Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Playing a Theater Titan, Bringing Life to Lorca in "Olives and Blood" by Gian-Murray Gianino

Armando Riesco and Gian-Murray Gianino

When May Adrales, our director, and I first met after she had sent me the script, I told her that I wasn’t particularly interested in trying to make an exact replica of this man, this historical figure, named Federico Garcia Lorca. 

First off, there is simply not enough video footage of him to be able to copy his mannerisms, patterns of speech, etc. There are pictures, of course, and that allowed me to get a sense of his smile, for instance, and the physical posture that he held but those things are relatively topical and only allow you to go so deep. What we do have, of course, is his writing – his essays, poetry and plays that are just incredible.

My first exposure to Lorca was when Blood Wedding was assigned reading in a college theatre course and to be honest, I found it completely overwhelming. I think it would have been different if I had entered into his world by doing an actual production, but on the page I could not get into it and, in fact, found it insurmountable.
Gian-Murray Gianino and Kristina Valada-Viars

Anyhow, back to my conversation with May, I guess what I was trying to say was that Lorca and myself were going to have to meet halfway – we were going to have to attempt to embrace each other, and that is what the audience was maybe going to get a chance to see – two artists coming to terms with each other in the moment. Obviously, it is his writing that is left to speak for him, so I started to make my way through it, beginning with an essay called “Play and theory of the Duende”, some of the major poems that manifest themselves in Michael Bradford’s play, and the three big plays: “Blood Wedding”, “Yerma”, and “House of Bernarda Alba”. 

This time, I was drawn further in and further in and further in – it really is that deep. What was overwhelming for me when I was younger, now drew parallels for me as an artist. Suffice it to say that I didn’t have enough time to get through the entire cannon and our condensed, two week rehearsal process added to the challenge.

Lorca’s writing and thinking on the nature of man/woman and the artist, specifically, is rich and complex and I just tried to let it work on me. Even now, on the way to the theatre on the train, I will go back through a poem or two and see how they have shifted for me. I think my understanding of the man and the depth with which I am able to embody him on the stage will keep growing through the run and this is really a testament to the great depth of the work that he left for us.

All this being said, I think what has really struck me about the man, and I think Michael has crafted this in the play so beautifully, is the incredible passion and pure will that it took for this man to live the life he lived and die the death that he did.

OLIVES AND BLOOD, written by Michael Bradford and directed by May Adreles with Gian-Murray Gianino as Lorca runs through June 24th at HERE.

Photo Credits: Ric Sechrest

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