Award-winning "La Gringa" shown at Geneseo

On Thursday, Oct. 22, the Repertorio Español, a Spanish language theater troupe based out of New York City, presented their award-winning performance of Carmen Rivera's play "La Gringa" in the College Union Ballroom.

The play, which appeared completely in Spanish with a live simultaneous English translation provided for free through wireless headsets, tells the story of María, a native New Yorker who, according to the Repertorio's Web site, "travels to Puerto Rico for the first time in search of her roots."

Throughout the production, María struggles with her identity as a Puerto Rican-American. She is proud of both of her heritages, but cannot understand why her Puerto Rican relatives are put off by her over-enthusiasm toward Puerto Rican culture. Her aunt Norma and cousin Iris discourage her assimilation into "their" culture, while her uncle Manolo encourages her to stay true to herself. "Soy una turista puertorriqueña en Puerto Rico," María says, "I am a Puerto Rican tourist in Puerto Rico."

The Repertorio put on two performances throughout the day, one in the morning, which was attended by over 330 high school students and their teachers, and one in the evening, which many Geneseo students and local community members attended.

According to Rose McEwen, Spanish professor and chair of the foreign languages and literatures department, "People from as far away as Elmira travelled here for this historical occasion to see a professional, world-renowned theater company for the first time they've performed in this region of the country."

For the production of "La Gringa," McEwen made sure to provide complimentary tickets and transportation to local migrant workers, who would not normally have the means to attend such events. She also said she makes sure to provide these services for other Spanish and Latin American cultural events on campus.

Two Spanish classes, Spanish 373 and 473 "Contemporary Latin-American Literature," both read "La Gringa" during class in preparation for its performance at Geneseo. McEwen teaches both classes and said that the goal of bringing the play to campus, as well as having students read it, was to "provide top-rated events that foster the learning of the language and the appreciation of cultural diversity."

"La Gringa" would not have been made possible without La Casa Hispánica, the Spanish Club, as well as various foreign language majors and other students who helped to sell tickets, usher and provide sound and technical support throughout both performances. The Division of Student and Campus Life, as well as the Cultural Harmony Week Planning Committee of the Center for Community both provided grants that supported the play.