Blood Wedding: An Invitation to Powerful Theater

by Gretchen Wirges

Flamenco music filled the spaces around me. The glow of soft red light cascaded down the curtain. Audience members of different ages and cultures wandered in. And then, a young girl  came and sat front row, center. She even sat between two seats, allowing herself to take up space. She was enraptured, as was I, for the duration of this incredible production.

Blood Wedding was written by Federico Garcia Lorca and, for this production, translated by Scoundrel & Scamp’s own Elizabeth Falcón. The play encompasses the story of one family joining to another with all of its politics, heartache, and love. The Bridegroom, played by Sean Cronin, is to be wed to the Bride, played by Claire De La Vergne, but the bride is still in love with her past amor, Leonardo, played by Jeffrey Baden. A tragic love story follows.

The set, designed by Jason Jamerson, is beautifully designed with open walls and doorways. The hilly platform upstage contains the constant presence of figures representing nature, death, the moon, and music. The figures move to form beautiful tableaus that serve as the perfect theatrical backdrop. The tableaus included live musicians, including a guitarist, who punctuates and underscores much of the action on the stage and two vocalists/percussionists who help fill the stage with authentic Spanish music and heart. The vocalizations of everyone in the tableau created flowing transitions from one scene into the next.

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Nicole Delprete as the Wife of Leonardo, Emily Fuchs, Susan Arnold as the Mother of the Bridegroom, China Young, and Claire De La Vergne as the Bride. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The music, arranged by Melissa Alejandra Aguirre Fernandez, was one of my favorite parts of this show. It was powerful, meditative and cathartic. Its vitality — in all senses of the word — makes the music feel like a crucial member of the cast. One of my favorite scenes took place between Mother-in-Law of Leonardo, played by Julia Balestracci, and Wife of Leonardo, played by Nicole DelPrete. Their beautiful voices lilted as they sung about folklore heavy with foreboding and pain. The singing was accented perfectly by the Spanish guitar. Such a touching, heartbreakingly stunning scene. 

The costumes, designed by Maria Caprile,  were stunning. Most performers wore a variety of shades of brown, and off-white, while Mother of the Bridegroom, Bride, Bridegroom, and Leonardo wore blacks, whites, and greys. The sparse pops of red in the props and costuming were balanced and predicted the essence of death and danger.

The diversity of the cast in gender, age, and culture gave this show greater power in terms of authenticity and richness. This is the casting I want to see in every show, regardless of its cultural point of view. The world is diverse, our art should be as well. When we see ourselves, it enables us to connect to the deeper meanings and truths. It allows us to have a mirror to look more intimately into our own humanity, instead of just observing the humanity of others.  

The performances, directed by Bryan Falcón, were great as a whole. At times, some of the performers would use an accent, and others not. Sometimes a British overtone, sometimes a Spanish. Sometimes odd diction, sometimes not.  I found this a little off-putting, but not so much that I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful performances behind the words. The delivery was often overly dramatic, in a way that the poetic language demanded.

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Claire De La Vergne as the bride on her wedding day with Kat McIntosh as the maid. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

I have to call out the performances of three individuals: Adrian Encinas, as The Moon, Leora Sapon-Sevin as Death, and De La Vergne. Encinas and Sapon-Sevin were creepy and spectacular. They used their bodies to create shapes of darkness and light. I was enraptured every time they move or spoke. They used their voices expertly to create silence, anger, pain and delight. De La Vergne was a glorious revelation throughout. Her pain became my pain. Her strength, my strength. Her love, her loss — mine. De La Vergne’s final exchange with the Bridegroom’s mother, played elegantly by Susan Arnold, was inspired and powerful. As a director, I wanted to cast her; as an actor, I wanted to be her; as a human being, I wanted to hug her. I can’t wait to see much more from De La Vergne. 

The women in this play have unexpected agency. The Bride makes choices that lead her along a dark path. She is neither commanded by her father, nor carried away by her lover, nor controlled by her betrothed. Additionally, in the end, it is the women who hold the space for love and grief. It is the women who commune to overcome aggression with emotion. It is the women who call out in their anger and sadness. It is the women who bravely water the earth with their tears.

The girl in the front row didn’t flinch at the darkness or grief. She took it all in, as did I. I hope she grows up and wants to create art just like this. Please go see this show. Allow the visual feast of diversity in music and humanity to transport you to that place where poetry and inclusion and love mean everything.

Blood Wedding is playing at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, Thursdays-Sundays through April 14th. (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2pm). Call the box office at 520-448-3300 or visit scoundrelandscamp.org for tickets.

International Women’s Day: Up close with Tucson’s Claire Hancock, Artistic Director of Artifact Dance Company

Claire

interviewed by Gabriella De Brequet

Claire Hancock holds a Master of Arts degree in European Dance Theatre from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, England, and earned both a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from the University of Arizona. In 2009 she began collaborating with colleague Ashley Bowman, and upon sharing their masters’ theses concert together, Hancock and Bowman co-founded Artifact Dance Project. They have been creating main stage concerts, short dance films and collaborative projects together ever since. In addition to her featured performances with Artifact, Claire performs as an actress with the Rogue Theatre and Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. She has danced professionally with ODC/San Francisco and River North Dance Company in Chicago, and has been a guest teacher and choreographer for organizations including the Limón Institute, Broadway Theatre Project, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Opera, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, True Concord: Voices and Orchestra, Arts Express, and Broadway in Tucson. Formative years of study include scholarships to the Houston Ballet Academy, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. She has served as rehearsal assistant for Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes and End of Time, as well as George Balanchine’s Serenade and The Four Temperaments, reporting to Leslie Peck and Elyse Borne, repetiteurs for the Balanchine Trust. Claire is a repetiteur for several of the late choreographer David Berkey’s works including his signature piece, Sentinel, which she has staged for Vassar College in New York, the New Mexico Dance Institute, and the University of Arizona and Artifact Dance Project. She is a Qualified Fletcher Pilates® teacher at Body Works Pilates™ in Tucson, AZ.

When did you discover that you needed to pursue a career in the arts?

As the daughter of professional dancers and dance educators, I have been immersed in the arts from a very young age. Moreover, I fell in love with many different genres of music and the visual arts early on, as my grandfather was both a jazz musician and print maker. As a result, I feel that the diversity of my early exposure to the performing arts has deeply developed my voice as a performer, teacher and choreographer and has heightened my curiosity for learning.

What qualities do you look for when choosing to take on a project?

I gravitate toward projects that present me with new challenges, continued growth, and discovery for all involved. I strive for versatility in my career and look for contrast and crossover between the projects I may already be working on.  

Do you have any dream roles or projects?

Any role or project that pushes me outside of my comfort zone and awakens parts of myself that might otherwise remain dormant.

Are there any projects that you have done in the past that you would like to do again in the future?

Recently I have given thought to revisiting some of the solo choreographic and film work I was doing during my graduate studies in London some ten years ago. I was exploring themes related to identity, duality, perception, polar opposites and the Tao Te Ching. It’s a broad line of inquiry that remains fascinating to me now.

Do you have any exciting up coming projects that you’re looking forward to sharing with the community of Tucson?

There are two productions that my colleague and creative partner, Ashley Bowman is choreographing and directing for our dance company, Artifact Dance Project that I’m looking forward to performing. Goliath runs March 21-24 in the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre and Monologue of a Muted Man runs May 9-12 in the Ina Gittings Studio 124.

 

The spotlight series will be a continued series where we spotlight local female and non-binary artists in the Tucson Community.