Kennedy Theatre Presents World Premiere of New La Strada Translation
|February 22, 2013||Posted by Hitting the Stage under News|
Adaptation of Fellini Combines Humor and Pathos
The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of Theatre and Dance is proud to present the world premiere of a new translation of “La Strada” (“The Road”), directed by MFA candidate Benjamin Sota, as the third production of its 2012-2013 Primetime season. An adaptation of Federico Fellini’s film of the same name, “La Strada” tells the story of a young woman who is forced to serve as the assistant to an itinerant circus performer; through their relationship, the play examines questions of love, devotion, and grace. The play will be performed at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 6 through Saturday, Mar. 9, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Mar. 10. A post-show discussion will follow the performance on Friday, Mar. 8.
Sota is certainly familiar with the world of the circus. Raised in a family of circus performers, Sota began performing professionally at the age of 16; by the time he was 22 years old, he had already founded his own company, Zany Umbrella Circus, which toured North America, Africa, and Asia. He has put his performance skills to use in several Honolulu productions, including a clown performance in the 2011 O‘ahu Fringe Festival and as the iromono (interlude) performer in November’s “Raku-Come, RAKUGO! Show” at the Earle Ernst Lab Theatre.
Sota toured with his circus company for eight years. “As a young man, I was always travelling,” he recalls. “I was never around — week-ends, holidays … It really wrecked my relationships. The idea that the road changes you is very real to me.” Sota was attracted to the sense of isolation the characters feel in the play, even when they’re around other people. He also recognized the sealed-off world of the circus that the play portrays, and how relationships can form there. “When I was on the road,” he says, “those eight people in my troupe, riding around in a painted school bus — they became my family.”
Given his experiences – which include a three-year stint in Italy studying commedia dell’arte – it may be no surprise that “La Strada” is one of Sota’s favorite films. Legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini co-wrote and directed the film, which won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956. In the film, a naive young girl, Gelsomina, is sold by her impoverished mother to a brutish strongman, Zampanò. Gelsomina engages the crowd and passes the hat as Zampanò performs feats of strength for the small crowds that gather to watch their street corner performances. Although Gelsomina does everything she can to please Zampanò, he still treats her cruelly and dismissively. Several run-ins with Zampanò’s old rival, Il Matto (“The Fool”), lead to conflict and tragedy for all three characters.
“There is something very dangerous about approaching something that’s so important to you,” says Sota. So he was relieved to discover that someone else had already adapted the film into a play — and that the play has its own take on the story, rather than simply trying to put the film on-stage: “Here, it’s the story of a circus troupe telling the story of ‘La Strada.’”
There was only one problem: the play was written in Italian. Sota called on Josephine Calvo, a fellow student in UH-Mānoa’s theatre department and a native Italian speaker, to translate the play into English. Kennedy Theatre’s production will mark the world premiere of this new translation. In addition to helping translate the play, Calvo will also be performing the role of Gelsomina. Walt S. Gaines will play the role of Zampanò; both were most recently seen in UH’s mainstage production of “Uncle Vanya and Zombies.”
Given the subject matter and Sota’s background, the production will inevitably include circus performance and clowning. Sota wants to focus more on the emotional truth of the play, to tell a visceral and human story — “this is the next step in my development as an artist,” he says, “from circus director to theatre director.” But he wants to retain the spirit of the circus: “The community and humanity you find there — that’s what can move our world forward.”
Tickets for “La Strada” are available online at etickethawaii.com, by phone at (808) 944-2697, at participating outlets, and at the Kennedy Theatre box office; the box office is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on performance dates. Prices are $16 general admission; $15 seniors / military / UH faculty and staff; $13 students and UHAA members; and $5 UHM students with validated Spring 2013 UHM photo ID. Ticket prices include all service fees. Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information, please visit hawaii.edu/kennedy or call the theatre at (808) 956-7655. For disability access, please call the theatre.