This past weekend, directing majors Ellie Yguico ’20 and Luis David Molina Rueda ’20 put on their shows in a double billed back-to-back night of theater in Black Box. Yguico and Rueda directed the program as an independent study in directing, one act plays that students studying the Directing track of the theatre major at Bates complete as their “360 show.” The purpose of the 360 experience is to give the director a chance to work on a smaller, more intimate piece of theater and hone their creative voice.
The first show was Rebecca Gorman O’Neill’s ‘The Way Station,” directed by Ygucio. The one-act is a dark, supernatural comedy in which three strangers come together at a mysterious crossroads, each of them running from something they’ve done. The three strangers each come from different places and different times; Daisy O’Shea (played by Ceria Kurtz ’19) is a 17-year old farm girl with dreams of being a fortune teller at the circus, Jack Harper (played by Johnny Esposito ’22) is a mysterious cowboy running from a past love, and Tom Cutler (played by David Garcia ’20) is a failed businessman trying to start a new life in the big city. Each character has their demons, and each finds that as the play moves forward and the train pulls closer into the station, they must accept themselves and their actions.
The memorable characters combined with the snappy dialogue lulls the audience into thinking the play is just a typical odd-couple comedy, but underneath lies a touching story about guilt. In her Director’s Note, Ygucio wrote, “I personally believe that the best types of plays are the type that make us think about the bigger question in life.” Remembering her semester abroad in Japan, she cited a memory from the Hiroshima Peace memorial museum. Yguico kept pondering the “The Way Station,” and considering, “What is it that defined the differences between sinners and the innocent and the guilt they hold?”
Rueda directed Paloma Pedrero’s “La Llamada de Lauren,” or “Lauren’s Call.” Written during the Spanish cultural revolution of the 80’s, the play is about a seemingly normal couple, Pedro (played by Noah Pott ’22) and Rosa (played by Maddy Shmalo ’19), celebrating their anniversary on Carnival. The couple prepares to cross dress for the night of festivities, but as the night continues, fantasies and secrets explode on the stage. Pedro, overworked and exhausted, comes alive for Carnival wanting to dress as Lauren Bacall and he wants his wife, Rosa, to dress as Humphrey Bogart. At first, it’s a fun game of roleplay between the two, but as tensions rise, deep desires within Pedro arise and the call of being Lauren is much stronger than he first let on.
“Lauren’s Call” is a chaotic tragicomedy that discusses gender roles, identity, and love and how those play out in a marriage on the rocks. It’s funny, emotional, frank, and, at times, crude. It challenges the audience to think about sexual and gender identity in a new way, and as Rueda states in his director’s note, “however challenging and unpleasant at moments the piece can be… it brings to light the complexity of the binary gender behaviors that we acquire through socialization.” So many years later, Rueda was surprised to find pertinent relevancy in the piece. Rueda directed the show to be lively and fast-paced; the couple quickly starts to butt heads as the set gets increasingly chaotic. Clothes get strewn around the room and Rosa and Pedro’s small apartment quickly becomes a battleground for the two actors. However, as quick as they are to fight, they are just as quick to make up. Rueda created an interesting dynamic between the two actors.
Both directors chose pieces that complement their specific styles. As an audience member, it was clear that the 360 shows were a labor of love, not just for the directors but for the entire cast and crew as well. “A 360 Night in Black Box Theater” presented the Bates community with two directors whose voices need to and should be heard. I look forward to the work Yguico and Rueda have in store for the years to come.