The professional premiere of this adaptation will take place May 9-31, 2008 at Miracle Theatre Group in Portland, Oregon under the direction of Devon Allen.
It was originally commissioned and produced (November 17-25, 2006) by the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, La Jolla, California under the direction of Gerardo Ruiz, and developed at New Dramatists in New York City under the direction of Jean Randich.
Special thanks to Leo Cabranes-Grant, Jorge Huerta, Ursula Meyer, Chris Parry, Gregary Racz, Darko Tresnjak, Phyllis Zatlin and all the actors and designers who have been part of this play’s development.
A Writer’s Labyrinth by Caridad Svich
“To enter that rhythm where the self is lost,
Where breathing: heartbeat: and the subtle music
Of their relation make our dance, and hasten
Us to the moment when all things become
Magic, another possibility.”
– Muriel Rukeyser (1962)
The Labyrinth of Desire is a play about transformation and the motor of human desire. Originally written by Lope de Vega in the 1600s under the title La Prueba de Los Ingenios (literally “A Test of Wits”), it falls under the category of a capa y espada/cloak and dagger play. It is a piece that true to its genre revels in the comedy of love and intrigue, and does so with Lope de Vega’s characteristic warmth, wit, and poetry. What raises this play above its genre is its great understanding of the essential mutability and fluidity of human desire. Pre-queer theory, pre-feminism and pre-Sex and the City, this play challenges the boundaries of prescribed sexual roles, and advocates for the delightful and essential mystery of love. The performance of self, gender identity, and sexual identity is at the core of this comedy, yet it also manages to address issues of class and the heteroglossic play of language.
In freely adapting this play for the American stage (and this is the first American English adaptation of this piece), I have taken many liberties with the original text: cutting minor scenes and characters, re-assigning some roles and lines, borrowing a very short comedic sequence from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, re-shaping and expanding scenes, and adding text of my own to clarify and deepen emotional moments as well as comedic ones. The ending in particular has a new twist that speaks to what I feel were Lope’s wholistic intentions with this play. In the use of language I have emphasized the colloquial and direct over the baroque. This choice is actually a mirror of the original’s taut and sharp energy. However, the meter and rhythms have necessarily changed. Nevertheless, my intention throughout my conversation with Lope de Vega across the centuries has always been to illuminate his vision for a new audience, one that most likely only knows, if at all, his classic historical play Fuenteovejuna. It is an audience, though, that is perhaps familiar with Marivaux’s The Triumph of Love and surely with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night—plays that are clear cousins to this one in spirit, if not in form, and I’ve taken this into account when re-considering this play. Obviously, this is a free adaptation. It is faithful to Lope’s architecture, but it is very much suffused with my own artistic sensibility as a playwright, which also centers on the crossing of normative social and sexual boundaries, women in society, the carnival-esque play with language and genre, and interculturalism. In addition, my history (in my parallel career) as a translator of Federico Garcia Lorca’s work, and other dramatists including Calderon de la Barca, has inevitably played a role in my approach to Lope de Vega. Any writer meets a text through their own experience with the page and with the dramatic form. So, call this a hybrid text, a fusion, if you will, of Lope de Vega and Svich. The process has been not unlike the lead character of Florela in this play: I have entered, as Muriel Rukeyser expresses in her poem so eloquently, “the rhythm where the self is lost,” and in so doing, have found an exultant vision of transformation.
A woman struggles to reclaim her identity after a violent event leaves her stripped from her sense of self. Written as a monologue, Jaz transcends its form by distancing the character from herself—being both the character and outside of the character—and by engaging dialogue with a musical instrument.
A tough comic look at the lost generation of Serbia caught between Milošević and the new state of possibility. In a long night of drinking, tall tales, sad stories, confessions, and intimations of murder, a couple of young men dream of England and try to find their place in their country.
A Mother and Father, a Man and a Woman, a Doctor and a Nurse, and an unfortunate victim all cross paths in a hospital and become intertwined in ways that push all boundaries of the appropriate and expected. Exploring the deeper comic underbellies of violence, sexuality, and caretaking, the playwright seeks to unburden the audience, to help them diminish their fear about moral issues, illness, and death.
(Alexi Kaye Campbell)
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