'Don Juan' retold in campus production at Cal State Long Beach

LONG BEACH - The image of the prototypical Latin lover gets revisited on Saturday, Nov. 3, when 2rC, a professional acting company from the Canary Islands, performs "Desmontando a Don Juan" ("Dismantling Don Juan") beginning at 7 p.m. in the University Theater at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB).Bonnie Gasior, a member of the CSULB Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures (RGRLL) Department, joins with the campus' Spanish Graduate Student Association (SGSA) to bring the troupe, led by director Rafael Cabrera Rodriguez, to the university. The event is part of a regional tour that includes CSULB, Cal State San Marcos and the Autonomous University of Baja California. "Dismantling Don Juan" reexamines a character found in 17th and 19th century Spanish literature, as well as the English, French and Italian traditions, Gasior explained. "There are two versions of the philandering Spanish Don Juan. The 17th century 'Don Juan' by Tirso de Molina who is banished to hell, and the 19th century 'Don Juan' by José Zorilla, who, in line with the play's romantic milieu, receives a divine pardon," Gasior noted. "What 2rC will stage is a contemporary play based on these two versions that reunite to dialogue with one another. The work ultimately touches on gender roles, misogyny and other social topics to which students can relate. "As a Hispanic-serving institution, I'm thrilled to be able to bring Spanish theater to our campus. We don't often have the opportunity to see high-quality, professional-grade Spanish theater in Long Beach," she added. "The cast will host a question-and-answer session after the play, and in this way, we transform the theater into a large classroom where learning and critical exchange can take place for the audience." The road to performance is never smooth and the same is true for "Dismantling Don Juan," which was originally scheduled for 2011 before the Spanish economy stumbled. "But thanks to some restored funds in the form of a $2,100 grant from the Spanish-based Program for Cultural Cooperation, which strives to promote Spanish culture in the U.S., we were finally able to set a date for the staging," Gasior affirmed. Several departments are co-sponsoring the event, including RGRLL, Chicano and Latino Studies, Theater Arts, and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the President's Commission on the Status of Women as well as the mentoring program Partners for Success. "It is inspiring to have so many people on board because it highlights the university's commitment to collaboration. When we reach out to individuals in other departments and colleges we create a win-win situation because by default we involve more students," she said. Gasior thanked the SGSA for its role in organizing the staging of the play. "The aim of the SGSA, which formed in 2010 as an offshoot of the Spanish Club, was to specifically sponsor intellectual events on campus within RGRLL," she said. "A student organization like this one functions as the mediator between faculty members and campus guests. The students' participation in the organizing process, in the end, teaches them about more than just the event itself. It professionalizes them. By having students directly involved, they can better appreciate the logistics involved in coordinating university events." Gasior feels it is the responsibility of any university to offer cultural and intellectual events like this. "By definition, students are our focus," she said. When asked if she considered staging the play elsewhere, she replied, "Why would a play like this be performed anywhere else? My primary audience is my classroom, my department and my immediate community. It wouldn't make sense to perform it anywhere else." Gasior invites the campus and local community to attend "Dismantling Don Juan." "You cannot walk across this campus without hearing conversations in Spanish," she commented. "For me, to bring something entirely in Spanish to campus which unites students from across the university is to bring something different yet familiar. Spanish theater from this particular part of Spain is indeed a unique opportunity for CSULB." Tickets for the performance are $10 for CSULB students, faculty and staff, and $15 for the general public. To purchase tickets, please go to csulbdesmontandodonjuan.eventbrite.com.

********** Published: October 25, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 28