When Stacy Parker was cast as Maria Josefa in Federico Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba and Eduardo Machado's Crocodile Eyes, she thought it would be a great opportunity to explore one character in two plays. But she quickly discovered that although both plays are set on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, Maria Josefa's character, the 80-year-old matriarch of the family, is quite different in the plays, which were written 60 years apart.
Parker faces the challenge of juggling the two roles as she prepares for the School of the Arts (SOA) acting thesis productions, which will be performed alternately during a 12-day run at The Theatre of the Riverside Church from Nov. 9 through Nov. 21.
The House of Bernarda Alba is a new translation by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and Karin Coonrod, SOA'88. The play, directed by Coonrod, tells the story of Bernarda and her five daughters after her husband's death. She keeps them locked away from men, sexuality and expression. In fact, there are no male roles in this play. The play examines the girls' plight, which many see as a metaphor for fascism and the political condition in Spain around the time of the civil war.
Playwright and SOA Professor Eduardo Machado, who admits to having something of an obsession with Lorca's play, wondered what the characters were really like and who the unseen men were. In 1997, he received an NEA grant to write a companion piece to the play for the Theatre for the New City. Crocodile Eyes, whose title refers to a poem in the play, has been performed in repertory with The House of Bernarda Alba in Seattle and Portugal. Machado, recently named artistic director of the Latino theatre group Intar, will direct the SOA production.
Crocodile Eyes examines the lives of men without jobs, food or spiritual guidance who find hope in the teachings of the fascist brown shirts. "It is so exciting to be working with Eduardo since he wrote and is directing the play," says Marty Kaiser, SOA'05, who plays Joaquin, a struggling yet passionate artist and anarchist. "He has a great ability to communicate with actors because he is one."
The idea to perform the plays together stemmed from the composition of the class of 2005—12 women and 4 men. Eleven members of the class perform in both plays.
"It is a balancing act being fully committed to who Maria Josefa is and how she moves in one play and having to completely let that go in the other," says Parker. "I'm learning to react to the different worlds created in each play." Despite this, she says, "You couldn't pick two better companion pieces. Each of the actors is able to give 100 percent to their roles in both shows."
Performances will be held at The Theatre of Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave., between 120 th and 121 st Streets, Nov. 9–Nov. 21. For tickets, call (212) 870-6784 or log on to www.ticketweb.com.