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From left: Ariana Cook, David Lozano and Frida Espinosa-Muller of Cara Mia Theatre Company

Towards a Diverse Theatre

With its original adaptation of Lorca's Blood Wedding opening this week, Cara Mía Theatre Co. looks at the company's future, with a plan for more diversity.



published Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Photo: Mark Oristano/TheaterJones
From left: Ariana Cook, David Lozano and Frida Espinosa-Muller of Cara Mia Theatre Company

 

 

Dallas — An exciting and busy season lies ahead for Cara Mía Theatre Co, which marks its 20th anniversary this year. This season closes with a collaboration with the Dallas Theater Center, a play co-written by Cara Mía Artistic Director David Lozano and DTC’s Director of New Play Development, Lee Trull, a follow-up to Cara Mia’s 2012 play The Dreamers: A Bloodline. Before that, there’s a festival of three new plays in progress, created and performed by Cara Mía’s resident ensemble (as well as PrismCo), in the spring. And this week marks the opening of Lozano’s new adaptation of a seminal work of Spanish drama, Federico García Lorca’s Blood Wedding.

Blood Wedding is a Spanish folktale retold by surrealist poet and playwright Lorca, who was famously a member of Generación del 27, a collective of writers, poets, and artists living in Spain in the late 1920s. Lorca was one of many writers and poets who comprised the group; he was also rumored to be surrealist Salvador Dalí’s lover, which Dalí—who designed the sets for several of Lorca’s plays—later denied. Blood Wedding is the story of a bride who runs away with her lover, a married man, on her wedding day. The wedding party, led by the groom’s mother, hunts the couple down. The end result is tragedy mixed with heavy symbolism involving death as a mask-wearing beggar woman, and a sort of reinvented Greek chorus of woodcutters in the final act.

It’s a big undertaking for Cara Mía. And it also represents a sea change the theater is working toward. Fresh from a diversity and equity workshop with Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Lozano has a lot of heavy ideas about the future of the company and what their mission statement means going forward. For a theater that already focuses on the culture of the Latino and Chicano community, diversity doesn’t seem to be as hard to achieve for Cara Mía, but Lozano feels that is exactly where they are primed to give voice to an even wider base of people.

Photo: Cara Mia Theatre Co.
Blood Wedding

“Traditionally, the Chicano movement has been heavily male-dominated,” he says. “We want to give importance to the voices of women, those that don’t conform to a binary gender identity, transgender people. We want to represent the voices of the marginalized.”

So, why a story about a wedding in which everyone dies?

“Because it’s about liberation, happiness, the freedom of men and women,” he says. “There’s not too much theory and concept to it, we stuck to the text.”

Lozano’s dynamic wife, Frida Espinosa-Müller, actress and Cara Mía ensemble member chimes in: “It’s about fear!”

“This mother is so afraid of her son dying, but she must maintain the good behavior of a proper woman,” she says. “[The mother] says, ‘Curse all weapons and anything that can kill a man.’ She asks how we can keep building a thing that can take the life of a man—a bull—this thing that kills. To say that back then is very forward thinking.”

Lozano says part of the reason for choosing this play now is that Lorca was a political playwright, something that interests the Cara Mía ensemble.

“Lorca was a gay man in fascist Spain. His voice was silenced,” Lozano says. “The bride in the play, she’s too strong for that. She runs away. They are all seeking their version of happiness.”

Lorca was ultimately murdered by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.

“It’s very elemental, primal, the moon is very important, nature is very important,” adds Espinosa- Müller, noting that there was no other voice Lorca could have taken but that of the oppressed woman. “It was revolutionary.”

The third act of the play takes a very different turn. There is the literal presence of Death that takes the form of an old woman and a chorus of woodcutters. For this, Lozano found a connection in the folk music of resident composer S-Ankh Rasa’s village in Africa. The Laube, as Lozano describes, are a group of woodcutters in the village. Before they enter the forest they must pray for permission to cut down the trees.

“They must harmonize with the spirits,” says Lozano, “It is not just a conversation—it is a ritualistic function.”

So how do they plan to keep it simple with all this symbolism? “It is difficult to play metaphor,” Lozano says, “At the root this is a folktale, we want to discover the essence of it without imposing anything on it.”

Lozano has a mind to play Blood Wedding as it reads; he did not look to the surrealists of Lorca’s generation for inspiration. He isn’t actually convinced himself that Lorca was a surrealist. “We didn’t look at Dalí or [filmmaker Luis] Buñuel. Lorca was trying to tell his story, I think. I’m not sure it mattered what the other artists were doing. I think he was motivated by that feeling of being trapped. He was using the voice of the woman because it was the safest way to do it at that time and place.”

Cara Mía did look at the landscape of Lorca’s region: dry, mountainous, forbidding—not to mention the socio-political landscape of the Spanish Civil War. It is not surprising that this group of artists found each other in such a time. These are necessary considerations when exploring this play. For instance, a 2000 production at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego famously shipped in tons of Spanish dirt, only to have to moderate it after a cloud of dust choked out the preview audiences. Lozano and Espinosa-Müller are interested in the story at the heart, what these characters are facing.

Espinosa-Müller, a native of Mexico City, has only been in the U.S. since 2004. She and Lozano met when Cara Mía traveled to Mexico City to visit the National Center for Arts in Mexico City. Espinosa-Müller is a highly trained actress with a specialty in physical theater, and has been involved with Cara Mía the longest of any of the current ensemble members. The company was founded in 1996, but for the middle part of the 2000s was on hiatus. In 2009 the company made a triumphant return with the original work Crystal City 1969. She is also skilled in mask work. Both of her grandfathers were actors in Mexico and one was even in a Buñuel film. Lozano is a Dallas native, and they value the different voice they each bring to the Latino theater community.

Photo: Armando Sebastian
An original painting by Armando Sebastian for Blood Wedding. The painting will be auctioned off at opening night on Sept. 21

“I didn’t even grow up speaking Spanish. I only learned once I met Frida!” he says. “My accent is terrible though.”

Espinosa-Müller, ever modest yet sly, smiles, “It’s not terrible.”

At this turning point the idea for Cara Mía is to become even more inclusive, to give even more voice to the community around them. Espinosa-Müller expounds on her own experience as an immigrant and the isolation she felt upon moving to America, “I felt like an outsider, like I was alienated. We started working with children and I began to see how they felt similar struggles just from being children. There is a relief and pride in knowing that it is ok to be who you are at your roots. The connector is love; there is strength in that community.”

Lozano has his sights set on stories that feature the marginalized members of any culture, not just Latino. “I want to get my hands on [Danai Gurira’s Broadway-bound play] Eclipsed as soon as it’s available. I was struck by the similarities that these people have with the Latino community, even though it’s set in Liberia. They are living through a civil war. It was so revealing to me to see those same struggles reflected in all kinds of different cultures.”

“We have a very diverse ensemble. We have members from Texas, Mexico, Africa, Orlando!,” Lozano says. “We have a mixed-race member, Ariana [Cook, Cara Mía ensemble member and Managing Director] is biracial. Her voice has been marginalized. It’s an important one.”

Keeping to their mission of representing the voices of the Latino community will still be the top priority, it will just become more inclusive, Lozano says, “We are embracing our responsibility to represent all cultures while staying true to the Latino voice. We want to embody the universal experience of having your voice silenced by a dominant culture.”

For Lozano this isn’t just about race, it’s about gender as well. Blood Wedding represents the oppressed female voice in many ways, says Lozano. “Not just the bride, but the wife of the married man, her voice is important. She wants to have a happy life and a family. That’s taken from her. The mother’s voice is important, too. She is motivated by what is expected of her.”

For every point Lozano makes, Espinosa-Müller has a counter or support for his statement. She jumps in to defend the men in the play, to discuss how they were also motivated by fear and expectation, “to be a soldier, to be strong and fight. The man is trying to find his freedom!”

It is an important dynamic that is necessary if Lozano wants to bring light to a nuanced female voice.

For now, Cara Mía is armed with a solid season, which opened in October with Virginia Grise’s blu, which had lesbian Latina characters, and lots of ideas about what diversity and inclusion truly mean. It is a good start to a new way of thinking about equity in theater. It is a dialogue Lozano hopes to continue sparking in the Dallas arts community.

A smart ensemble of like-minded artists and a brilliant partner are certainly a good start.

» Blood Wedding is directed by Lozano and the cast includes Adam Anderson, Andrew Aguilar, Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso, Jeffrey Colangelo, Lorena Davey, Shauna Davis, Caroline Dubberly, Espinosa-Müller, Rodney Garza, Ivan Jasso, Kristen Kelso, Amir Razavi and Lulu Ward. On opening night, Saturday, Nov. 21, an original painting by Armando Sebastian that was used for the show's poster will be auctioned off. Thanks For Reading





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Towards a Diverse Theatre
With its original adaptation of Lorca's Blood Wedding opening this week, Cara Mía Theatre Co. looks at the company's future, with a plan for more diversity.
by Katy Lemieux

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