April is a theatrical month: Latinx Theater Symposium and Shakespeare on tap at UMass

UMass Amherst Theater Professor Elisa Gonzales is one of the key organizers of a Latinx Theater Symposium at the university April 8-9.

UMass Amherst Theater Professor Elisa Gonzales is one of the key organizers of a Latinx Theater Symposium at the university April 8-9. Image courtesy UMass Amherst Theater Department

Dr. Jorge Huerta, a Latine theater scholar, artist and educator from California, will be the keynote speaker at the Latinx Theater Symposium at UMass Amherst April 8-9.

Dr. Jorge Huerta, a Latine theater scholar, artist and educator from California, will be the keynote speaker at the Latinx Theater Symposium at UMass Amherst April 8-9. Image from Occidental College/courtesy UMass Amherst Theater Department

UMass Amherst Theater Professor Priscilla Page is one the key organizers of a Latinx Theater Symposium at the university April 8-9.

UMass Amherst Theater Professor Priscilla Page is one the key organizers of a Latinx Theater Symposium at the university April 8-9. Image courtesy UMass Amherst Theater Department

Contributors to the new book “The Routledge Companion to Latine Theatre and Performance” will be part of the Latinx Theater Symposium at UMass Amherst April 8-

Contributors to the new book “The Routledge Companion to Latine Theatre and Performance” will be part of the Latinx Theater Symposium at UMass Amherst April 8- Image courtesy UMass Amherst Theater Department

UMass Theater Professor Milan Dragicevich, seated alone and facing students, is directing a new version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” 

UMass Theater Professor Milan Dragicevich, seated alone and facing students, is directing a new version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”  Image courtesy UMass Amherst Theater Department

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 04-04-2024 3:30 PM

April is shaping up to be a busy month for the University of Massachusetts Theater Department, beginning with a symposium that honors Latinx theater and closing with a fresh interpretation of a classic Shakespeare comedy.

On April 8-9, theater scholars, writers, and performers are staging “Building Bridges As We Walk: A Latinx/Latine Theater Symposium,” a series of acting workshops, panel discussions, and a staged reading that are designed to recognize the recent publication of a major compendium of Latinx theater scholarship, “The Routledge Companion to Latine Theatre and Performance.”

The symposium has been organized by two UMass theater professors, Elisa Gonzales and Priscilla Page, who are among 50 contributors to the book, a work that Page, in a statement, calls “an encyclopedic resource” with a “brilliant and encompassing vision.”

Gonzales and Page invited the book’s contributors — many are leading Latine theater and performance scholars and practitioners in the U.S. — to campus to discuss theater built around “evolving and recurring strategies of world making, activism, and resistance taken by Latine culture makers to gain political agency on and off the stage,” as publisher’s notes put it.

One critic calls the book “a treasury of insights into contemporary Latine theatre,” with essays and other works that examine “Latine theatrical practices that reflect on and refract contemporary debates about identity, politics and culture.”

The symposium will also feature selected readings from plays written by book contributors; a staged reading of a new play by UMass MFA student Pedro Eiras; and a keynote address by Jorge Huerta, a Latine theater scholar, artist, and educator from California.

Symposium events, which are free, will be held in a few different locations at UMass, including The Curtain Theater, beginning at 9 a.m. on April 8 and at 11 a.m. on April 9.

All events are open to theater students and faculty in the Five Colleges, as well as community members, but registration is required, with slots offered on a first come, first serve basis. More information is available at umass.edu/theater/events.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Hadley’s Hampshire Mall faces foreclosure
GOP silences McGovern over Trump remarks
Looming rent hikes worry artists at Cottage Street Studios in Easthampton
Balise finds temporary home for Subaru dealership in Hadley
Officials sorting out disarray at Leverett Elementary School
Guest columnist Larry Hott: ‘Daughter of Cummington’ brings stories to the stage

Meanwhile, the university’s Theater Department is also preparing for an April 26 opening of a new adaptation of “Twelfth Night,” one of Shakespeare’s most notable comedies, in which the twins Viola and Sebastian are separated after a shipwreck on the coast of Illyria, the ancient name for the land along the Balkan coast along the Adriatic Sea.

It’s a classic story of mistaken identity, in which Viola and Sebastian both believe their twin is dead. Viola, trying to save herself, dresses as her brother and is soon working for Duke Orsino, with whom she falls in love. But even as Viola helps the duke court another woman, Olivia, Orsino falls in love with Viola instead.

The production is directed by UMass Theater Professor Milan Dragicevich, who according to production notes has mixed “Shakespeare’s Elizabethan spirit and style with contemporary, playful pop-arty sensibilities.”

That’s not all: Tim Eriksen, the Amherst multi-instrumentalist, composer, and ethnomusicologist, is creating music for this version of “Twelfth Night.”

Eriksen has earned widespread attention for reviving and reinterpreting older music traditions, including Shape note singing, a community style of music popular in 19th century America. Among a number of projects, he was a performer and consultant for the award-winning soundtrack for the 2003 film “Cold Mountain.”

It’s the second time Eriksen has joined forces with Dragicevich; they worked together on the New England premiere and an international tour of the latter’s play “Refugee,” a drama about different generations of a family whose lives are upended by war, in 2016 to 2018.

Their “Twelfth Night,” which is choreographed by Antonia Araya Budnik, will be staged at the Rand Theater, in the Bromery Center for the Arts, on April 26-27 and May 2-4 at 7:30 p.m.; a May 4 matinee takes place at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $17 to $5 and can be purchased by visiting fac.umass/edu and following the link for the Theater Department, or by calling 1-800-999-UMAS. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the night of the show.