by Alicia Coombes, Publications Manager
Last week I had the pleasure of watching rehearsal for the first time since the first read-through. The cast welcomed me with the offer of snacks (their snack game is ON), and they worked on blocking a scene from around page 50 of the new script.
Playwright Octavio Solis has spoken about how thrilled he is that he can continue exploring the story of Don Quixote (this is its third incarnation! Hence: Quixote Nuevo) and is particularly excited about the possibilities afforded him with an all-Latinx cast.
Here’s a bit of an interview between Production Dramaturg Sonia Fernandez and Octavio:
Sonia Fernandez: I wanted to ask you about the Spanish. I’m curious because the Spanish within the scenes can be understood through the context around it. But you have whole songs in Spanish.
OS: Well yeah. I think because music is a language unto itself. Even if we don’t know the lyrics, we respond to the emotions that are carried through. Music can say—with its notes, just with its melody and its rhythm—it can say everything and more than if you literally translate that into language, into written words, into spoken language. It’s universal. Everybody gets that. There are people like my brother who lives in Mexico, he’ll hear Frank Sinatra, or Perry Como, and love that music, or Billie Holiday, and have no idea what she was singing, what the words were. It didn’t matter. Because he knew what they were singing about. They were singing about love or a party or heartbreak or loneliness, they understood that in the music, they feel it. So I feel like I can do that in this play. And in my plays, generally there’s often some songs that are all in Spanish. People will get it, and if they don’t, you know, then they just gotta wait until the song is over.
SF: There’s just something beautiful that I find in plays in other languages that it’s like you’re giving a special treat to the people who understand it. They’re getting something extra. And those are the people who may not usually get something extra, but in this you say, this is for you. It’s for everyone, but especially for you.
OS: Yeah. I feel that way, and there’s no doubt about it, I’m writing for an English-speaking audience in my plays, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t offer these little gifts to the people who also can speak Spanish who are there. And we may get audiences that don’t speak any English at all, and if we do, these songs will be a way for them to help carry on the journey of the play. At least that’s my hope.
This Quixote squarely lives in today’s Texas, steps from the Mexican border, and his is an American story rather than a Spanish/European one. The new script features songs in Spanish, some characters whose only language is Spanish, some whose only language is English (or “Texan” maybe? No disrespect, as a former Oklahoman), and other characters who playfully mix Spanish and English into a greater sum of its parts. The cast’s familiarity with the language is also varied: during rehearsal, some folks tried to remember rules of grammar, others helped with accents. Some practiced new lines written just moments before, and some played with their jokes a few different ways, feeling out what different emphases gave to the lines.
We’re all a bunch of language geeks around here, and it’s nice to see a living playwright play with language with the same zeal that I imagine Shakespeare must have done. There are raunchy jokes, bilingual rhymes, and poetic moments that will be a delight to watch this cast continue to explore.
More soon as I continue to spy from the rehearsal room! For lots more behind the scenes, follow #QuixoteNuevo and @calshakes on Instagram; and if you haven’t bought tickets already, you can get them here.