Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – While Shakespeare was wowing the Brits in England in the late 16th and early 17th century, down south a ways in Spain, it was all about Lope de Vega.
The prolific writer of the Spanish Golden Age lived 20 years longer than the Bard, to the ripe old age of 73, and he seemingly didn’t waste a moment of it. The poet and playwright lived a colorful life and is said to have written as many as 1,800 plays while perfecting the comedia, a genre that combines comedy and drama.
Spanish and Latin American works — music, dance and drama — are a particular interest of Quantum Theatre’s Karla Boos, through 25 years and 70 productions. The 2016-17 kicks off with Vega’s “Peribanez,” a 1614 play that explores class and gender roles through the plight of a newlywed peasant couple, Peribanez and Casilda, whose lives are thrown into turmoil when a military commander falls in lust with the lovely bride. His obsession pushes the couple to make painful sacrifices as they strive to preserve their marriage in a country on the brink of war.
To bring the play to Pittsburgh, Quantum returns to the idyllic outdoor site of Mellon Park’s Jennie King Mellon Rose Garden, where the company performed “Dark of the Moon” in 2005, “The Crucible” in 2006 and, in 2008, Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline.” Live folk music will accompany each performance.
Directing will be the husband-and-wife team of Megan Monaghan Rivas, an associate professor of dramaturgy at Carnegie Mellon University, and Tlaloc Rivas, a director who has worked from coast to coast, including as an associate artist with Boundless Theatre Company of New York and as a professor at the University of Iowa.
The couple met Ms. Boos soon after they arrived in Pittsburgh three years ago and discovered a mutual interest in Spanish Golden Age works.
“When Karla came to the two of us last summer and said, ‘I want you to make something for the company,’ she gave us as one of our guidelines, ‘Let’s take take advantage that Tlaloc Rivas is a leading theater artist in the U.S. Reach out into the Latino world, and see what you find.’”
They chose a version of “Peribanez” by Tanya Ronder, which also was performed by the Young Vic in London in 2003. “The language is muscular and economical,” Ms. Rivas said.
The play resonated with the couple because their work has often kept them apart since they were married in 2011, “so our newlywed year has stretched to five years.” Also, the language is contemporary. Certain events, such as when the Commander uses his position of power, “sadly are still happening in the world today.”
Other big decisions about the production were returning Quantum to an outdoor space and working with Carnegie Mellon students and alumni as part of the company’s Gerri Kay New Voices Fellows program. The students are Siddiq Saunderson as Peribanez and Isabel Pask as Casilda, along with fellow actor Freddy Miyares, and the costume designers, recent CMU graduates Samantha Pollock and DeLisle Merril.
Within the confines of the Mellon Park rose garden, the design team had to keep in mind that the play was written in the 17th century, set in the early 15th century and yet feel grounded in today’s world.