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Plays explore manipulation


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By Makenzie Holland



Today at 8 p.m., the IU Grupo de Teatro VIDA presents its seventh annual performance. This year, it is called “Maniobras Traviesas,” Spanish for mischievous maneuvers.

Each year the group embodies a certain theme in its production. Today’s performance consists of four short plays about manipulation.

“The characters are manipulating each other,” Teresa Parmer, one of four directors, said. “The playwright is manipulating language in one of the plays. It’s sometimes kind of playful, sometimes with more serious consequences. The final play, the longest one, actually uses puppets and meshes, meta-theatrically, with the idea of puppets and being a puppet. It really brings the theme to the surface.”

The first short play, “El sueño del pongo,” which translates to “a servant’s dream,” is an adaptation of Peruvian José María Argueda’s short story of the same name.

Senior Michelle Schuval will perform the role of “el pongo.”

“The role was originally written for men, but we adapted it for women,” Schuval said.

As “el pongo,” Schuval is cast as a servant of servants, the lowest form of being. At the beginning of the play, her master, the señora, humiliates her. Schuval comes back to the señora later in the play and tells her a dream she had. In the dream, both the señora and “el pongo” are in heaven in front of a god-figure. The señora is covered in honey and “el pongo” is covered in human excrement.

“In the end, the manipulation is that the god-figure orders us to lick each other,” Schuval said. “So, she has to lick human excrement for all of eternity, but I get to lick honey off of her.”

Salvadorian Alvaro Menén Desleal wrote the second short play called “Ternura,” meaning “tenderness.”

The third play, “Las pinzas,” which translates as “the forceps,” was written by Venezuelan Román Chalbaud.

Senior Andy Johns will perform in the last play, “Los títeres de Cachiporra,” or “the Billy-club puppets,” which was written by Spaniard Federico García Lorca.

“I play a very small role, one of the servers in the local tavern,” Johns said.

Johns described one of the main characters in the play, Cristóbal, as an “old fat man” striving to win the hand of the lovely local maiden in town.

“He comes in the tavern and it’s my job, along with the other waiters and waitresses, to kind of make fun of him,” Johns said. “We’re the peanut gallery.”

In the final play, Schuval plays the part of a mosquito. She and another mosquito narrate the play, which Schuval said demonstrates the manipulation.

“When we come onstage, everything is frozen, so it’s very apparent that they’re not aware of what’s outside of them — they’re not aware that they’re puppets,” Schuval said. “In the corner we play with little puppets that look like them, which makes it easier for the audience to understand.”

The first performance is at 8 p.m. in the Bloomington Playwrights Project building, followed by performances on Friday and Saturday. In February, the group will perform in Indianapolis at the IndyFringe Theatre.

“We get to create ties with the community there,” said Israel Fernando Herrera, faculty advisor with the group.

Herrera said not only are undergraduate students able to get involved, but faculty, native speakers, graduate students and anyone who wants to participate are given a chance.

Marda Rose, a colleague of Herrera’s, created the group in 2006. He has been with the group ever since and will participate in this year’s performance as well.

“In each play we try to find a balance of native speakers and those who are learning,” Herrera said.

Admission to the show is free and English summaries will be given at the beginning of each show. Vocabulary will be included in the program as well as a summary.

“Our purposes are both educational and cultural,” Parmer said. “We want to bring these Spanish plays to life in a way that the audience can have access to these works of art. It’s also a teaching tool for both the actors and for the audience members.”

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