FROM MICHAEL HALBERSTAM, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Writers Theatre is lucky enough to be members of a national trade and advocacy organization for the nation’s theatre companies called the Theatre Communications Group (TCG). In fact our Executive Director Kate Lipuma is on the board! About three years ago, I attended the TCG annual conference in San Diego, during which I enjoyed an organized trip to Tijuana to meet Theatre Directors working in Mexico. Henry Godinez (an Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre and a friend and colleague since my earliest days in Chicago) was on the same trip and was very keen to introduce me to Claudio Valdés Kuri—an artist he had collaborated with a number of times. Claudio and I spent some quality time talking about his work and he showed me video of some of his productions. He mentioned to me that he was working on a production of Pedro Calderon’s Life is a Dream that he would be staging in Mexico City for his theatre company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes. On its website his company is described as “a landmark of Latin America’s avant-garde theatre. Its creations have been co-produced, presented and received with enormous success in the most important festivals of the five continents. The projects are created through long periods of development through a process of risk taking and questioning. Each work explores new language as a result of the constant search for innovation of form and content.”
A landmark of Latin America’s avant-garde theatre.
The following March I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Mexico City to see the production. I speak little to no Spanish, and yet I was able to follow this complex, classical text with only the help of a short synopsis in English, because of the clarity of the actors’ intentions and the ingenious staging. I loved it so much that I came back to see it a second time the next night. Alas, attempts to bring it to Glencoe were thwarted because of the scale of the piece, and so when Henry came to me again and mentioned to me that he had seen Claudio’s adaptation of Don Quixote and what did I think of inviting him to stage the show in Glencoe with Henry in the title role, I jumped at the opportunity.
Claudio has a gift for innovative staging and for telling classic stories in a fresh, contemporary fashion. His Quixote is no exception. He imagines his hero existing in today’s world, having survived the intervening centuries and now in conversation with a new generation of literature and artistic expression. Like Cervantes’ hero, Don Quixote becomes a principal player in his own downfall and, as in the novel, the play has the potential to create a profound and stirring experience for the audience. Performed minimally with no set, no sound, and relying only on light, great acting and a fantastical text, the play offers a thrilling manifestation of our mission statement.
Claudio has a gift for innovative staging and for telling classic stories in a fresh, contemporary fashion.
We commissioned Georgina Escobar to write our translation. Georgina Escobar, according to her website, “is the maker of hyper-sensical, ridiculous, and sometimes impossible narratives that run current systems of thinking through different filters of visual, musical, and interpretative logic. Through illustration, playing, painting, and music she finds the words for the creation of worlds that seek to empower women, youth, and the positive evolution of the human spirit. Her writing takes us through speculative evolution biblical comedies, to the reimagined frontiers of sci-fi feminism, and into huge, hyper-realistic, modern playgrounds for the stage.” In other words, she is an ideal collaborator, not only for the Cervantes but for the director himself and for the project.
I want to acknowledge the support of my good friends Marilynn and Carl Thoma, Bill and Molly Mahoney and Mary Pat and Andy Studdert! All three couples made incredibly generous gifts at crucial moments during the planning of this production.
Finally, I could not be more pleased to bring you this piece of world theatre, tailormade for Glencoe and hopefully able to enjoy a long life following