A challenging piece of theater at Summit High School
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“The House of Bernarda Alba” is a chance for Summit High School’s actresses to show off their talent, said Cathie Hill, the musical’s producer and musical director.
It’s not an easy show, she added. It tests the limits of the high school’s young actresses – forcing them to play roles far outside of themselves.
“We like to stretch the students … and give them a wide range of theatrical experiences,” Hill said.
The show opens at 7 p.m. tonight and runs the same time Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
Written the year Federico Garcia Lorca was executed at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, “The House of Bernardo Alba” was his last play. It wasn’t until 1945 that the play debuted outside of Spain. Ironically, the show about repressing the freedom of others wasn’t produced in Lorca’s native country until 1964 – because of the repression of artistic expression in Spain during Franco’s regime.
The show is a drama about the women in the villages of Spain and centers on the human interaction among five sisters (ages 20 to 39) and their mother during a period of mourning. Several servants and the sisters’ grandmother are also present, making the plot more complex.
A chorus of village women is one of the show’s highlights. They enter, singing in Latin, at dramatic junctures to “underscore the action musically and as witnesses to the pain causes by Bernarda and her controlling schemes,” Hill said. The music builds emotional interaction with the audience, she added, such as one mostly wordless song, sung in groans. Occasionally, the chorus sings the Latin version of “day of wrath, day of judgment.”
Compared to last year’s “Willy Wonka,” Hill said, this musical is “not a real cheery, upbeat show.”
However, the nature of the show – exploring repression, passion and conformity as well as the effects of men upon women – is a challenge for the cast. It’s ideal for some students who may opt to major in theater or theater tech in post-secondary education.
“We knew we had a really talented group of women to work with,” Hill said. “(Director) Josh Blanchard really wanted to do this show to showcase their talent.”
Presenting the show in black-box format is a further challenge for the cast – and the audience. The two can’t escape each other, Hill said. Together, they form the show.
“It makes for a more intimate experience with actresses 3 feet away or less,” Hill said. “It’s a challenge for the actors because they’re not able to hide behind the lights. They are face to face with the audience.”
Such a format also limits the number of people who can attend the show, Hill added. About 100 seats are available per performance, so she advises those interested in seeing the show to purchase their tickets in advance at Summit High School.
The play is a PG-13 production, Hill said. It’s not appropriate for young children, due to the mature subject matter.
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