A Night of Music: Para Carmen

July 25, 2010 in Blog by Rinska_Prestinary

A Night of Music: Para Carmen

“...there are some things that cannot be said, only sung”

“...there are some things that cannot be said, only sung” - Sandra Delgado (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Education & Latino Festival intern Rinska Prestinary corresponds with Sandra Delgado on her devised piece, Para Carmen. Goodman audiences got to experience the latest version, this past week (Thursday July 22, 2010). Here’s the inside scoop!

Know your deviser!

Name: Sandra Delgado
Occupation: Performer, Director, Producer
Place you grew up: Chicago
Favorite food: Currently, the pork belly tacos at Chicago’s Big Star!
Artist that inspires you: My mother

Down to business!

We are surrounded by stories in our daily life, and yet we all have different times and ways of expressing them. Why did you pick this particular story to share with us?

The development of this story was the combination two different influences: music and my grandmother, Carmen. I had long been drawn to Lhasa de Sela’s song, “De Cara a la Pared.” I would hear the song and images would come rushing to my head of women slowly walking in a desert landscape at dusk. I was also deeply influenced by my memory of seeing my grandmother moments after she passed. She had died one morning while making rice, a ritual she had performed countless times. When I saw her, she was on the kitchen floor with rice scattered all around her, and she had the most peaceful look on her face. It is an image that has stayed with me since and has changed the way I feel about death. I feel that death is something that is feared, especially in this society. I wanted to create a piece that explores what happens to you in your last breath and celebrates our final moments.

And what inspired you to make this a musical movement piece rather than a spoken theatrical piece?

When I set about creating this piece, I never considered using text. I always saw it as a musical movement piece. My grandmother and I were extremely close and we were content to just sit next to each other – we didn’t have to talk. In recreating the moments of Carmen’s life, I wanted to focus on vivid moments and memories that involved no words, but were extremely meaningful nonetheless. Dancing with your father, a cooking lesson from your grandmother, seeing the love of your life for the first time. I liken the piece to a moving expressionistic painting. As far as music goes, there are some things that cannot be said, only sung, For me, singing is your soul pouring out…it is rich in emotion and that is exactly what this piece needed.

Talk to me about your process in creating this piece.  How is it different now, compared with when you first performed it at Sketchbook and other venues?

Para Carmen is a devised piece, meaning that the bulk of it was created in rehearsal with my ensemble of actors and my choreographer, Jasmin Cardenas. In creating the moments of Carmen’s life, I asked each actor to bring in 2-3 silent “snapshot” ideas. These were moments from their lives that they could vividly see as a snapshot.  We then improvised tableaus with these “snapshots” and I started pulling ones that I thought would make a good narrative. What I loved about this is that a little personal piece of everyone was in the show, and I think that brought everyone closer and made them more invested in the project. For the limpia, Jasmin and I did a lot of online research, looking at videos of various cleansing rituals from around the world, and pulling movements that resonated with us.

Staging Para Carmen for the Goodman was a wonderful opportunity to make the story clearer. For Sketchbook, I had to stage it in the round. And while it was visually beautiful, some of the story was lost. I think a proscenium staging serves the piece better. I was happy that I was able to rework it.

Has the cast changed? And if so, how did this impact the piece?

The bulk of the original cast was able to come back for the festival. I lost three actresses to the mainstage show of the festival, The Sins of Sor Juana, and it was actually great that we were all under one roof! Faced with recasting, I used it as an opportunity to fine tune the piece and make the story clearer. I switched some roles around and I ended up only having to recast one of the actors. The biggest change is that in the newest version, the “old” Carmen jumps back into her life. She isn’t just  watching; she relives it physically and emotionally.

Do you see this piece being the first of many more to come?

Definitely. Creating Para Carmen is the most artistically fulfilling thing I have ever done. And I really loved the collaborative process of devising a piece with a group of like-minded actors. I am currently developing a full-length piece, Para Madres, inspired by the lives of my mother and grandmothers…Para Carmen is one part of that three part play.

Any last comments you would like to share with our readers?

Ever since becoming a mother, I have been overcome with the urge to create. My experience was primarily as an actress. I had ideas, but not being a writer, I didn’t know where to start. Seeing Marta Carrasco at the Goodman’s Latino Theatre festival in 2008 was an epiphany. I was extremely moved by her visual storytelling and I really connected with it. I realized I didn’t need a “script” to tell a story. I could use the experience I had as an actor, the power of my body, the experience and love I have for music and dance to create stories. Once I made that discovery for myself, I realized there are no rules, and it gave me the confidence to move forward.