Ben Gunter

Theater with a Mission
Tallahassee, Florida

Cervantes and Shakespeare Bang Heads in La Florida

Theater with a Mission (TWAM) is premiering a new performance this fall. In the 400th year since Cervantes and Shakespeare departed this life, and in the lead-up to the 200th anniversary of Florida entering US governance, we’re building a public arena where everyday citizens can experience what happens when Spanish- and English-speaking viewpoints collide. The arena takes the form of a wrestling ring, a place where Floridians from all sorts of backgrounds can feel welcome to get involved and express themselves. The plot explores two episodes from the history of Cardenio, that fascinating madman that Cervantes invented to advance the plot of Don Quixote (1605) and Shakespeare adapted into a lucrative play (1613, now lost). The wrestling pits Cervantes’ Spanish mode of making Cardenio go crazy against English-speaking styles of storytelling, in a confrontation called Loco for Love: Cervantes v. Shakespeare in the Mystery of Cardenio. The aim is not to recover a lost play, but to empower cross-cultural perception: to get everyday people thinking about cultural transmission in Florida, where competition between values that speak Spanish and values that speak English is as old as history. This project wrestles with “trans” at every juncture.
  • Questions of trans-lation come into play, because Shakespeare read Cervantes through Shelton’s English version of Quixote (1612), and because Shakespeare’s reading of Cardenio is accessible now only through extrapolations based on the ways that other playwrights (English and Spanish) have translated the story to the stage, and because a central facet of TWAM’s mission is developing bilingual performance texts that lure audiences across language barriers (translation’s point of trans-it).
  • Questions about what plays as trans-gender take a featured role, since one female character appears cross-dressed in an attempt to escape (homosexual?) rape, and since some readers see a calculated blurring of gender norms in Cadenio’s ambivalent pursuit of the woman whose marriage to his best friend eventually drives him mad.
  • At center stage stand haunting questions about trans-mission: how storytellers create a tale that captivates, how that tale gets handed down through changing times and forms and terms, and how the tale’s telling carries cultural assumptions with it, to pass on to its listeners.

This paper offers ASTR a designedly unfinished report on Loco for Love’s development, a development that started taking shape during an ASTR working session in 2015, blossoms into rehearsals and previews this summer, and premieres as a two-round audience-participation smackdown during the weekend of October 1, 2016. The paper will use research from source materials and survey responses from first audiences to focus on how TWAM’s project wrestles with translating for performance, works out ways to play transgender scenes displaced from their historical context, and explores cross-cultural differences encoded in the storytelling devices that transmit the history of a transgressive lunacy induced by love. The paper will actively solicit ideas for dramatizing this cross-cultural encounter more completely in 2017.

Cervantes and Shakespeare Bang Heads in Florida:
Questions about Transmission, with a Case Study by Theater with a Mission

Warning: This paper wants to lure you into getting actively involved with thorny questions about transmission – questions that a troupe based in Tallahassee and called Theater with a Mission has to answer onstage, soon. In order to put a seductive spin on this invitation to collaboration, I’ll be citing cases where questions about transmission are coming into play in Loco for Love, the script that Theater with Mission is currently prepping for its world premiere.
Let me start the seduction innocently, with a brief overview of the questions and a brief orientation to the performance project that’s arousing them.
Here are the most pressing questions that Theater with a Mission is facing, as we seek to transmit non-canonical theater text from the 17th century to the 21st century for performance:
  • In a script that’s taking a journey across differences in language, cultural background, and time, what parts of a dramatic story should get selected for transmission, and why?
  • How do the demands of translation for the stage – demands that differ drastically from the demands of translation for the page – influence what’s selected for transmission?
  • Where do cultural transition points – hot spots in the culture wars, past and present – make a difference in the transmission process?

Case Study
Here’s a brief introduction to Theater with a Mission and Loco for Love, the script we’re currently developing, which pits Cervantes’ version of the history of Cardenio against Shakespeare’s:
  • Theater with a Mission (TWAM for short) is a consortium of amateurs who are extravagantly in love with theater, history, and Florida – a motley crew united by one impossible dream: to stage revivals of plays from the Spanish Golden Age which are so lively that they inspire everyday people to rediscover Florida’s Spanish roots. Our productions to date include a bilingual translation of Cervantes’ satire El retablo de las maravillas, relocated to Florida in the 1740s (when the Governor’s brother was a famous playwright in Madrid); a condensation of Lope’s Nuevo mundo that foregrounds Spanish La Florida’s influence on the playwright’s vision of the New World; and a dramatic reconstruction of highlights from an Indian/Spanish Wedding at a Spanish mission in La Florida, c. 1703.
  • This October 1 & 2, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Cervantes and Shakespeare passing away on the same calendar day in April of 1616, TWAM is premiering Loco for Love, a literary wrestling match between Cervantes and Shakespeare. Loco for Love presents a smackdown between key scenes from these two great authors’ very different tellings of the story of Cardenio, who is both the hero of a well-developed subplot in Don Quixote (first published in 1605, and circulating in a printed English translation by 1612) and the title character in Shakespeare’s last (and lost) play The History of Cardenio (performed twice at court in 1613). Cardenio is the best documented, most direct connection between el Príncipe de los Ingenios del Mundo (Cervantes) and the Swan of Avon (Shakespeare).
  • TWAM’s mission in creating Loco for Love is not to recover Shakespeare’s lost play – a quest that has been vigorously pursued in recent years, by high-powered experts on the order of Gary Taylor, Stanley Greenblatt, and Gregory Doran, and at places as high-culture as the Royal Shakespeare Company. Our goal is to recover a lost cultural experience: the experience of seeing the world through 17th-century eyes, via viewpoints that offer multidimensional perspectives on life, love, and sanity, because they’re transmitted to us through Spanish and through English lenses.

Text & Context:
When does condensing become dumbing down?

One part of Cardenio’s story that TWAM has been wrestling to transmit derives from its dramatic context. In the Quixote, Cardenio’s history provides a rich counterpoint to important themes and plot developments in Don Quixote’s life story. How much of this resonant 17th-century context should a 21st-century performance that’s aimed at a general-public American audience transmit?
In the Quixote, Cardenio goes mad for love when his best friend Fernando steals his fiancée Luscinda. He runs away into the mountains of the Sierra Morena, lets his clothing tear away to tatters, and (during his saner moments) fills the air with elegiac songs and desperate letters to his two lost loves (Fernando and Luscinda). It’s as a wild man leaping from crag to crag deep in the mountains that this “Unfortunate Knight of the Rock” (to quote Shelton’s 1612 translation) comes face to face with Don Quixote, the “Knight of the Ill-Favored Face.”
Inspired by Cardenio’s example (and struck by its parallels to chivalric precedents), Don Quixote decides to run mad for love of Dulcinea. He strips off his clothes, dashes off a passionate letter to Dulcinea, and starts bashing his head against the rocks – locuras that take on added dimension and color when set side by side with Cardenio’s brand of craziness.
Other characters in Cardenio’s story enrich this contextual interplay. The most remarkably mobile, unconventional character in Cardenio’s history is a rich farmer’s daughter named Dorotea, who goes undercover as a shepherd boy to track Fernando down after he marries and then abandons her. In Don Quixote, Dorotea is the key to Cardenio’s history. Her talent for social mobility and self-reinvention makes the reunion of Cardenio and Luscinda possible, as she reconciles Fernando to the idea of life with her (his father’s gorgeous vassal) as his wife. These same talents make Dorotea the key character in a plan to lure Don Quixote home to undergo a cura for his locuras. Versed in the conventions of knight-errantry, Dorotea creates the role of Princess Micomicona, a damsel who’s been dispossessed of her kingdom by a giant’s rapacity (as Dorotea herself was dispossessed by Fernando’s concupiscence); her dependence on Quixote as the righter of her wrongs calls him back to civilization.
How to transmit Cardenio’s rich contextual connection to Don Quixote is a question that has occupied theater scholars intent on reconstructing Shakespeare’s lost play. Indeed, Gary Taylor’s “unadaptation” of Double Falsehood – the play that Lewis Theobald produced and then published in 1727, billed as an authentic rediscovery of Shakespeare’s lost script – takes context so seriously that Taylor features a schoolmaster named Quesada “who becomes a mad knight-errant, calling himself ‘Don QUIXOT.’” Attended by a boy named Sancho, this character plays out a series of adventures, freely adapted from Cervantes, and provide Taylor’s History of Cardenio, 1612-2012 with a meaty subplot.
TWAM’s aim, as you’ll recall, is very different from reconstructing Shakespeare’s lost script. We want to give present-day people the experience of meeting context face to face – i.e., the experience of seeing historical perspectives come to life, in live performance. We’ve taken context as seriously as Gary Taylor, but with very different results.
We’ve created two referees to introduce our audiences – many of whom will see the show accidentally, because it happens to be featured at a festival they’re attending for other reasons – to Loco for Love. Early drafts of our opening scene gave the Referees lots of explicit context to share. Here’s an extract from the overture dated 9 July 2016:
R2 Cervantes wrestled with Cardenio first,
in his novel Don Quixote,
which was published in Spain in 1605.
In Don Quixote, Cardenio’s craziness
inspires the Man of La Mancha to go loco for love himself –
ripping off his clothes,
bashing his head on the mountainside,
writing wild and crazy love letters.

R1 Shakespeare wrestled with Cardenio next,
in his last play,
which was performed in 1613
and called The History of Cardenio.

R2 His lost play, you should say.
La historia de Cardenio se desapareció.

R1 Not so, my friend.
In 1727, Shakespeare’s play resurfaced
under the title Double Falsehood,
and Double Falsehood is still alive and kicking.

R2 Right!
And Shakespeare scholars are still fighting
about how much of Double Falsehood
was forged, or rewritten,
or borrowed from one of Shakespeare’s collaborators.

R1 The point is, for centuries
two great tellers of Cardenio’s story
have been wrestling for the title of World Champion Storyteller:
Cervantes in Don Quixote
and Shakespeare in Double Falsehood.
Here, the title gets decided!

R1,2 And YOU, ladies and gentlemen,
get to be the deciders.

During the month of July, 2016, 27 TWAM volunteers invested over 190 hours in the process of reading drafts of Loco for Love and arguing passionately about how much context to include in our world premiere. Feedback from these first responders targeted explicit context as a feature to condense, pruning away material that sounded academic rather than dramatic.
So here’s the way our Referees introduced the play at rehearsal tonight (15 September 2016):
R1 Ladies and gentlemen

R2 Damas y caballeros

R1 welcome to a match 4 centuries in the making

R2 bienvenidos a una lucha de cuatro siglos.

R1 In this corner rests William Shakespeare,
immortal Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon.

R2 En la esquina derecha duerme Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra,
el Príncipe de los Ingenios del mundo.

R1 Their bones come to do battle in this ring –
to settle, once and for all,
who holds the title of …

R1, 2 World Champion Storyteller!

R2 It’s a storytelling smackdown

R1 and it’s been festering for 400 years.

R2 Here’s how this rumble tumbles:
We’ll focus the fight on a mysterious figure that
Shakespeare stole from Cervantes,

R1 a bone of contention
who goes way, way back.
His name is …

R1,2 Cardenio …

R1 and here’s his history in a nutshell:

R1,2 when his best friend Fernando cuando su gran amigo Fernando
steals the love of his life Luscinda, le robó a su novia Luscinda,
Cardenio takes refuge in the wilds Cardenio huyó hasta las sierras
and goes … y se volvió …
completely loco for love. completamente loco de amor.

R2 Cervantes wrestled with Cardenio first,
in his biggest, best, and most brilliant novel Don Quixote.

R1 Shakespeare wrestled with Cardenio next,
in his last, lost, and most mysterious play,
The History of Cardenio.

R2 Whose moves are smoother?

R1 Which storyteller tells Cardenio’s history better?

R1 Today, that question gets decided.

R2 And YOU, ladies and gentlemen,

R1,2 you get to be the deciders.

As you see, we’re attempting to transmit the rich dramatic context that’s built into Cardenio’s history implicitly, by planting provocative hints about the fact that there’s more to the story than will meet the ear in our script. We’re also translating contextual insights into acting moments, through cues for actors’ voices, bodies, and characterizations. What strategies are you finding effective in your own struggles to transmit historical context into present-day performance? What answers are you discovering, as you wrestle with the question of how to condense without dumbing down? – a question that haunts us, as we field-test Loco for Love.

Text & Subtext:
When does selecting become cherry-picking?

Another question about transmission that TWAM is struggling to get a grip on has to do with selection. In its 2016 premiere – an expanded performance is slated for 2017, and will profit by your input – Loco for Love is designed to perform in less than an hour. The preview of Round One that we took on tour to Hispanic Fest in Ft. Walton Beach on September 18 lasted under 35 minutes. Yet Cervantes devotes four sprawling chapters of the Quixote to spinning Cardenio’s yarn, and Shakespeare and Fletcher’s selective adaptation from that material still fills five full acts of a play. How do you transmit a story of this size into a significantly smaller format?
TWAM has adopted a strategy of thematic election, picking parallel scenes from Shakespeare and Cervantes, then putting them onstage side by side, to highlight differences in perspective. The drama we’re interested in, after all, is not the conflict between Cardenio and other characters in his world, but the contrast between Cervantes’ and Shakespeare’s telling of the tale, and how that contrast illuminates distinctions in English-speaking and Spanish-speaking cultural outlooks that are still shaping life in La Florida today.
Case in point: patriarchal power. The more we’ve read our foundation texts, the more striking we’ve found the roles they fill with fathers. In Cervantes, fathers fade into the background as children decide their own destinies collaboratively. In Shakespeare, a Duke on a mission to redeem his rebellious younger son broods over the storytelling from start to finish, and personally steps in to achieve the resolution. A parallel case in point: narrative structure. In Cervantes, Cardenio’s history unfolds through a series of dazzlingly extended monologs, first in Cardenio’s voice, then in Dorotea’s, and finally in a mixture of their voices with Luscinda’s and Fernando’s. In Shakespeare, the storytelling is less intimate but more efficient, bringing all the principal characters together onstage from the get-go, and building a whole subplot around a comic, one-up-the-Joneses rivalry between the fathers of Cardenio and Luscinda.
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,
creador de un Cardenio
who puts an unbreakable hammerlock on your heartstrings
in one unforgettable speech!
What a way to start a play!

(R1 & R2 congratulate author and actors in a combination of curtain call and smackdown posing – “brilliant soliloquy … beats me how you remember all those words … not a dry seat in the house,” etc.)

Cerv Mil gracias. Ready to concede defeat, amigo?

Shak Surely you jest. That’s a suggestion, not a script.

Cerv It’s a soliloquy,
a solo longer than any Englishman ever wrote for the stage!
Even pinioned by an archaic translation into a barbaric tongue,
still it soars!
It brings the audience cara a cara con Cardenio.
It lets them feel his pain.
It is the perfect opening:
el módo más cómodo to start a story
where the fundamental question is:
can rising generations wrest the right to determine their own futures
from the grip of musclebound tradition?

R2 ¡Eso, señor! Smack Down!
Just like Chartier says in his book-length study of Cardenio, …

Shak ¡Qué gilipollez! [What crap!]
You have a way with words, my friend, I’ll grant you that.
But what your storytelling sorely lacks is structure.
Words waver.
Structure endures.
Even sullied as it is by a troubled history of transmission,
by all the indignities editors have heaped upon it,
my structure trumps your eloquence every time.
You trust a single actor to deliver an entire episode!
You let him, in the very torrent, tempest, and as I may say whirlwind of his passion,
improvise his way through a contract with the audience!
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.
I bounce Cardenio from scene to scene, from father to lover to father-in-law elect,
like a tennis ball put into play for a world championship.
I write directions for the actors deep into the lines.
I build structure, because the fundamental question of this play is:
can a Duke restructure a society to redeem his truant son?

R1 (to the tune of the Star-Spangled Banner)
“Would you listen to that?!
William Shakespeare hits back!”
Shades of Gary Taylor: Shakespeare’s later plays are all about redemptive structure!

As TWAM started taking Loco for Love off the page to put it onstage, we wondered how we could ensure a free and fair transmission of the story’s subtextual complexity. How could performance help us prove, to ourselves and to our audience, that our scenes weren’t selected simply because they proved our point?
The hurly-burly of production transformed this question. Like most theater companies in our area, TWAM found more female than male actors responding to audition calls – a testing state of affairs for a performance that’s planning to question perceptions about patriarchy. At this writing (during previews), in order to make a patriarchal presence visible, we’re having the actors who play Shakespeare and Cervantes (both males) step in during Round One to play the role of Cardenio’s father. During Round Two, the Shakespearean father who strongarms Luscinda into accepting Fernando’s proposal of marriage (reminiscent of Capulet delivering his ultimatum to Juliet) in Double Falsehood becomes a Shakespearean mother in Loco for Love.
The idea that Shakespeare and Cervantes differ significantly in the degree to which Daddy Knows Best hasn’t disappeared from Loco for Love. Indeed, this subtextual perception crops up early in the performance text, as the two authors set up the basic structure of TWAM’s script – as seen in this extract from our preview performance script of 18 September:
Shak Ah, Cardenio! I did love that tale.

Cerv Sí, señor, but you botched and butchered it in your play.

Shak (offended) Say you so, sirrah?! I beg your pardon!

Cerv An apology long overdue, ham-handed Englishman.
The way you start the story – botched!
The way you bring us to the cliffhanger – butchered!
The way you diminish its meaning, to make fathers rule the world – ¡bobería!

Shak Enough, proud Spaniard! I gave your … telenovela
a starting point that makes dramatic sense.
I made your fainting bride into a symbol:
Love suspensefully at war with Duty!
I made your silly tale into a brave new world
where private struggles transform to Universal Truths.

Cerv Mentiras! I challenge you … to a battle of wits!

Shak Done, Don Miguel!

R1,2 Ladies & gentlemen Damas y caballeros
Actors & musicians actores & músicos
Lovers of Truth Aficionados del Teatro

ALL Let the battle begin! ¡Qué comience la lucha!

Solving practical problems – the challenge of experimenting with which roles can work gender-neutrally, and prioritizing which roles need male actors to make our performance make sense – is lending our production a more nuanced approach to transmitting subtext.
Text & Intertext:
When does translation mean restoring the mother tongue?

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,
the hoping against hope she loves thee, too?
’Twill do! You play Cardenio, hot-footing home
from wooing of the luscious maid Luscinda,
love of your life. (to Luscinda) You’ve just said you’ll be his wife –
if his father grants the seal of his approval.
Cardenio hopes to confide in his dearest friend Fernando,
son of the Duke, (you’re a guest in Cardenio’s house),
from whom he keeps no secrets, whose love he trusts
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.”
The rest I’ll set in order as we play.
Behold: when Shakespeare does the storytelling,
a pen-stroke, not a sword-stroke, starts the story, as
“Enters Camilo, father to Cardenio, with a Letter.”

Equally important to our process has been selecting parts of the story to be transmitted in the original Spanish – Cervantes’ native tongue, and an indispensable tool for achieving this performance’s stated aim of building bridges between people from English-speaking and Spanish-speaking backgrounds.
The script TWAM is prepping for premiere builds its translinguistic bridges on a foursquare foundation:
1) First, we feature important passages for actors to perform both in English and in Spanish – passages where the two languages are closely conjoined, echoing each other in a fluid exchange that mimics traditional translation (i.e, it closely correlates the text in both languages), but is designedly duo-directional (i.e., it shifts languages among speakers, revealing characters as multilingual). As you’ve seen, this type of translinguality characterizes exchanges between the two referees. As you’re about to see, this strategy also enriches the dialog when Cervantes coaches the actor whom he’s just doublecast as Cardenio.
2) Second, we feature hot spots where expressions in English and Spanish are tightly juxtaposed, but designedly disjunct in their literal meaning. This strategy for enriching linguistic exchange holds special rewards for listeners who have an ear attuned to translanguage. You’ve seen an example of this particular brand of duolingo in the exchange between referees, where Ref 1’s summons to “Lovers of Truth” bridges the language barrier as Ref 2’s shout out to “Aficionados del Teatro.”
3) Third, we feature passages where important developments in the story are performed only in Spanish, with performance serving as the translator for people who don’t speak 17th-century Castillian. A good example of this type of bridge across language barriers crops up when Cervantes’ Cardenio introduces one of the story’s most dramatically generative images – letter-writing. While picking up a mail bag and tossing rolls of parchment exuberantly around the stage, Cardenio says,
Luscinda’s father denied me the entrance of his house; which hindrance served only to add flame to flame; for, although it set silence to our tongues, yet would they not impose it to our pens. ¡Ay cielos! how many letters have I written unto her! ¡Cuán regaladas y honestas respuestas tuve! ¡Cuántas canciones compuse, donde el alma pintaba sus encendidos deseos!

4) Finally, we feature songs where the lyrics are transmitted in a mixture of English and Spanish – two linguistic codes, apparently antagonistic, married into one expressive language of love. A good example of this strategy surfaces as Cervantes coaches Cardenio, in an exchange that’s focused on transcending cultural barriers (quoted from the 18 September preview script):
Card Are you [double]casting me, señor?
In the title role? Wow. (sings) To dream the impossible dream …

Cerv ¡Eso! Mr. Shakespeare asks you to pretend
Luscinda’s coyness drives Cardenio crazy.
¡Locura! That’s a hangnail, not a heartache.
Come, play my Cardenio, a soul stripped bare,
already driven mad by shattered dreams.
Bring your music, for song is the very soul of my Cardenio, and his story’s starting point.
Damas y caballeros, hear the transforming power of a love that outlasts reason.

Card (sings) Who turns my good to pain?
Who makes my woes grow mightily?
Who proves my patience nonsense?
De ese modo, en mi dolencia ningún remedio se alcanza, pues me matan la esperanza desdenes, celos y ausencia.

Cerv Now pause.
My Cardenio’s madness often makes him stop,
and stare, bite his lips, furrow his brow, and
and distill his history drop by drop …

Card If, sirs, you please to hear the exceeding greatness of my disasters, you must promise me that you will not interrupt the file of my doleful narration; porque en el punto que lo hagáis …

Cerv the instant that you interrupt him, there Cardenio’s history ends!

R1, R2, ALL We promise – not a peep!

Card / Cerv Mi nombre es Cardenio; His name is Cardenio,
mi patria, una ciudad de las mejores desta Andalucía;
the place of his birth one of the best cities in Andalusia,
mi linaje, noble; mis padres, ricos;
his lineage noble, his parents rich,
mi desventura …
ah! my misfortunes …. great …

Sic Transmit Gloria Dramae

Wrestling with the history of Cardenio is teaching Theater with a Mission a bundle about transmission. As Cervantes puts it when Loco for Love has to stop for a recount in the voting for the title of World Champion Storyteller, we’re find the story “so alive, it still takes your breath away, after 400 years” – which makes questions about transmitting if effectively all the more pressing.
How do you keep condensing from crossing the line into dumbing down? How do make sure that selection is not serving the reductionist ends of cherry-picking? How do you translate in ways that make it possible to experience the foreignness of other tongues?
Loco for Love is working like crazy to find performable answers to those questions, and we eagerly await your input, experience, and insight to help us achieve success.

Ben Gunter
Theater with a Mission
22 September 2016