Grupo Cambalache: Nothing Is Black and White; New Theater Group Aims to Discuss Culture, Politics Through Spanish Language

By Abby Wargo
Student Life Editor

For Spanish lovers and Latinx individuals alike, there is a new special interest group to reflect a wider range of student interest.

Grupo Cambalache is a Spanish theater club which aims to give students space to use Spanish to communicate outside of the classroom. They meet on Wednesdays at 7:15 p.m. in Goldstein 203; their meetings are held entirely in Spanish.

Similarly to Spanish classes, this full immersion into the language helps students to practice speaking, or just to give them more experience using, Spanish.

“It’s a mix of all levels; I’m in a 400-level seminar, but we have people who are in their first year. You get a good mix of people and their abilities so you get a good bit of intercommunication and help, which I think is really fantastic,” junior and Vice President Rachael Walloga said.

“To provide students with the ability to practice their language skills, I believe you can make [learning Spanish] more creative and have fun exploring it,” said sophomore club President Stephaney Wilson.

“I was interested [in joining] because I love Spanish, and I wasn’t really satisfied with the performance of the Spanish club. When we’re looking at how people learn language, it’s not effective to just use it in class and copy what you hear; you don’t really get the opportunity to ad lib,” Walloga said.

It is this constant goal of improving the mastery of the Spanish language that gave the club its name: “cambalache” is Argentinian slang for “in progress.” The way the club aims to achieve this fluency and heightened understanding, however, is not as niche as some students believe it to be.

“Grupo Cambalache…is a place where you can do theater, which has always classically been where you can improve your speaking skills, your projection, et cetera,” Walloga said. “In English, you would develop your public speaking and diction and voice, and so having that in Spanish allows students to practice with their ad lib, practice with their accent and their speech to become more effective speakers.”

In addition to using acting to work on speaking Spanish, Grupo Cambalache also seeks to highlight other aspects of theater, such as backstage duties, sound, lighting, and costume and set design.

“It’s important for this campus to explore different aspects of theater… ‘Spanish theater’ is more of an umbrella term,” Wilson said.

While theater is a great avenue to practice language-learning skills, it also aids in exploring culturally relevant themes and topics.

“A lot of the goals of our club are not only to promote diversity and understanding and learning, but we also wanted to showcase social issues in our club as well,” Wilson said.

The show in progress is called “Blanco y Negro,” meaning black and white. This Cuban one-act is mainly about two sides who can’t agree.

“We’re looking at pieces that show a conversation about Latin American culture and political culture. Our play touches on machísmo, political conflict, who’s right and who’s wrong, and why we do what we do,” Walloga said.

Martín Pontí, assistant professor of Spanish and advisor of Grupo Cambalache, stressed this particular show’s importance in today’s context. Because of the statement-making quality of the show, he envisioned a round-table discussion on the themes of the performance after the show.

“I think it is so relevant to today because we are so divided—Democrats and Republicans, everybody’s yelling, both sides have valid reasons but no one is listening or dialoguing about it,” he said.

According to Pontí, the show was chosen at the beginning of the semester with the intent to perform at the end of the semester. The copyright to the show has yet to be procured, so the performance will most likely be put on in mid-February. Until then, the seven students in the club will continue with character work and familiarization with the text.

The leadership members of the club are excited about the effects that this club will produce on campus once the performance aspect gets up and running.

“It benefits the campus because this is different. This is something that I believe would allow for this campus to [have] a much more heightened learning experience. This group promotes so much, honestly—learning, experience, and I also feel like it challenges people to get outside of their comfort zone, not only in a different language, but also in a theatrical sense, and to explore themselves,” Wilson said, “it’s not directed towards Spanish-speaking people, it’s directed towards anyone who can find [commonalities] with [our performances.]”

Walloga said, “I have the idea that if it wasn’t theater, it would be singing, or coffee sessions…the goal of the club is to create a space for students to use Spanish outside of the classroom and develop abilities where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”

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