Illustration of a map of the United States and Mexico with barbed wires crossed over the top of it.

Brushing off Shakespeare: ASU presents bilingual adaptation 'La Comedia of Errors'

By

Lacy Chaffee

It’s Shakespeare as you probably haven’t heard him before: en español. 

The ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre is presenting “La Comedia of Errors” at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse from Feb. 18 through Feb. 27. The production is a bilingual adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors,” written by Lydia Garcia and Bill Rauch.

The theater season selection committee chose to feature the adaptation in an ongoing effort to present works by underrepresented writers and directors, as well as to engage Spanish-speaking audiences.

“We are trying to understand how we can better serve the communities who have been left out of the conversation too often,” said Bill Partlan, associate professor and artistic director for theater in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

Ricky Araiza, ASU graduate and current artistic director of Teatro Bravo!, will guest direct the production. He said he has looked forward to taking on this project.

“The ability to push back and play with the bilingual nature of this show is very interesting and a lot of fun,” Araiza said. “Shakespeare can often come across as feeling inaccessible, but I think it’s actually extremely accessible.” 

The bilingual play does not translate the English or Spanish dialogue. Araiza said the discomfort of not understanding is a deliberate part of the experience. 

“As humans, when we don't understand, we need to widen our other senses to see what's going on in the story,” Araiza said. “Rather than being afraid of it or demanding something is given to you in a specific way, I think it's an opportunity to lean in.”

Alex Parra, an ASU theater senior in the acting concentration, plays the role of Dromio(s) in the play — one set of twin brothers that leads to mistaken identities and a whole lot of confusion. Originally from Mexicali, Mexico, Parra said he is excited about having family members enjoy the show in their native language.

“This is my first official Spanish theatrical experience,” Parra said. “My grandparents come to all my shows. I can genuinely say I am excited that they will really understand it.”

Araiza said it’s not just that the show is bilingual, but also how the narrative tells a different story. 

“There's this interesting layer about language because it's a bilingual piece,” said Araiza, “but it’s also how the story is being told through different sets of lenses.”

Max Zamorano is a senior design and production student with a concentration in stage management. Stage managing “La Comedia of Errors” is his senior capstone project. He said the play is important in many ways. 

“There has been a lot of thought and work put into representing various Spanish communities, and I think that's really exciting, especially because this kind of representation is sparse,” Zamorano said. “It's important to represent real people on stage with real experiences, not just characters from a play, and the diverse cast we're fortunate to have really utilizes their own unique experiences to help embody and become these characters.”

Zamorano said he hopes audiences will come away from the play with a greater understanding about other cultures. Araiza agreed. 

“Part of the magic and the joy of this piece is that it's a lot of different perspectives telling this unified story,” Araiza said. “It's kind of who we are as a society — just people with different experiences and how we come together.”