WC debuts first Spanish language theatre production

edited.SpanishPlay_ToriZieminski_3By Carlee Berkenkemper

Elm Staff Writer

The play “La Nona,” or “The Granny”, performed on Saturday, Nov. 17 in the Egg, appears similar to Washington College’s numerous theatre productions—humorous, student-led, and well-attended—except for one important twist: it was performed entirely in Spanish.

“Learning another language has the ability to open doors to so many people but also allows you to gain more understanding of your native language,” said junior Aaron Adler, who starred as the main character.

“La Nona” is a 1977 play written by Roberto Cossa that depicts the life of an Argentinian Italian immigrant family.

The plot revolves around the familys’ efforts to support the household financially despite their grandmother Nona’s appetite, which threatens to bankrupt the family.

Delivered on campus by Grupo Cambalache, WC’s Spanish-language theatre interest group, the production was designed to cater to Spanish speakers of all levels.

Dr. Martin Ponti, assistant professor of Spanish, explained that he chose “La Nona” for that reason—to reach a wide audience.

“The play is really well known, especially in Argentina, so I’m very familiar with it, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work on it,” Dr. Ponti, who is from Argentina, said. “Also, it’s very theatrical and expressive. The way the main character in particular behaves is very humorous, so even if you might not understand all of the words, you can still get the general idea of what is happening.”

Currently, Grupo Cambalache is an interest group connected to a class Dr. Ponti instructs, Spanish Language Theatre Workshop, but next semester it will exist as an official club for other students to participate in on campus.

“What’s important for me is creating this idea of community outside of my class to get people involved with this language,” Dr. Ponti said.

The group hopes to further their reach by going off campus next semester. There are tentative plans to perform the play at a local high school for students enrolled in Spanish classes.

“Even though I couldn’t understand all of it, it was still an enjoyable experience. A lot happened, and it was very funny,” said freshman Bryce Robertson, a native English speaker enrolled in Spanish classes at WC.

Robertson is enthusiastic about the possibility of more linguistically and culturally inclusive events in the future.

“We are really a diverse community and if we only focus on one aspect, even if it is the majority, I don’t think it [is] beneficial to anyone. I think that as a society, we need to keep learning more about different cultures and progressing, and WC does a really good job of that by offering many different events,” he said.

As a sponsor of both the Spanish Club, an organization mainly dedicated to language and cultural events, and Grupo Cambalache, Dr. Ponti hopes to broaden the reach of these immersive experiences.

“From the pedagogical teaching perspective, I think it’s good to allow students to be able to use the language that their learning outside of the context of the classroom. And a lot of things that we don’t actually have time in class to do, the play allowed us to do,” Dr. Ponti said.

Adler also reflected on the importance of experiencing language outside a traditional classroom setting.

“Without expression and performance language can be dull. I hope that seeing this play will inspire others to take up learning another language as all the actors have,” Adler said.

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