DramaCentre’s “Señora Tortuga” takes the Family Weekend stage
Mexican and American cultures collide in DramaCentre’s Family Weekend production, Señora Tortuga. A completely student-run theatrical performance, the English/Spanish bilingual play uses the wisdom tales of Mexican culture to give hope to the young protagonist Pedro and his family as they make their home on the Mexican border. After his mother invites a hungry woman to share dinner with the family, Pedro’s nights are filled with dreams of the fantastical stories she shares, and these dreams begin to change the way he sees the world around him.
Written by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Señora Tortuga touches on the importance of maintaining cultural traditions.
“On the surface, it’s about a family that is having a few problems and how culture and tradition helps move them to a better place,” director Jane Dewey explains. “They don’t end up with more money, they don’t end up with any more food, but they end up with a different sense of being because of the stories that come from their culture, that come from this mysterious storyteller. At the same time, it’s about magic and fun. It’s a show with a lot of spectacle, with music and dance and lighting and sound effects. There are all kinds of ways to insert yourself into the world of this play.”
The cast of student actors spent just three weeks rehearsing the play and piecing together the intricate movement patterns of Pedro’s dream sequences.
“The actors came in three days before school started because we thought, ‘Gosh, this is a short, 34-page script,’” Dewey says. “With all of the movement and the set pieces that travel all around the stage, as well as acting through the script to bring the story alive, we used every single minute of that time.”
The production also features a small ensemble of student musicians, who provide an improvisational score, and movement actors, who weave in and out of the moving set pieces designed by Cassandra Chambers ’16.
The cast will also put on three school-day performances for Danville’s elementary schools, thanks to grant funding provided by the Kentucky Department of Education through their World Language and Arts Integration initiative. Dewey has served as director of arts education for the Danville schools since 2000.
Dewey hopes that the audience will feel inspired to embrace their cultural heritage and think about immigration issues currently facing the United States.
“What [Señora Tortuga] brought up for me, as a director, is the importance of a little bit of magic and storytelling in our world to brighten our existence and the importance of our cultural heritage,” she says. “When I started working on this play this summer, the United States had several thousand unaccompanied children at the gates of its border from several Central American countries, and we didn’t know what to do with them. They’re coming to the United States for something better than what they have. This raises a question that we have never, in my opinion, grappled with: how do we, a society of immigrants, continue to welcome others into our country?”
DramaCentre’s Señora Tortuga will open on Thursday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. Performances will also take place on Friday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. in Weisiger Theatre in Grant Hall.
On Friday evening, Lidia Galindo Brito ’15 and Jeri Howell ’16 will lead a talkback with Dewey, the cast and the student designers for audience members who wish to stay after the performance.
Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for senior citizens, students and groups of 10 or more; free to Centre faculty and staff; free to parents of Centre students; and free to Centre students with ID. Tickets are available from the Norton Center box office by calling 877-HIT-SHOW, and at the Weisiger box office before curtain.
Leticia – Shruti Shankar Ram ’17
Pedro – Sean Fannin ’17
Señora Tortuga – Ali Gautier ’15
Claudia – Tyhgita Cespedes ’15
Movement Ensemble – Taylee Wells ’16, Dan Caudill ’17, Brianna King ’16, and Seth Gray ’16
Musical Ensemble – Scott Olsen ’15, Emilie O’Connor ’17, McKenzie Bottoms ’17, McKenzie Nalley ’15, and Suehyun Choi ’16
Assistant Director – Josh Jerome ’15
Stage Manager – Nicole Pottinger ’16
Assistant Stage Managers – Natalie Trammell ’17, Rachel Bischoff ’18
Scenic Designer – Cassie Chambers ’16
Lighting Designer – Matthew Hallock
Costume Designer – Annie Wolff ’15
Props Designer – Chandler Garland ’17
Sound Designer – Jordan Aiken ’15
by Hayley Hoffman ’16