Previously performed in fall, Life is a Dream re-emerged at the Dr. Phillips Center April 9 as part of UCF Celebrates the Arts.
Life is a Dream, a play published in 1635 by Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca, presented some unique challenges. Although Dr. Martha Garcia of UCF’s Department of Modern Languages and Literature adapted the script into more contemporary language, performing a play in Spanish presented some challenges for the cast.
“I don’t speak Spanish, so there was definitely a language barrier as we started the rehearsal process,” said director Joe D’Ambrosi, who is pursuing an MFA in theater studies. “It got easier as we went along, though. It became less about the language and more about the narrative being told through visual storytelling and the intent of the characters.”
Life is a Dream tells a surprising and epic story of royalty in seventeenth-century northern Europe. At the beginning of the play, Rosaura and Clarín stumble across a prisoner in a mysterious tower in the mountains. They eventually learn that Segismundo, the prisoner, is the prince of the kingdom and current heir to the throne.
However, his father, King Basilio, locked him away because of a prophecy that said Segismundo would be a violent and brutal ruler. As the story moves forward, dreams and reality become muddled together, and the forces of fate struggle against freedom and self-determination.
“The timeless message that the show gives is pretty noteworthy,” said Victor Vazquez, a freshman theater major who played Clarín. “In my opinion, it’s always good to know, even in this day and age, that your destiny is what you make it.”
The script even challenged some performers who are native Spanish speakers, such as Vazquez, who compared the Spanish dialect in Life is a Dream to Shakespearean English.
“The play was adapted with the script of the original 17th century text still present, so it had many words and phrases I wouldn’t normally use in my everyday Spanish,” Vazquez said. “It was cool to explore a much more classic style of the language.”
The UCF production of “The Life is a Dream Project” was originally staged in the Black Box Theatre on UCF’s campus in December 2015. In addition to some changes in the staging due to a new space, there was a change in the cast performers as well, meaning newbies had to learn their lines very quickly.
“My experience was really different from [that of] the rest of the cast,” said Pablo Javier Lorenzo, a fifth-year theater major. “I only had six rehearsals to memorize all my lines.”
Lorenzo, who joined the cast to play Segismundo after the actor who played him in December moved to California, described the process of connecting with his character.
“Segismundo, to me, is a man who is very insecure about his life and self-worth. He hides his insecurity through anger,” Lorenzo said. “I had to bring [back] old memories of myself where I felt insecure and angry with God and the universe, and it brought back that anger that I could bring to the stage.”
Ximena González, a sophomore theater major who hails from Venezuela, both enjoyed and appreciated her opportunity to perform as the character Rosaura.
“It was a very special experience for me,” Gonzalez said. “I thought that once I moved here I wouldn’t be able to do a play in my native language. I believe there should be more projects like this one … there are so many beautiful plays from all over the world with universal themes we can all enjoy and appreciate. Projects like these really show the power of theater and that is something many people tend to overlook.”
Alex Storer is a senior staff writer for the Central Florida Future.