Holyoke Actors Take to the Italian Stage
Photo: Ben Barnhart
left) Beth Wienert '04, Minelly Mercado '04, Sarah Cook
'05, and Reba (Rebecca) Short '02, in costume for their
roles in Strindberg's The Mother.
The Italian city of
Arezzo was once home to Renaissance masters of art and literature,
including the celebrated fresco painter Piero della Francesca
and the poet Francesco Petrarch, whose internationally popular
sonnets inspired the love sonnets of William Shakespeare and other
sixteenth-century English poets. Four Mount Holyoke students are
becoming part of Arezzo's cultural and artistic heritage as they
perform in the Festivale Internazionale del Teatro Corto
that began May 20 and continues through May 28.
which is sponsored by Arezzo's international school for the performing
arts Accademia Dell'Arte, is designed to be a meeting ground for
professional training schools and university and performing arts
departments. Along with Mount Holyoke, Rhodes College, Washington
and Lee University, the University of Texas at Austin, Trinity
College (Dublin, Ireland), and three Italian schools were selected
to participate in this year's event, which continues a twenty-one-year
tradition of a festival of one-act plays in Arezzo. Mount Holyoke's
students received funding from the Office of the President and
the Office of the Dean of the College.
Sarah Cook '05, Minelly
Mercado '04, Reba (Rebecca) Short '02, and Beth (Jeanne) Wienert
'04, are representing MHC under the direction of Alycia Smith-Howard,
visiting assistant professor and departmental coordinator of first-year
students in the Department of Theatre Arts. At the Teatro Petrarca,
a nineteenth-century opera house, they are presenting August Strindberg's
one-act play The Mother, which explores the relationships and
secrets among four nineteenth-century women and examines issues
of societal norms, sexuality, and class struggle.
On an outdoor stage
in the city's historic center, they will premiere Ophelia Machine,
an original play by Short, a theatre major and women's studies
minor who played Ophelia in MHC's April production of Hamlet.
Written in a dramaturgy class with Holger Teschke, visiting professor
of theatre arts, Short's ten-minute play is a response to Heiner
Müller's Hamlet Machine, which the senior describes as a
hopeless, depressing series of "angsty monologues" responding
to Shakespeare's Hamlet and World War II. Short says that Ophelia
Machine mimics Müller's style by using "angst-filled,
Courtney Love-esque language" but challenges Müller's
hopelessness by putting Ophelia on center stage and giving her
a chance to saymore clearly and concisely than she does
in Shakespeare's madness scenes"Get a grip and do something!"
The drama was one of eight chosen to receive the 2002 James Baldwin
Playwriting Award in the Word! festival sponsored by the Five
College Multicultural Theatre Committee.
will give our students opportunities to think beyond the theatrical
work they are involved in at Mount Holyoke and within the Five
Colleges," said Smith-Howard. "Artistically, they will
face the challenges of packing up a production and relocating
it in a space that is not their own. Socially, this experience
will test their abilities of diplomacy, tenacity, and collaboration,
as well as critical and creative thinking. This is an invaluable
learning opportunity to share and exchange visions and perspectives
within a different cultural context and artistic climate."
Smith-Howard hopes that Mount Holyoke's appearance at the festivale
might become a regular feature of the theatre department's program
and artistic life.
For Short, who has
never traveled abroad before, the opportunity is also a personal
adventure that came as a wonderful surprise just when she started
thinking about graduating and applying for jobs teaching community
theatre in the states. "I'm going to bring my résumé
and pass it out and see what happens," said Short before
departing. "Mount Holyoke has given me a really well-rounded
education in theatre, and I know I can do whatever is needed.
I'm supposed to come back August 19, but we'll see. . . . "