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May 1, 2006

International Playhouse expands to seven languages for May performances

By Louise Donahue

A record seven languages will be showcased as the multilingual International Playhouse opens its sixth season.

Photo of Miriam Ellis

International Playhouse got its start as a French-language production directed by now lecturer emerita Miriam Ellis.

“Italian, which appeared two years ago on our roster, is returning this season, and Portuguese is joining us for the first time," said Miriam Ellis, lecturer emerita in French, who directs the French-language production. "At the end of this year we will have had nine of the 13 languages offered at UCSC take part in the Playhouse.”

Other languages featured this year will be Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and Spanish. The playhouse’s innovative format features English translations provided by “supertitles” projected above the stage. Language Program lecturers direct their students in performing the fully staged theater pieces.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. on May 11, 12, and 13 and at 2:30 p.m. on May 14 at the Stevenson Event Center. The shows are cosponsored by the Language Program and Cowell College.

"Admission to performances is free, since we feel that the playhouse offers an important service to the campus and wider community, just as the Language Program serves all the divisions at UCSC," said Ellis. "We generally have audiences of several hundred people, including language students from area schools who are invited, as well as many native speakers who look forward to our programs and take advantage of the rare opportunity to enjoy live theater in their language.”

“Everyone involved in the project, directors as well as actors and those who work behind the scenes, gets so much out of the experience of applying language skills to dramatic expression that the project has grown from the original French theater, which I produced for about 20 years, to the present format," she added.

The productions are:

Chinese: Written by UCSC students, Strangers in a Very Old Fictional Wine Shop portrays various characters from a Ming (and perhaps a Ch'ing) novel, who meet in a wine shop and have one last chance to redefine their fate. David Keenan, lecturer in Chinese, directs.

French: Students will interpret scenes from the 18th century classic masterpiece, Le Mariage de Figaro (Figaro's Wedding Day) by Beaumarchais. In this engaging comedy, the countess plots with her servants to teach the philandering count a well-deserved lesson. Directed by Miriam Ellis.

Italian: Giulia Centineo, lecturer in Italian, has adapted a short story, Mio Marito (My Husband) for the stage and will direct the production. This amusing work by Dacia Maraini offers an ironic and diverting look at marital complications.

Japanese: Several students have worked together to create an original portrayal of their own experiences in Japan, Aa Kanchigai! (Now I get it!). Lecturer in Japanese Naoko Yamamoto will direct.

Portuguese: Renata E José combines poetry, popular song and photographic projections in a reflection on the life of two Brazilians. Ana Maria Seara directs.

Russian: The U.S. premiere in Russian of a futuristic operatic work, Victory Over the Sun, features libretto by Alexei Kruchenykh, prologue by Velimir Khlebnikov, and music by Mikhail Matyushin. William Nickell, lecturer in Russian, will direct this ambitious undertaking, with about 20 participants involved in the production.

Spanish: A one-act play by Jacinto Benavente, No Fumadores (Non-Smokers) and a scene from a zarzuela (a Spanish musical) La Mazurka de los Paraguas (The Umbrella Mazurka) with text by Ricardo de la Vega and music by Chueca and Valverde, will be directed by Paco Ramirez.

For further information, contact Miriam Ellis,

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