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Hispanic Treasures

Theatre and literary specialists join landmark project. Plus: An expanded Young Playwrights Festival, and a new L.A. home for Padua Hills Playwrights.

Actor-director Jose Ferrer, noted translator Gregory Rabassa and actress Margo Albert have joined a group of distinguished theatre professionals serving as a resource committee for Theatre Communications Group’s landmark Hispanic Translation Project, designed to bring the dramatic literature of Hispanic cultures to U.S. theatre audiences nationwide.

TCG director Peter Zeisler also announced the first corporate underwriting for the project—a new grant of $18,000 from the AT&T Foundation. AT&T joins a funding partnership for the project which also includes the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Designed to address the glaring lack of knowledge in this country of the tremendously rich and diverse body of dramatic literature that exists in cultures deriving from Spain and Portugal, the project identifies works of Hispanic drama from Latin American and European countries and all historical periods that could find resonance on the contemporary stage in the United States. TCG circulates information about dramatic works, commissions translations, encourages productions and will eventually publish Hispanic plays in stageworthy American translations.

The resource committee is now recommending plays that are likely candidates for translation, or re-translation, and presentation in this country. A five-person reading committee, whose members also serve on the resource committee, will make the final decisions about the works to be endorsed by the project. TCG plans to expand the membership of these committees to embrace an international cross-section of artists, scholars, critics and other experts from every area of Hispanic theatre.

“These two committees will furnish a kind of checks-and-balances system for judging which plays from the huge and brilliantly varied area of Hispanic drama might be particularly effective in this country,” states James Leverett, director of TCG’s Literary Services department, which will administer the project.

“We could dig almost anywhere and find gold, the field is so rich and unexplored. However, we have tried to set up an operation that can regulate the flow of works to be considered. The committee’s discoveries will be disseminated by means of a newsletter, which will begin publication this spring.”

In addition to Ferrer, Rabassa and Albert (who is also a member of the National Council on the Arts), the following charter members have agreed to serve on the committee: Mary Ann Bruni, a founder of the Festival Calderon and the International Hispanic Drama Festival, San Antonio; Rene Buch, artistic director of New York’s Repertorio Español; Thomas Colchie, literary agent and translator; Miriam Colon Edgar, executive director of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre Company, New York; Max Ferrá, artistic director of New York’s INTAR Theatre; Jack Gelber, playwright and director; Marion Holt, translator and member of the graduate faculty of City University of New York; Jorge Huerta, artistic director of El Teatro de la Esperanza, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Also Alberto Minero, director, Theatre Department, Center for Inter-Americian Relations, New York; Margaret Peden, translator and professor of Spanish, University of Missouri, Columbia; Luis Valdez, artistic director of El Teatro Campesino, San Juan Bautista, Calif.; George Woodyard, editor of the Latin American Theatre Review and professor of romance languages at the University of Kansas; and Carmen Zapata, actress and president of the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, Los Angeles.

Resource committee members who will serve on the initial reading committee are Arthur Giron, playwright, translator and member of the drama faculty at Carnegie Mellon University; Crispin Larangeira, playwright and translator; Joanne Pottlitzer, translator, founder of Theatre of Latin America and consultant for TCG’s Hispanic Translation Project; Gloria Waldman, critic and associate professor of Spanish, City University of New York; Ilka Tanya Payan, actress, attorney and president-treasurer of Teatro Duo Theatre in New York.

The announcement of these eminent advisors coincides with the awarding of three new $1,000 matching commissions to theatres for translations of Hispanic plays. TCG funds will assist the Julian Theatre of San Francisco to commission Maruja Cid to translate Incriminacion de un agente del orden a su institucion (Peace Officer Incriminates Establishment) by the Argentinian author Hector Rene Schu-jman. This work shows a Latin American country caught in a confused net of social revolution and political crime. The central character, a policeman, is entrapped between two corrupt factions and destroyed by his own corruption.

One of the objects of the Hispanic Translation Project is to encourage the r re-translation of plays whose previous renditions are outdated or otherwise unstageworthy. Federico Garcia Lorca, one of this century’s greatest dramatists in any language, has surely suffered more than his share from weak translations. The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Los Angeles has received a TCG commission for Carmen Zapata to create a new English version of Lorca’s La zapatera prodigiosa (The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife). In this country, this gentle comedy with its strong folkloric tone is one of the poet’s least known masterpieces.

The third TCG commission will enable Cuban-American playwright and director Maria Irene Fornes to translate Aire Frio (A Cold Air) by the Cuban writer Virgilio Penera, which she will also direct at INTAR in New York. Centering on a seamstress who struggles to maintain her family in a whirlwind of emotional and political chaos, this work takes place in the crucial period of pre-revolutionary Cuba between 1940 and 1958.

The three Hispanic Translation Project commissions bring the total awarded so far to five. Previous recipients were the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Fla. for Kerry McKenny and Antony Oliver-Smith’s translation of Kathie y el hipopotamo (Kathy and the Hippopotamus) by the noted Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa; and the Intiman Theatre Company in Seattle for Joanne Pottlitzer’s translation of Chuo Gil y las tejedoras (Mythweavers) by Arturo Uslar Pietri, a seminal modernist author born in Colombia.

Young Playwrights Expand Horizons

Four plays by writers between 15 and 18 years of age will receive professional New York productions at Playwrights Horizons Studio Theatre April 9-May 5. Sponsored by The Foundation of the Dramatists Guild, the Young Playwrights Festival is now in its fourth year, moving to Playwrights Horizons after two years at Circle Repertory Company and one at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Chosen from 650 submissions by writers under the age of 19, the plays to be produced are Sonata by Elizabeth Hirschorn, 15; Field Day by Leslie Kaufman, 17; True to Life by Marc Ratliff, 18; and The Ground Zero Club by Charlie Schulman, 18. Directors committed to the project include John Ferraro, Ben Levit and Shelly Raffle; the designers will be Scott Lehrer, Loren Sherman, Stephen Strawbridge and Jennifer von Mayrhauser.

In addition, five more plays will be given staged readings by Equity casts during the festival: Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Nicole Boland, 10; The Irishman by Michael Bourne, 18; A Longing to Return Home by Benjamin Lo, 14; Satisfaction by Nelly Reifler, 16; and Windhover by Kathleen Ryan, 18.

Another young writer has been selected as the winner of the first Integrated Young Playwrights Competition, sponsored by the National Committee, Arts with the Handicapped, in coordination with the Dramatists Guild. Terrylene Theriot, a second-year student at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., saw her play Imagine performed by George Segal and three other professional actors at the Kennedy Center during the National Very Special Arts Festival. The play depicts how a deaf girl and a prisoner help each other break through their self-imposed barriers.

Young writers between the ages of 12 and 18, whether or not they are disabled, may submit scripts which address some aspect of disabilities in contemporary society to the second Integrated Young Playwrights Project. The winning play will be produced at the Kennedy Center and then by the Royal Court Young People’s Theatre in London. Deadline for submissions is April 15, 1985. Obtain further information from Lindsey Sheehy, Integrated Young Playwrights Project, National Committee, Arts with Handicapped, Education Office, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC 20566; (202) 332-6960; TTY (202) 293-3989.

Welcome to L.A.

A new artistic association will be forged this summer, when the Padua Hills Playwrights’ Workshop takes up residence at the L.A. Theatre Works in Venice, Calif., for its annual two-week intensive playwriting session. Led, as usual, by a consortium of playwrights and joined by core members of Padua’s resident acting company, 10 apprentice playwrights will spend the latter portion of June hard at work. The workshop will culminate in staged readings of selected pieces on the final weekend.

Faculty playwrights will this year include artistic director Murray Mednick, Maria Irene Fornes, John Steppling, Leon Martell, John O’Keefe, Michael Monroe, Martin Epstein and Susan La Tempa.

The workshop, which originated at the Padua Hills Theatre near Claremont, was presented under an interim arrangement at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia last summer. Its move to L.A. Theatre Works, according to that organization’s producing director Susan Loewenberg, is mutually beneficial to the two theatres, which pursue common goals and interests. “Over the 10 years of its existence,” remarks Loewenberg, “L.A. Theatre Works has had as its major focus the development of new work for the theatre. Padua is a community of artists who come together to examine the creative processes with special focus on the use of outdoor settings, and on the evolution of new methods of transmitting what they learn. We have a lot to share.”

In addition to housing the workshop, L.A. Theatre Works will be presenting Mednick’s complete seven-play Coyote Cycle during September and October. Developed collaboratively over seven successive Padua Hills Festivals, the plays were performed together for the first time last fall in Santa Fe, in a marathon from dusk to dawn. The Theatre Works will present the long journey of Coyote and his nemesis the Trickster over three weekends.

Playwrights interested in applying for the 1985 workshop should submit scripts to Susan La Tempa, dramaturg, c/o L.A. Theatre Works, 681 Venice, CA 90291. There is a $150 workshop fee, and housing will not be provided.

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