The Language Archive/El Archivo de Idiomas

By Julia Cho

With Spanish translation by Octavio Solis

In these days of conflict among nations, talk of keeping people out, keeping people in, and viewing one’s neighbors as strangers, what does “communication” mean? How do we speak to one another so that we are really, really heard? So that we really, really listen? The Language Archive/El Archivo de Idiomas explores that question, approaching it with whimsy and thoughtfulness. Symmetry Theatre Company has commissioned Octavio Solis, an American-raised playwright of Mexican heritage to translate this play by Julia Cho, winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn prize, an award “to recognize women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.” (blackburnprize.org/the-prize/) Two casts made up of professional actors, one English-speaking, one Spanish-speaking, will share the stage together telling the play’s story.

The Language Archive
Teatro Santa Ana, La Biblioteca
Reloj 50A
Thu–Sat, Nov 9–11, 7pm
Tue–Fri, Nov 14–16, 7pm
200 pesos

The plays focuses on three storylines, that of George, a language archivist; Mary, his wife; and Emma, his lab assistant. These relationships are built on words, but the characters find that words are mere tools. Some mysterious alchemy is needed to transform these words and their constructs into true understanding.

The themes of the play are further emphasized in the bilingual telling of the tale. In Symmetry’s production, at times the characters are literally speaking different languages to each other. This creative staging of the play will speak to Spanish- and English-speaking audiences alike.

Chloe Bronzan is the director of the production as well as the artistic director of Symmetry Theatre, the production company staging the play. She dreamed up this idea on a recent visit to San Miguel from her home in Berkeley, California, shortly after the American presidential elections last year. On her prior visits here, she had taken part in a number of theatrical workshops and productions, teaming up with American and Mexican theater artists to speak to multinational audiences by doing plays. She recognized the absurdity of the new American administration’s promise to build a wall, certain that what is needed instead of muting is to listen to one another; instead of decrying differences between cultures, to celebrate and learn from them. And in this storm of thoughts, she was reminded of The Language Archive. Chloe had directed the play in its original English version in 2013 in Berkeley and its message, always an important one, was in that (and this) moment, all powerful and moving. Returning home, she raised funds, commissioned Octavio Solis to translate the play with Julia Cho’s blessing, and now she and Symmetry Theatre bring the premier of the bilingual version of this playful, quirky script to Teatro Santa Ana this November.

The Mexican and American members of the cast have been instrumental in fine-tuning the words of the Spanish script, making sure both languages effectively convey not just the words, but the meanings and the feelings behind them, keeping communication very much alive.

 

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