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Audience Praises SLU-Madrid Theater’s “Sonnets for an Old Century” Performance

With only a month of preparation, the theater department debuted their fall show for students and staff in November
Valerie Rosqueta
Cast of Sonnets of an Old Century receiving notes after their first (and only) tech run

The students and staff of the SLU-Madrid community are stunned yet inspired after watching the Theater program’s fall show.

“I didn’t know the characters were dead until one of the performers told me,” said Chris Garcia, a senior study abroad student. 

SLU-Madrid Theater performed Sonnets for An Old Century by playwright Jose Rivera. It narrates the final words of the deceased as they express the joys and sorrows they experienced—or did not experience—during their lives. The show is a series of monologues without an overarching plot. Each performer played two different characters, acting with different mannerisms, props, and voices.

 After the previous show, Almost Maine, was canceled in October, the theater department created a new production with a month-long deadline. The show was scheduled for November 23 and 24 at Sala Arapiles 16, a theater 20 minutes away from campus.

Rhea Ibarra arrived with Garcia on the Friday show 20 minutes late. Although they missed the opening scene, they found the show—and their friends on stage—surpassing their expectations. “Seeing my friends act with such emotion was jarring because their characters were nothing like them,” Ibarra said.” They would say something and I thought, “Oh, that did not just come out of your mouth!’” 

When asked about her observations on the story, Ibarra focused less on the plot and more on the emotions the actors portrayed. She expressed the play’s blunt theme: life will end regardless of how one lives. “I didn’t really get it in the beginning, but the actors were compelling nonetheless,” she said. “There isn’t any story direction except how it builds emotionally throughout.”

The program, written by SLU-Madrid theater director Eloy Gomez, says, “We had an imperfect production process. We have an imperfect show. But how thrilling and joyful it has been to see our students rise to the challenge and allow themselves to be vulnerable and seen.”

Cast of Sonnets of an Old Century taking their final bows after their last performance.
(Valerie Rosqueta)

On the other side of the auditorium, production and cast members were ready to perform the show. 

Reia Dias, junior study abroad student and Props Designer, saw the show unfold from backstage. As Sonnets required less props management compared to Almost, Maine, Dias watched the show from backstage. “The props allowed the actors to be their characters whether they put on a cardigan, or rolled a cigarette,” She said. “I was impressed by their skills.”

Kate Ivanova, first-year permanent student and cast member, performed part of her monologue in the audience. Playing a character implied to be in a mental hospital, she walked into the seating area, describing her character’s isolated life while running in the aisles. 

“I loved my character. It was exciting to play someone who wasn’t happy and didn’t want to be,” she said. “Scaring people in the audience was my favorite part.”

With no on-campus performance space, the SLU-Madrid performing arts department must schedule their shows in other theaters. Rehearsals are scheduled in San Ignacio Hall room 120 throughout the semester. The live performances, including props, costumes, and an interactive audience, challenge the actors to convey their story while adjusting to the new space and materials.

Anne Dewey is an SLU-Madrid English professor who saw Sonnets on opening night. She observed the show’s connection to real life. “We don’t know what our last moment will be, but reflecting on the shape of our lives can help us to have a more meaningful view of them,” She said. “I also think about how all the unresolved stories lead to emotional residue and how little we know of each other.”

The show’s set included two platforms, eight acting cubes, and one 6 foot mirror standing in the center. Other actors listened on stage or mimicked the people and things described in the monologues. The actor’s roles  were listed as  “Ensemble” in the program.

“Each person was in their own space, changing places, sometimes coming together. Maybe it is not so different from life,” Dewey said. 

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About the Contributor
Valerie Rosqueta
Valerie Rosqueta, Staff Photographer and Staff Writer
Valerie Rosqueta is double majoring in English and communication.

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