Bilingual play bridges two worlds in Gillette

Luis Meras, Caren Thomas and Pedro Lujan sit around a table as they rehearse a scene from the play "Blood Wedding." The play is the first bilingual production put on by Gillette area performers at the CamPlex. (Photo by Rhianna Gelhart, Gillette News Record)

By Kathy Brown

Gillette News Record

Via Wyoming News Exchange

GILLETTE — The dramatic folk tragedy “Bodas de Sangre” — or “Blood Wedding” — was written nearly 90 years ago, but is bringing together members of the Hispanic and English-speaking communities in Gillette this week.

Twenty Campbell County High School students — many on stage for the first time — will perform the play written by Federico Garcia Lorca, an important Spanish Poet at the height of his popularity when he was executed by nationalist forces at the start of the Spanish Civil War.

His words — and his poetry — are being interpreted by a cast ranging from sophomores to seniors, and soccer players to International Club members. 

Along with the two-act play about a Spanish bride-to-be who jilts her fiancée to marry a former lover, there will be poetry recited by Spanish dual-language students from Stocktrail Elementary, flamenco guitars and face painting for children.

The performance also will be filmed by Gillette Public Access televison to be shown at the University of Wyoming at a later date.

The unique play — the first bilingual production offered by local actors at Cam-plex — will live long after its debut, especially for its young actors.

Cord Smith plays Leonardo, who marries La Novia before they run away on horseback. He likely is one of the few in the cast who has performed before. He also was interested in working on his Spanish, and being part of the production has helped him prepare for a trip to Mexico this summer.

The senior also is as nervous as much of the Hispanic cast. Their lines are authentic Spanish from the 19th century. Smith worries he will make a mistake on stage, but he knows the cast will help him if he flubs.

His castmates have the same worry.

“I do like it, the poetry, in Spanish,” Smith added.

While there will be English narration of the play for those who don’t speak Spanish, it is a unique moment in time and the cast understands that.

Alex Sosa 0plays Criada, the maid to the bride.

“I thought I would be in the background or helping with the play,” she said. “So this is a new experience to me. It’s kind of exciting.”

She has some excitement playing her role, aided by assistant director David Gonzalez, a performing artist from New York.

At his instruction, she created a backstory for her character. She is a maid who previously had a husband and a child of her own. So raising La Novia brought out her love for that child.

“It is an important role,” Sosa said. “I think it is pretty special. I’ve had others tell me the best part is once you’re done.”

She enjoys the different meanings in Lorca’s lyrical folk tale, including the colors.

“We’re reading it now in Spanish class,” she said. “I like it because it has different colors, meanings and metaphors. It’s so deep. There’s so many different meanings.”

Sosa said Gonzalez also has helped her play Craida “with more sass,” something that’s definitely normal for her.

Pedro Lujan plays El Padre de la Novia, father of the bride. A 16-year-old sophomore, he said he’s battling nerves as opening night nears.

He performs a lot of dancing in his role, something he enjoys, and said he originally tried out for the play as a dancer. Then Spanish teacher Renee Fritzen talked him into playing the role.

The father is someone torn with emotion by his daughter’s actions. While he hates her leaving her fiancée at the altar, he also is satisfied that she will be happy with her choice.

“I’m glad it’s something in the language for both English and Spanish,” Lujan said.

Karla Thomas, a 17-year-old senior, is one of two sisters in lead roles for “Blood Wedding,” and said she’s nothing like her character, La Novia, who is loud and shouts a lot.

“She’s pretty self-conflicted whether to marry her boyfriend or her lover,” she said. “I’m normally kind and calm. She’s loud and shouting.”

Preparing for that type of role in her first play has pushed her a bit. But it’s something she’s also grateful for.

Her parents were among those who wanted both of their daughters to have this experience performing in “Blood Wedding.”

“Our parents know this will be good for us,” said Karla, who filmed the scene where she runs away with Leonardo on the Daly Ranch north of Gillette to be shown on a big screen for audiences watching the stage.

She and Smith ride into the scene, aided by Kellen Smith.

“It’s really important that this is bilingual. I get a lot of happiness to bring Hispanics and Americans together,” she said. “That’s neat.”

It works through the students who have a foot in both worlds.

“Mostly it’s wonderful. It’s very meaningful. I like it,” Karla said.

Her sister, Karen Thomas, said she feels much the same way. She plays La Madre del Novio, mother of the bridegroom.

It’s a role that includes shouting and haranguing other characters.

“It’s a real-life experience with everyone,” she said.

It was a role Fritzen also talked the 16-year-old sophomore into taking on.

“I know I can do this,” she said. “It’s a good story. You have to be so (much) the mother. I’m really excited. I like the play, the character and all the poems. I love it.”

The symbolism of the knife and colors has been something she’s grasped by working on the play.

“I really like the end of the play,” she said. And that’s not just because it’s the end. “There’s a lot of sadness and love and grief in the ending.”

Luis Meras plays El Novio, the jilted bridegroom. He’s worked on his role — as a first-time actor and Camels soccer player — for five months.

His role also includes dancing on stage, something he enjoys.

“I want to try new things,” the 18-year-old junior said adding about the play that, “I think it’s so important.”

He is happy in the play at first. By the end, however, he’s angry.

Meras said he’s learned — with help from Gonzalez — to understand his role and Lorca’s work better. “I like his poems and the way he uses colors,” he said.

He also is battling nerves but is confident the novice acting cast can pull it off.

Meras said he also understands the impact of sharing the play across cultural lines between Hispanics and English-speakers.

“It’s important,” he said, “and we can do it.”

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