At LaGuardia Community College, Visiting Fulbright Scholar Steven Gilbers discusses African-American English through the comparison of East Coast and West Coast hip-hop. In a classroom filled with students and professors, Mr. Gilbers proceeds to break down hip-hop culture and the importance of authenticity in the hip-hop community. “Another crucial part of hip-hop culture is this […]
The dimmed red lights were turned on and transferred the pitch darkness of Blackbox theater into Spain in the 1930s. A male bearded student playing a maid signaled a comic play while carrying a candle and walking through a mansion: a re-incarnation of the house of Bernarda Alba.
The 75-minutes of spectacle took place at LAGCC on May 10, 2017. An intimate setting under high ceilings usually accommodates about fifty students. For only $10 ($5 with student ID) they watched a cast of fifteen talented and passionate fellow students who demonstrated intensive skills for drama.
The play was written by Federico Garcia Lorca in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Two months later, Lorca died and the play didn’t take off before 1945. The story is centered around a matriarch Bernarda who freak-controls and orders around her five daughters.
The poetic tongue of the old days was modified into modern languages to accommodate easy comprehension. Nevertheless, the play never lost its charm. Transfixed on vivid costumes, stage floor set up and powerful firm voices, the audience felt as if they had traveled back in time and place.
The plot deals with issues where a sister “eyes” her sister’s boyfriend. “The” maid became Bernarda’s eyes and ears as well as her adviser, even though she was always reminded of her position in mistress’ household. But the maid advised sisters too – she wanted peace in the house.
The main theme is the mourning of Bernarda’s second husband that included an annual funeral reenactment. She imposed a strict traditional mourning period that usually lasted 8 years!
The daughters had to inform Bernarda or her main maid about their every single whereabout. Bernarda would go to such extremes as to forbid anyone to get up from a dinner table, even if only for a glass of water. She would immediately order her maid to bring them anything they required.
The wonderful scenic and lighting designers created an illusion as if the play moved from the red color of walls and sofas onto the lanai. There, under the moonlight of a clear sky, the protagonists – who wore nothing but black robes from head to toe – kept badgering each other which always led to loud quarrels and abrupt departures.
In the meantime, Bernarda’s mother was getting dillusional. Played by another bearded, manly man, she would escape her room at night and try to pursue her imaginary lover she hoped to marry. She was semi-aware of the reality, but still she desperately wanted to leave Bernarda’s “little prison.”
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898 – 1936) was a celebrated Spanish poet, writer, and theatre director. Some of his work was censored because of the contorversial issues it explored, like the role of women in middle class society. Lorca was executed during the Spanish Civil War by the Nationalist forces, who, as one scholar wrote, “abhorred his homosexuality and his liberal views.”