Mayan legends explored in student run production

The beautiful staging and costumes were only a backdrop to the amazing story the student actors portrayed in one of Geneseo’s latest productions.  

The Department of Theater and Dance and Gensperanza put on a stunning performance of “Heart of the Earth: A Popol Vuh Story” from March 2 to March 4 in the Robert Sinclair Theater. The play was directed by theater and political science double major senior Kimberly Romano Reyes. 

The play was written by Chicana playwright and advocate for Mexican-American rights Cherríe Moraga. Moraga based her play on the Popol Vuh, an ancient sacred text from the Mayan culture that explains how human life was created and how the sun and moon were made.

The play began with brothers Hunahpu and Vucub—played by Spanish and adolescent education double major senior Aidan Procopio and communication major junior Melissa Gonzalez, respectively—whose characters are challenged by the gods of the dark underworld Xibalba to a sporting match. 

The brothers do not survive, but Hunahpu charms the daughter of the underworld and she becomes pregnant with two sons—Hunahpu and Xbalanque—who are also played by Procopio and Gonzalez.

The sons’ journey begins to take them on the same path as their father; however, they are able to change their fated death and become the divine sun and moon. Meanwhile, the boys’ ancestors are in the midst of creating the first human life.

Female actors portrayed many of the traditionally male roles seamlessly while bringing to life the ancient story. Several of the nine actors also played multiple roles in the show, allowing more time for each student to shine.

The script contained both English and Spanish, and student actors were able to transition between languages with grace. For anthropology major freshman Kelly Lennon, the actors gave authentic performances.

“I think what I enjoyed most about this performance was the actors incorporating and capturing the roles of the people they were trying to act for,” Lennon said. “They portrayed it very well and it was very easy to be followed and understood throughout the whole play.”

The play’s scenes required a certain bond that the student actors clearly had with one another, as evident through the castmates’ immense chemistry. Biology major junior Courtney King, who played Cucumatz, stated just how enjoyable rehearsing with the cast was. 

“I think the show is a lot of fun. It’s really playful and we get to just act really silly,” King said. “The cast is really fun to hang out with. We just have a really good time together.”

The play was about more than just the performance of the actors. The purpose of the show was to capture Mayan culture and spread the themes of a culture that is dying out, according to the program. The cast and crew successfully shared the Mayan story of life and creation.   

“The message of the show is to bring a voice to the Mayan people of Mexico and Guatemala,” King said. “These people have been persecuted and are being killed as we speak so we are doing this show for them. We are putting on this show to tell their story and give them a voice.”

These student actors did what many Geneseo students seek to accomplish—bring awareness to a culture that they want to be remembered.