Massachusetts Daily Collegian

“Unruly Mujeres” praises lives of Spanish nuns

By Alissa Mesibov

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Catherine the Great, Molly Pitcher, and Joan of Arc are names of famous women who defied the expectations of their gender and rose to greatness. What about all of the other women who did the same, but whose names have been lost throughout the ages? The University of Massachusetts Department of Theater will explore the lives of four of these amazing women who never garnered the fame that they deserve.

“Unruly Mujeres” (Unruly Women) is an original play by dramaturgy MFA student, Megan McClain. The play tells the story of four nuns who wrote poetry, journals, music and plays during the Spanish Renaissance.

Professor Harley Erdman, Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor of dramaturgy, proposed the idea of an original play about Spanish women from the Renaissance as the closing piece for the Grupo de Estudios sobre la Mujer en España y las Américas (Gemela) Conference. The group, translated as the Group on Women’s Studies in Spain and America, focuses on cultural achievements by women from the medieval time period through 1800.

“There’s a particular story there really worth telling,” Erdman said about the women of that time. He has been translating such plays on and off for nearly 20 years. His translation of “Marta the Devine,” another Spanish Renaissance play, premiered last year with the UMass Theater Department.

Despite input from Professor Erdman, the rest of the details were left up to McClain to decide. She found the subjects for her play in the Spanish nuns and their writings.
“I was fascinated by how these women, who were tucked away from the world come up with these writings,” she said. McClain was also inspired by the encicos, or religious songs, that nuns wrote, which “celebrate strong women.”

McClain also added that, even though the women were all cloistered nuns, the differences between them were astounding. While Ursula Suarez defied her family’s expectations of marriage to become a nun, Catalina de Erauso escaped her convent as a teenager to live as a man.

The entire process for rehearsing the play took only a little over two weeks. The auditions for the cast took place at the end of last semester while all of the rehearsals happened this semester. Considering the amount of lines to learn, as well as the songs, poetry and dance comprising the play, this speedy production is an impressive feat for the actors.
The cast includes Brittany Costa, Kate Henoch, Becca Keohane, Delia Martinez, Robin McNamara, Julia Piker, Connie Russo, and Cassie Spadory. The production is directed by Dawn Monique Williams, assisted by Luke Reed.

The design team includes props and costumes by Faye Richards, dramaturgy by Sarah Brew, lighting by Jess Greenberg and sound design by Jonathan Hicks.

“Unruly Mujeres” will be playing September 23-25 at 8 p.m. at the Curtain Theater in the Fine Arts Center. Tickets are $8 for students and seniors, while general admission is $16 at the Fine Arts Center Box Office, online at umafacweb.admin.umass.edu/Online/default.asp, or by phone at 545-2511 or 1-800-999-UMAS.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached at [email protected]

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