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latinx theatre, latinx plays, latinx Shakespeares, magical realism, mexican shakespeare, bilingual theatre

 

Querido: a fantastical tale of romance and revolution                   

Director: Meg Lowey 

Assistant Director: Meredith Shadle

WAVE Productions, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) -2014          

 

Querido (2014)

by Meghan Lowey

                                               

Querido: a fantastical tale of romance and revolution was a Northwestern University student theatre production, presented in February 2014. The creation of playwright and director Meghan Lowey, it was produced by Caitlin Medina for the student group WAVE Productions, which “strive[s] to produce stories the campus needs by empowering our peer collaborators in pursuit of their passions and growth.”[1] Lowey, a non-Latinx dual-major in Theatre and Spanish Language & Literature, proposed the project as a senior capstone. Working with advisor Paul Edwards, she developed an original piece which wove magical realist imagery with elements of Latin American history and cultures, all applied to the framework of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The resulting script was a semi-bilingual (about 70% English, 30% Spanish) combination of original text, excerpts of prose and poetry by Latinx authors such as Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, and Gabriel García Márquez, and dialogue from Pablo Neruda’s Spanish translation of Romeo & Juliet. The linguistic content of the piece was chosen to scaffold Spanish words and phrases so that the general context was comprehensible for all English speakers, regardless of their familiarity with Spanish.

The piece was staged in a promenade style in a massive open room, separated by dividers into two separate performance spaces: a smaller area which served as the sanctuary of a church, and the large Plaza de Armas, which included a main square and multi-level platforms depicting Mercucio’s bar and “love hotel”, as well as the Capulet’s mansion and kitchen. At several intervals over the course of the ninety-minute run, the audience was invited by three Chorus characters to travel to a new space, sometimes having to choose between two simultaneous scenes as the star-crossed amantes lost touch and made the conflicting decisions that sealed their fates. The traditional rivalry between the Capulets and the Montagues was represented by bubbling tensions between the poor lower class (led by failed poet Romeo and his revolutionary friends, burdel-owner Mercutio and prostitute Benvolia) and the wealthy ruling class: Julieta and her privileged family, their servant, the Indigenous nurse Angélica, and Julieta’s suitor, Doctor Paris, a glamorous expat.

The plot of Querido takes place in an unidentified Latin American city at the turn of the 20th century, where “in the Plaza de Armas, there are rumbles of revolution”. Inspired by the tradition of Latin American authors to set their stories in fictional towns (thus allowing more freedom for social critique), Lowey decided not to give Querido a specific setting - a choice which intended to emphasize the turmoil of post-colonial Latin America, but which also led to some inconsistencies in both style and execution. Whereas fictional literary towns like García Márquez’s Macondo tend to have a clear cultural basis in the authors’ home countries, the world of Querido incorporated a mix of Colombian cumbia, Mexican papel picado, and a priest character reminiscent of El Salvador’s Romero, which despite its effort to emphasize shared histories, at times came across as a conflation of disparate cultures.

Given Querido’s origins as a student production in a university setting, the artistic team faced significant casting constraints, as well as challenges in the team’s own developing understanding of responsible cultural representation. The final production, headed by Charlie Oh and Phoebe González as the lovers, had a cast of 13 undergraduate students, four of whom identified as Hispanic / Latinx. This ratio was in keeping with the university’s history of “colorblind casting” for educational productions, and reflected the demographics of the Northwestern theatre department, which even in 2022 was over 70% white.[2] Cultural events, such as Spanish pronunciation workshops and a trip to the National Museum of Mexican Art, were arranged for the company and production team to educate them about the theatrical setting.

Querido’s final production incorporated a wide range of artistic styles, from traditional Latin American song and dance to intimate one-on-one audience interactions to gory death-by-rose-thorns. The piece, which ran for five performances, was well-attended and positively received by the students and faculty of Northwestern University.

AUGUST 2022

[1] “Mission Statement,” WAVE Productions, northwestern.campuslabs.com. Accessed 12 July 2022.

[2] “Northwestern University: Report on Faculty and Student Diversity and Inclusion, Academic Year 2014-15,” Northwestern University, northwestern.edu/diversity/docs.  Accessed 12 July 2022.

The most recent Theatre Department demographic data (2019-2020) reveals that Northwestern’s undergraduate Drama and Theater Arts Bachelor’s degree recipients are 75% white, 8% Hispanic/Latino, 6% Asian, 6% other races, and 4% Black. “Drama and Theater Arts at Northwestern University,” College Factual, collegefactual.com. Accessed 12 July 2022.

All images courtesy of Meghan Lowey
Juanita Andersen and Phoebe González in Querido
Juanita Andersen and Phoebe González in Querido
Querido: A Fantastical Tale of Romance and Revolution by Meg Lowey
Phoebe González and Charlie Oh in Querido

Angélica (Juanita Andersen) and Julieta (Phoebe González) with Tibaldo (Jared Sprowls)

 Photography by: Justin Barbin

Angélica (Juanita Andersen) warns Julieta (Phoebe González) about the dangers of love

 Photography by: Justin Barbin

Querido Teaser Poster

 Poster design by: Alex Bird

Julieta (Phoebe González) and Romeo (Charlie Oh) communicate via letter

 Photography by: Justin Barbin

Phoebe González, Max Spitz, and Charlie Oh in Querido
Querido: A Fantastical Tale of Romance and Revolution
Justin Shannin, Julia Rose Duray, and Charlie Oh in Querido

Company of Querido (Phoebe González, Max Spitz, and Charlie Oh)

 Photography by: Justin Barbin

The company of Querido

 Photography by: Justin Barbin

Mercucio (Justin Shannin), and a burdel employee (Julia Rose Duray) mock Romeo (Charlie Oh)

 Photography by: Justin Barbin

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