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OU's University Theatre to explore gender roles in performance of Spanish tragedy 'Blood Wedding'

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Blood Wedding Cast

Cast members of 'Blood Wedding' perform during a rehearsal Jan. 29, 2020.

“Haven’t I done a man’s work? If only I were one!”

In the OU University Theatre’s “Blood Wedding,” Bride, played by acting sophomore Alyssa Carrasco, declares this concern to her maid as she prepares to get married. To her, being a man appears to be the only way to fulfill her desire for freedom.

Feb. 7-16, OU student actors will explore themes regarding gender roles through the prose and poetry of the Spanish tragedy “Blood Wedding.” 

Written in 1932 by Spanish poet and playwright Federico Lorca and later translated to English by Brendan Kennelly, “Blood Wedding” was first performed in March 1933 at the Teatro Beatriz in Madrid. The show has since been performed all over the world and is considered one of the most famous plays in Spanish theater, according to StageAgent, a theater research platform. 

Set in southern Spain in the early 1900s, the show is based on an actual event that occurred during Lorca’s professional career when a young woman was forced to decide between a marriage arranged by her parents or her ex-lover. The play’s central characters Bride and Bridegroom convey the struggles and opposition this woman faced as she confronted the innermost desires of her heart, said Sara Guerrero, guest director of OU’s production.

OU’s production touches on the heavy influence surrealism had in the '30s. Lorca took inspiration from the works of artists such as Salvador Dali, Remedios Varo and Frida Kahlo to enhance the show’s plot and heighten the drama, Guerrero said. 

“In my youth, I already had a deep relationship with theater, but Lorca’s work made me feel like I was at home,” Guerrero said. “I have always loved how he infuses poetry and prose — it just seems so natural and is very inspiring.” 

Guerrero was invited to guest direct “Blood Wedding” after working with Uldarico Sarmiento, an assistant professor of scenic design and digital media. Guerrero, a Southern California native, has directed various professional shows and served as the founding artistic director of the award-winning Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, according to her website.

Growing up, Guerrero was acquainted with Lorca’s poetry, but she became familiar with his Spanish plays while living in South America. Guerrero said she devotedly watched Lorca’s work on stage and was cast as Bride in one of her first college productions.

“Hearing his plays performed in Spanish really spoke to me,” Guerrero said. “I may not have been mature enough to fully understand the intensity of his work when I was first introduced, but all of my experiences with Lorca have come to have a huge impact on my life.” 

In OU’s production, the poetry and prose is enhanced through original music compositions by Jacob Frost, a 2019 OU alumnus who now serves as the show’s music director. By weaving Flamenco music into the script, Frost created a welcome challenge for OU actors and actresses, Carrasco said.  

“The music is all performed by student actors, which has been really interesting to watch considering how most of us are just acting majors,” Carrasco said. “Although people who play instruments in the show have had to pick up this difficult music with very little experience, I think it enhances the experience overall.” 

Carrasco's character, Bride, is central to the show’s exploration of societal expectations placed on women. Traditional gender roles constantly come into question throughout the course of the play as characters convey their desires to be independent, Carrasco said. 

The production uses costumes to communicate the show’s roots of surrealism and themes of female oppression. Costume design junior Jules Deschryver said, as the head costume designer, his choices were all meant to make the show more life-like.

“The wedding dress that I designed for Bride has these huge leg-of-mutton sleeves that almost swallow her and a high-necked collar that is meant to represent the choking pressure she feels,” Deschryver said. “She's forcing herself to get married and I wanted the wedding dress to reflect all of the fear that comes with that.”

Although female oppression is heavily emphasized, Guerrero wanted to convey how Lorca’s female characters worked beyond the oppression they endured, she said. Characters like Mother exemplify the fluidity of gender roles as she embraces the role of a father in the absence of her husband.

“One of the things I really wanted to explore was the driving forces of our female characters' choices,” Guerrero said. “Although there are things in nature that compel them to follow their desires, they are the ones who ultimately make their own decisions.”

Guerrero said each person involved in “Blood Wedding” plays an integral part and her desire has been for everyone to feel comfortable trying new things.

“I am the director and eventually I have final say, but I don't always have the answers,” Guerrero said. “That is why when I do this sort of work, I am of a collaborative spirit — I definitely love to entertain opportunities.”

Guerrero’s professionalism and willingness to hear her students has made her a joy to work with, Carrasco said. 

“From the very beginning I fell in love with (Guerrero) as a director,” Carrasco said. “It's really inspiring to see a woman of color, like myself, who is successful in this industry and making a career out of what she wants.” 

Guerrero said it has been a privilege to see such young actors draw from the life experience found within this play. The most rewarding part of her job is to watch these students tell stories. 

“As people come to see the show, I hope they are inspired to explore their fearless spirits,” Guerrero said. “A life is not worth living unless it's lived.”

“Blood Wedding” opens at 8 p.m. Feb. 7, with additional performances at 8 p.m. Feb. 8, 13-15 and at 3 p.m. Feb 9 and 16 in the Weitzenhoffer Theatre, 563 Elm Ave. in Norman. 

Advance purchase tickets range from $10 to $25 plus fees and are available online, by phone at 405-325-4101 and at the OU Fine Arts Box Office. Discounted tickets are available for students, faculty, seniors over 60 and military personnel for $15.

Tickets at the door cost $15 for students and $35 for adults.

Note: This article was updated at 10:52 a.m. Feb. 7 to correct an error in ticket pricing.

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