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Theater Department to Perform Play by José Rivera: Sonnets for an Old Century

The work by the Puerto Rican playwright was chosen after the originally scheduled play, Almost Maine, was cancelled
Valerie Rosqueta
Students rehearse a scene from the upcoming play by José Rivera, Sonnets for an Old Century.

Theater students learned in late September that their fall show would have to be canceled because two students dropped out, but a new play has been chosen.

SLU Madrid’s Theater Department will be performing Sonnets for an Old Century by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera this semester. However, this was not director Eloy Gómez’s original plan for the fall production.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Gómez emailed his students with the news that their show, Almost, Maine, had to be canceled. The play, written by John Cariani, was a combination of 10 vignettes that tell the stories of love and friendship in Northern Maine.

Due to the nature of the play, each scene only required two or three actors. The roles could be shared by a minimum of four performers or a maximum of twenty actors. This allowed casting to be flexible, as actors could choose whether or not they wanted to double up on roles.

Unfortunately, a limited number of auditioning students caused an uneven distribution of roles. When the show was cast, four men covered the eight male roles, and each of the actresses covered one female part.

“We were short on men by default,” Professor Gómez said. “Later, we had one of the actors that covered two parts drop the show, which left us with a missing male-identifying performer. Then one that played three parts dropped the show this morning.”

The students, whom Gómez elected to keep anonymous, dropped the show due to the overwhelming number of commitments they had made this semester.

“All for good academic reasons. Just making sure they could succeed in their other classes without sacrificing their mental health,” Gómez explained. “But that left us with two men to play eight parts which is an amount that they cannot fulfill while still succeeding in other classes. It is just way too much work, especially when originaly they agreed to play smaller parts.”

Gomez had been reaching out to his students to find other male actors on campus but to no avail. Four weeks into the rehearsal process, the production was down 5 out of its 10 scenes. Gomez had no choice but to retire Almost, Maine.

Ernesto Lange-Rooks rehearses for a scene in the new play chosen, Sonnets for an Old Century. (Photo by Valerie Rosqueta)

This was devastating news to the cast and crew. Ernesto Lange-Rooks is a first-year student who participated in the play during the Spring 2023 semester. Due to scheduling conflicts, he could only commit to one role in the show. But the loss of his character was disheartening.

“I was very committed to my character already,” Lange-Rooks explained. “I had started my research of his diagnosis and the development of his personality. I also really liked the scene that I was doing, our scene was my favorite out of the show, coincidentally. It was a very shocking situation I would have never guessed in a million years that Almost Maine would be canceled.”

Other actors shared similar lamentations to Lange-Rooks. Gabriela Rittley and Leticia Mondada expressed that their scenes were their favorites out of the show.

“I was cast correctly,” Mondada concluded after reading her scene.

Gómez and his assistant director, Ona Alumbaugh, were quick to choose a new show. They chose Sonnets for an Old Century due to the structure of the show. It is a compilation of independent monologues that could be read by a variety of actors that do not have to be dependent on gender.

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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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