May 12, 2003
Theater in five languages highlights spring productions
By Jennifer McNulty
One of the highlights of the busy spring theater season at UCSC is the
annual International Playhouse staging of short plays in their original
languages--Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.
A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is one of the
International Playhouse selections.
Don't worry if your linguistic talents aren't up to the challenge,
however. English supertitles accompany each piece, projected above the
stage on the proscenium.
This year's selection includes "stringent social commentary"
from Argentina and the court of Louis XIV in France (see program notes
The International Playhouse performances take place in the Cowell College
Dining Hall on Friday, May 16, at 8 p.m. and on Saturday, May 17, at
2:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.
Performed in the original languages by UCSC students, the plays are
directed, or written and directed, by lecturers in the UCSC Language
By performing in the language they are studying, students learn how
to express themselves more readily and develop confidence, said Miriam
Ellis, a lecturer in the French language program who has produced UCSC
performances in French since 1971. Three years ago, the event expanded
to include other languages.
"It's a tremendous pedagogic tool," said Ellis. "Students
learn about the cultures of other countries, they learn about movement
and gesture, and they open their imaginations to what they are capable
of doing. They learn things they never knew they could do before."
As a high school student, Ellis received a scholarship from the French
government to do theater and discovered "what a tremendous boon
theatrical performance was to getting an almost native command of the
All five pieces will be fully staged with sets and costumes. Although
students receive academic credit for the course that culminates in the
performances, instructors are working as volunteers, noted Ellis.
"This is a labor of great love by the language faculty,"
said Ellis. "It's a tremendous amount of work, and we're all very
tired, but it's really wonderful."
The International Playhouse is presented each year as a collaboration
of the Humanities Division, Cowell College, and the Language Program.
The selections are:
French: Une Soirée á Versailles (An evening
at Versailles) Directed by Miriam Ellis and featuring works by La
Fontaine, Mme de Sévigné, and Molière, the French
portion of the program includes a performance of the song "Plaisir
d'amour," the melody made famous by Elvis Presley in his adaptation,
"I Can't Help Falling in Love with You."
German: Rotkappchen (Red Riding Hood) A retelling of
the fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm, directed by Judith Harris-Frisk.
Spanish: El Hombre Que Se Convirtió en Perro (The Man Who
Became a Dog) by Osvaldo Dragún. Directed by Paco Ramirez,
this funny yet profound piece of social commentary describes what desperate
people will do to survive.
Chinese: "Cross Talk" and "Chinese Mime"
Written and directed by Jackie Ku, the comedy "Cross Talk"
showcases cultural differences that come between two students, while
the visually charming art of Chinese mime is featured in the second
Japanese: "Sweet Poison" from the Okura School. Director
Sakae Fujita's training in medieval Japanese theater is evident in the
costumes, movements, and sounds of the performers in this piece.
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