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Honor and desire duel in next play for the School of Theatre and Dance

Production poster artwork depicting a woman peaking from behind a curtain.

The House of Bernarda Alba opens Friday, October 4, 2019

The School of Theatre and Dance will produce Federico García Lorca’s final play, The House of Bernarda Alba, in an adaptation by renowned American playwright and director Emily Mann. The production features an all-female cast and principal design team. Director Robert Quinlan chose this version because it “beautifully captures the tension between the characters and the subtext bubbling underneath the dialogue. Mann also tightens the story and moves the play towards its climax in a thrilling way.”

Lorca completed the play just two months before he was executed by firing squad in the early weeks of the Spanish Civil War. Because he was perceived as an enemy of the Franco regime, Lorca’s works were banned in Spain until 1953. Quinlan argues that the play’s themes touch upon topics still relevant to contemporary audiences. “It is, at its core, an indictment of tyranny. In particular, the play looks at a world in which the rules governing women are oppressive and unjust.” Quinlan also notes that the story exhibits a “particular resonance in the era of #metoo when we are examining the power structures that exclude or oppress women.” The play drives home the reality that attempting to navigate these structures can ultimately have disastrous implications, and that those with power in such structures will defend them at all costs.

The production design embraces both abstraction and surrealism, rooted in the vivid imagery of Lorca’s dialogue. Lorca was a key figure in the Spanish avant-garde of the late 1920s and 1930s, working with artists such as Salvador Dalí, who designed the scenery for Lorca’s second play, Mariana Pineda, in 1927. The House of Bernarda Alba belongs to a trilogy that has become the playwright’s most famous titles, including also Yerma and Blood Wedding.

The play begins in the courtyard of the tyrannical Matron Bernarda Alba after the death of her second husband. Bernarda seeks to impose an 8-year period of mourning upon all five of her daughters. Angustias, the eldest and sole child from Bernarda’s first marriage, seeks to escape by marrying the village heartthrob, who is attracted by Angustias’ large inheritance. But the other sisters, bereft of a father and with little inheritance, harbor deep passions for the man as well. Lorca once described theatre as “poetry that rises from the book and becomes human enough to talk and shout, weep and despair.” This wellspring of conflict in Bernarda Alba’s home produces a poetry that does indeed shout, weep, and despair.

The House of Bernarda Alba will be presented at Westhoff Theatre on the campus of Illinois State University on October 4, 5, 8–12 at 7:30 p.m. and October 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through the Center for the Performing Arts Box Office, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. in person or by phone at (309) 438-2535, and online through Ticketmaster. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. A special alumni price of $8 is available for performances during Family Weekend October 4, 5, and 6. Following the Saturday, October 5, performance, the School of Theatre and Dance will host a talkback as an opportunity to speak on topics relating to the production. Free performance parking is available in the School Street Parking Deck in spots 250 and above, at 400 W. Beaufort Street in Normal.

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