2016 de Miguel Magro
... And now, what?
Considering that I have no real data to analyze, I will use this opportunity t…
And now, what?
Considering that I have no real data to analyze, I will use this opportunity to think about the following: Is there a use for translation in a theater course? And if so, how should we approach translation to make it meaningful to students? Can translation help bridge some of the barriers students encounter when reading “old stuff”? After considering translation as a teaching tool in general, I would like to focus on the use of translation in a theater course in which students have to both translate and adapt a text for performance. Finally, I will present the challenges and learning opportunities of translating Juan Rana entremeses, which are packed with double meaning expressions and jokes of sexual nature that make them particularly difficult to be translated.
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One of the techniques I have explored (only with grad students up to now) is to flip the common order of readings. For some reason, most syllabi for Golden Age theater start with Arte nuevo de hacer comedias, followed by several comedias, and on the last couple of weeks we introduce short genres (entremeses, for the most part). What about doing it the other way around? Why not start with the shorter pieces? They are, after all, shorter. They have fewer characters, and, if properly chosen, one single plot line requiring very little background knowledge. Students, who for the most part have never before read a theatrical text in a foreign language (often not even on their own), feel less intimidated by El juez de los divorcios or El retrato de Juan Rana than by El perro del hortelano. Even El gran teatro del mundo can be more accessible. And, personally, I believe there is no point in going over Arte nuevo, before they have read several comedias.
Once I decided to start with the short pieces, a new opportunity opened. If they read at the beginning of the semester a collection of entremeses, it is then possible to develop a semester long project based on a short piece. It should be a project that will require students to fully immerse themselves in the text. I looked at my own experience, what kinds of projects have made me understand a text better, and 3 activities came to mind: first, performance, (all I can remember of my undergrad class on Golden Age theater is that we performed La cueva de Salamanca), second, creating an annotated edition, and finally translating. So, the basic idea would be for students to work through out the semester on one entremés, first annotating, then translating, then adapting, and finally performing. Although I initially considered giving student the option to pick any piece, I then came to the conclusion than having all groups working on pieces that share many common elements would make it easier for everyone, and we could have more peer-review input. Rather than picking an author or a subgenre, I settle for Juan Rana entremeses for many reasons.
Cosme Pérez is arguably the best-known actor of 17th century Spain. According to reports of his time, his mere appearance on the stage made people laugh. He acted almost exclusively in short burlesque plays using the name of Juan Rana. Juan Rana became his alter ego and many short plays were written just for him, often to be performed in the royal palace. In fact, he was a favorite of Felipe IV and Mariana de Austria, who often talk about him as a guest in their home. As a dramatic persona, Juan Rana was always stupid and very often effeminate, to the point that in one play, for example, he is pregnant. In many other cases, albeit as a result of a misunderstanding, he is trying to seduce or is being seduced by another man. Although all his plays are comic and no serious moral comment is ever made about his sexual orientation, Juan Rana is often insulted and beaten up for not being a “normal” man. In fact, in all the plays in which Juan Rana dresses up as a woman he is beaten up for, literally, not wearing the pants. In many occasions, he is chastised by his own wife for not acting like a man should, and he is then insulted by his friends because, as a husband, he should be the one hitting the woman. In a sense, Juan Rana became the scapegoat that channeled the fears of a society obsessed with controlling sexual conduct. But things are way more complex and interesting than this. Cosme Pérez, early in his career, was charged with sodomy. His close connections to powerful people allowed him to get out without any punishment, but his sexual condition became well known by everyone. Far from hiding it, Cosme and writers composing plays for him used the comic potential of his well-known homosexuality. Some obscure jokes even go as far as to point out to his arrest and how easily he got away. The double Cosme/Juan, which plays with the blurry barrier between reality and fiction, served as the perfect canvas to question other dichotomies: gay/straight, male/female, husband/wife, right/wrong, etc.
There is more written about Juan Rana than about any other actor, and he offers a magnificent point of entry into the theatrical world. He is also perfect to talk about the close relation between text and performance, and the challenges of adapting the classics. He also offers the possibility of analyzing the nature of translation itself. How could one translate and stage a play written for a particular actor? How do we convey the connection between the jokes and the life of Juan Rana, which all his contemporaries knew about, but not modern audiences? How do we translate jokes based solely on the double meaning of words in Spanish? And then, there is the crucial element of gender. Our perception of homosexuality and drag is so different from that of Early Modern audiences that one wonders if there is any way of closing the gap… or even if there is a need to attempt to close the gap. Should a translation for a performance merely reproduce the perception of gender in the period or translate it into our understanding? Is there anything in Juan Rana pertinent today? Can we or should we attempt to reproduce the emotions Juan Rana transmitted to his public?
is at time irreverent and
For those interested in teaching about gender in Golden Age theater, Juan Rana entremeses provide a great starting point of dialogue. El parto de Juan Rana is such a fabulous piece to talk about gender construction and sexual myths. In El parto, Juan Rana is an alcalde facing a trial in which he is charged with one account: “para hembra es mejor que para hombre.” Juan Rana acts like a woman, taking care of the house, following the orders of his wife, and, more importantly, he is pregnant. He is found guilty (his pregnancy is quite an irrefutable piece of evidence) and taken into the streets for public shaming. The play ends up with Juan Rana (who refers to himself using feminine pronouns and adjectives) giving birth to a full-grown Juan Ranilla who calls him “mamá.” Gender normativity and the relation between gender and sexuality is presented in such a direct way, that I find this piece a perfect example to introduce gender studies in the class. Once students acquire the basic terminology and concepts, it is easier to apply them to the analysis of more complex and less obvious pieces.
I have only read Juan Rana’s plays with graduate students up to this moment (most of mine are from Spain), so I have never had any problems discussing homosexuality and gender. I never had any doubt that my students share common core values such as: it is not acceptable to make fun of someone for being homosexual or women have the same rights as men. But, I have to confess, I am not sure this is going to go so smoothly with undergrads. I teach in West Virginia. I have students who come to class wearing confederate flag t-shirts. Frat-rape “just” happens. A non-insignificant number of students believes in Creationism. How to approach Juan Rana without turning the class into a battle or alienating some students? My hope is that the temporal and cultural gap will help avoid the initial negative reaction of those students who don’t even want to talk about gender. I also want to believe that translation, and the detail focus that comes with it, will help understand bias. It is not the same for a student to make homophobic comments with his friends, than to have to translate a homophobic joke, that is, to write it in paper, to have it read by a professor and commented by peers. Can translation be a tool for awareness?
Trans Moments, Physical Objects, and Psychological Approaches Hi Marissa – This is an outstanding project and assessment of how students interact with these texts. There is so much to talk about; I look forward to our discussion at the conference. Two things that jump out at me: 1) how gender is explored from the outside to inside, and 2) how material objects assist young actors in accessing trans or cross-dressed characters more so than psychological inquiry. Do you attribute this, in part, to theory that is either challenging to read for some (Butler) or nascent within the academy (trans studies)? Or is the external simply the first step in accessing gender play and trans identity for those who are unfamiliar? I would be curious to know if the approaches change as you work more with the students and/or as they work with these topics in contemporary, political, or American plays. Does the temporal and cultural distance from Golden Age theatre help or hinder this exploration?
Comments for Ben from Marissa
Comments for Ben from Marissa This is a fascinating idea, and I am excited to hear how it went. There is so much at stake here, …
Comments for Ben from Marissa This is a fascinating idea, and I am excited to hear how it went. There is so much at stake here, from the content of Cervantes’ subplot to the missing Shakespearean play, the questions you raise about transmission, subtext, and condensing a text, and the gender role changes in both actor and character that illuminate different ideas about the texts. My two areas of questions fall into 1) music and 2) format. I know with space constraints for our papers that you cannot address everything, but with all of the detail you offer about the dialogue, bilingualism, and translation, I am quite curious about music selection and timing within the show. Music is also dialogue, and can serve as a bridge between the Spanish and English and between the storylines. I also am curious about the wrestling match format. You mention that most of your actors are female. Wrestling is also a women’s sport, but it is professionally dominated by males. Why this type of competition? What does the physicality of the format have to do with the linguistic and cultural code-switching? How do you think the format influenced the outcomes regarding language and storyline?
Sundin's Response to Meadows
Sundin's Response to Meadows Thanks for this great paper. I am not familiar with these plays, and they seem a fascinating way t…
Sundin's Response to Meadows Thanks for this great paper. I am not familiar with these plays, and they seem a fascinating way to talk about gender in the classroom. Do you teach them along with gender/sexuality theory and/or teach a history of gender and sexual categories? I am curious to know more about Gila’s monstrosity, how she describes herself in the play versus how others describe her. You describe her mutilated body as key to the staging at the play’s end; are the bodies of the murdered men seen with as much detail or are male murdered bodies not shown at all? Ismenia’s body seems to transform more through clothing. Your paper got me curious about different types of exposition to describe the trans body and corporeality vs. material items to convey gender.
Trans Moments, Physical Objects, and Psychological Approaches Dear Ben, Thank you so much for your comments! What you have brought up has been wonderful insight for working with my students these weeks! I surely have some answers for your questions, and I will share them with everyone tomorrow. I am looking forward to our discussion!
... R2 Cervantes wrestled with Cardenio first,
in his novel Don Quixote,
... in 1605.
R2 Cervantes wrestled with Cardenio first,
in his novel Don Quixote,
In Don Quixote, Cardenio’s craziness
inspires the Man
ripping off his clothes,
bashing his head
writing wild and crazy love letters.
R1 Shakespeare wrestled with Cardenio next,
in his last play,
and called The History of Cardenio.
R2 His lost play, you should say.
And Shakespeare scholars are still fighting
about how much of Double Falsehood
or borrowed from one of Shakespeare’s collaborators.
R1 The point is, for centuries
have been wrestling for the title of World Champion Storyteller:
and Shakespeare in Double Falsehood.
Here, the title gets decided!
el Príncipe de los Ingenios del mundo.
R1 Their bones come to do battle in this ring –
who holds the title of …
R1, 2 World Champion Storyteller!
Early versions of Loco for Love put these perceptions about performance impact and dramatic structure – the subtext of the story – directly into acting text. Witness this exchange between Cervantes and Shakespeare, delivered just after the two authors have coached Loco for Love’s acting company through performing two very different introductions to Cardenio and his world. (I quote from TWAM’s draft of Round Two, dated 29 July 2016.)
R2 Damas y caballeros! Clack your castanets for Miguel de Cervantes,
who puts an unbreakable hammerlock on your heartstrings
in one unforgettable speech!
Cerv It’s a soliloquy,
a solo longer than any Englishman ever wrote for the stage!
still it soars!
It brings the audience cara a cara con Cardenio.
It lets them feel his pain.
It is the perfect opening:
where the fundamental question is:
from the grip of musclebound tradition?
R2 ¡Eso, señor! Smack Down!
Even sullied as it is by a troubled history of transmission,
my structure trumps your eloquence every time.
You trust a single actor to deliver an entire episode!
No, no, amigo, my beginning shows you how a smarter storyteller tells his tale.
I split the action up to keep the audience in suspense.
like a tennis ball put into play for a world championship.
I write directions for the actors deep into the lines.
can a Duke restructure a society to redeem his truant son?
R1 (to the tune of the Star-Spangled Banner)
As you’ll see by comparing Shakespeare’s speeches in the 29 July and 18 September extracts just quoted, part of TWAM’s script development process has wrestled with questions about how to transmit a sense of the story’s native language. Double Falsehood, our source for the Shakespearean scenes revived in Loco for Love, characteristically speaks in iambic pentameter. So our Shakespeare has come to speak primarily in blank verse – as in this speech full of side-coaching to the actor he’s just selected to play Cardenio (quoted from the 18 September preview script):
Shak Hast been in love? Hast tasted, bittersweet,
’Twill do! You
from wooing of the luscious maid Luscinda,
if his father grants the seal of his approval.
Cardenio hopes to confide in his dearest friend Fernando,
from whom he
more surely than he trusts in coy Luscinda.
Instead Cardenio finds his father, old Camilo, (assuming this role himself)
a fussy, flighty, officious mother hen:
“I love my son, but hate his taste in clothes.”
Behold: when Shakespeare
a pen-stroke, not a sword-stroke, starts the story, as
“Enters Camilo, father to Cardenio, with a Letter.”
In the title role? Wow. (sings) To dream the impossible dream …
Cerv ¡Eso! Mr. Shakespeare asks you to pretend
¡Locura! That’s a
Come, play my Cardenio, a soul stripped bare,
Bring your music,
Damas y caballeros,
Card (sings) Who turns my good to pain?
De ese modo, en mi dolencia ningún remedio se alcanza, pues me matan la esperanza desdenes, celos y ausencia.
Cerv Now pause.
and stare, bite his lips, furrow his brow, and
and distill his history drop by drop …
R1, R2, ALL We promise – not a peep!
Card / Cerv Mi nombre es Cardenio; His name is Cardenio,
the place of his birth one of the best cities in Andalusia,
his lineage noble, his parents rich,
ah! my misfortunes …. great …
Sic Transmit Gloria Dramae
Discussion: Meadows Clarindo dresses as an older woman to check on his sister, when he hears that she has disguised her…
Discussion: Meadows Clarindo dresses as an older woman to check on his sister, when he hears that she has disguised herself as a man to avenge his supposed death.
When in disguise, the other characters refer to them by the pronoun for their disguise. However, the playwright in the stage directors uses the pronouns appropriate for the character without the disguise.
Discussion: Meadows Thank you for sharing your paper on a play that I have not read before. I am curious to hear more a…
Discussion: Meadows Thank you for sharing your paper on a play that I have not read before. I am curious to hear more about ways in which "Presumed Dead" is deliberately subversive, or if you argue there is something else to point to in terms of why the transgressions are taking place. One book that comes to mind that deals with cross dressing that might be helpful for theoretical foundational purposes is Laurence Senelick's The Changing Room. Also I apologize if I missed this in the paper, but why does the male character dress as a woman? Since the more common occurrence is for females to dress like males in order to do things they couldn't normally do, I'd be curious to hear more specifics. As you continue to develop your paper, it might be generative to use more gender theory/gender performance theory to support some of your broader claims. I look forward to continuing the discussion at ASTR!