Academic journal article Bulletin of the Comediantes

Sor Juana's Double Crossing to the Boards of the Bard: Los Empeños De Una Casa and Helen Edmundson's the Heresy of Love

Academic journal article Bulletin of the Comediantes

Sor Juana's Double Crossing to the Boards of the Bard: Los Empeños De Una Casa and Helen Edmundson's the Heresy of Love

Article excerpt

For Maureen Mary Murphy (alias Sister Jude Marie)1

Jornada I.

House of Desires or The Trials of a Noble House: Encloistered Tour de Farce and the Interrogation of an Ending

he inspiration for the first jornada of this essay comes from the "Shakespeare Found in Translation" diaspora project at London's Globe Theatre in the spring of 2012, which mapped the journey of Shakespeare in translation, but not without representing things Hispanic in the "Read Not Dead" section. The project kicked off with a reading of Life's a Dream (5 February 2012), and it included a Mexican staging of Henry IV, Part 1 as part of the Globe to Globe festival (14 May 2012).

Sor Juana's El festejo de los empeños de una casa (1683) was in some sense a prequel to the 2012 Globe to Globe festival, for it had been staged- albeit without the accompanying loa, letras, sainetes, and sarao that arguably "elevate it to the level of musical court spectacle" (Hernández Araico 328)-in Catherine Boyle's eminently playable translation (House of Desires or The Trials of a Noble House) under the direction of Nancy Meckler (30 June-1 October 2004).2 As part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) 2004 Spanish Golden Age Season, this baroque literary figure of Mexico found herself on the boards of the bard with a play originally penned, not for the public stage, but for the viceregal court and aristocratic palaces. Even more importantly, perhaps, she found herself in the illustrious company of Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Cervantes, whose works were part of that season's Spanish repertoire.3

As the lights went down in Stratford-upon-Avon's Swan Theatre with its meter high thrust stage surrounded on three sides by spectators, the public was immediately confronted with a set covered in shimmering polished brass. A wall of brass rising at the rear of the stage held up a pseudoaltar with glimmering candles and a clutter of iconic and ornamental objects-a sacred space that may have evoked an inner world of memory. As two novices polished the brass floor to the sound of Church music, a figure in a nun's habit sat at a desk in front of the altar, quill in hand, undoubtedly penning the play we were about to see: a baroque festival about "the trials of being in love" (HD 2.5,60), with its intrigue, deceit, mistaken identities, jealousy, dishonor, unrequited desire, loss of mutual love, search for correspondence. Or, perhaps, as the production's translator posited-evoking another of the meanings of empeños-Sor Juana was moving her characters into place as "pawns in her imagination, [...] foregrounding the sense of the lack of real agency of the characters, who are puppets to abstracted codes that will guide them to an inevitable end: reconciliation with the codes that dictate their destiny" (Boyle, "Loss" 179). In effect, the passing from creative process to stage reality, from convent to palatial home of Don Pedro (William Buckhurst), occurred as two icons were taken from the sacred altar space and set center stage, at the same time that their comedia alter egos, Doña Ana (Claire Cox) and her maid Celia (Katherine Kelly), were animated by Ben Ormerod's distinctive lighting. The resurrection of Sor Juana (Rebecca Johnson) as a stage presence had been bom of the director's decision to use the play's myriad references to the dramatist as nun-images of convents, sanctuary, and being locked away-in order to create a "complicity" with a modem audience similar to that which an original audience might have experienced (Daley).

The nun stopped writing and, as if hearing voices in her head, listened intently to Doña Ana as she told Celia (who sat polishing a candlestick) of her brother Pedro's plan to abduct his beloved Doña Leonor de Castro (Rebecca Johnson) as she eloped with her lover Don Carlos de Olmedo Qoseph Millson) and to have her "cloistered in [the] safe haven" of his house in the care of his sister (HD 1.1, 23). Sor Juana continued to observe the "pawns" of her imagination as Celia revealed, in an aside, the hidden presence of Doña Ana's lover Donjuán (Oscar Pearce). …

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