Earlier this month (Oct. 1-4), students from CalArts' School of Theater participated in a design workshop with Mexican theater company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes' Claudio Valdés Kuri after the company's run of El Gallo at the RADAR LA theater festival. Kuri explored technical possibilities with students to create the look and feel of his new adaptation of Spanish writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca's La Vida Es Sueño (Life is a Dream).
La Vida Es Sueño is a play that aims to incorporate various artistic disciplines in homage to the quadrivium—the four arts taught in the Renaissance Period. Kuri's production will include corporal rhythm, sacred geometry and Mexican baroque music, among others.
Calderon's 370-year-old play has two famous extant translations: a literal one about the King of Poland imprisoning his son for fear that he will fulfill a prophecy spelling doom for the country, and another more allegorical one that pits the characters Man and Shadow against each other. It is the latter translation that Kuri is most interested in, and the one focused on in the workshop.
The first two days' work were dedicated to experimenting with the design of the piece, incorporating video floor projections into the production. The last two days were devoted to working with actors to tie preliminary elements of the play together.
In an email, Kuri expressed his excitement about the work done at CalArts:
The design investigation workshop for La Vida es Sueño at CalArts was an extraordinary experience not only because of the true disposition of the management of the School of Theater in supporting the project, but also for the generous participation of all the people who took part in it.
It was possible, in very little time, to put together a team of people from different disciplines who brought their time, talent and experience to search for creative solutions to specific challenges.
There was a great disposition to understand a very complex project both for its depth and the difficulties of the language. What amazes me the most was that we were able to form a group in which everybody worked enthusiastically on different ideas of all members of the team.
Thank you so much! Let’s keep on dreaming.
The video below by Ting Zhang (Theater MFA 16) captures some of the workshop's activity: