they repeatedly reply, “Fuente Ovejuna did it.” Unable to find the individuals responsible, the judge sends the villagers to face King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
The Temple production differs from other productions of the play in that Kern chose to keep all of the members of the ensemble — an astounding 28 actors in all — onstage at all times.
“When the actors are not actually ‘on stage,’ which is the raked platform on which the action takes place, they are standing or sitting off to the side watching,” Kern explained.
He described this method as similar to a “pageant play.” The idea, he said, is that the cast members are citizens of the village of Fuente Ovejuna in 1604, which is when the play was written, and they are re-enacting the events that took place in 1476.
Approaching the production in this way allowed costume designer Katherine O’Neill, a senior dual major in theater and Spanish, to use some artistic license as well.
“Because the design concept was far from naturalistic, revolving around a storytelling theme, I took an untraditional approach,” O’Neill noted. “Since the historic context is very important, I maintained the silhouette of the time period but used nontraditional, modern textures, including metallic paints, printed leather and bleached knits.”
Drawing upon a year she spent studying in Spain and after reading the play a dozen times — both in Spanish and English — O’Neill tackled the 30-plus costumes the production required.
“I drew upon my year in Spain to get an idea of the physical world of the play and the sense of pride Spaniards have for that period in history.
“It takes a lot of time to design a show with 30-plus costumes. My biggest obstacle has been sleep deprivation,” she added with a smile.
Other designers for the Temple Theaters production are guest designer Dirk Durossette, set, and second-year M.F.A. candidate in design Shon Causer, lighting.
- By Gina Carson