Playing With the Classics

If you’re tackling a classical text, don’t worry too much about sticking to the original structure, unless your aim is to present the play to an audience in its original form.

Play with the text, divide it between people, see what that does to the piece. Maybe it doesn’t work: why? Ask yourself why: why is the that piece of text so attached to the character, what does it tell us about her/him?

Sometimes it might work, showing two separate sides of the character very clearly, and this might be an interesting choice to place in front of an audience.

You also have the less specific bits of texts like Chorus pieces or Prologues.

The prologue in García Lorca’s The Butterfly’s Evil Spell can easily be split between actors to introduce to the audience the concept of Ensemble. As I’m working on this translation at the moment, here it is, the prologue to this beautiful play, split up for a couple of you to try out. Play with it: do you prefer to just stand and say the lines? Can you pick up where the other left off easily? Does each person (here represented by just a number) have a different character? What does the text tell you? And what happens if it’s just spoken by one person? Does it work better? Is it just different? Have a play, enjoy!

Prologue to The Butterfly’s Evil Spell by Federico García Lorca

(Note that the original is spoken just by one person.)

1: Ladies and Gentlemen:

 2: The comedy you’re about to watch is both humble and disturbing.

 3: A broken comedy about he who, trying to scratch the moon, ended up scratching his own heart.

 1: Love, just as it travels with its mockeries and its failures down Man’s life, travels in this occasion to a hidden prairie populated with insects where life had been peaceful for a long time.

 4: The insects were happy,

 2: Their only worries were drinking dewdrops in peace and educating their children in the holy terrors of their gods.

 4: They loved each other out of habit.

 1: Love passed on from parent to child like an old and exquisite jewel that was received by the first insect from the hands of God.

 3: With the same peace and confidence that the pollen of a flower gives itself to the wind, they enjoyed love under the humid, fresh grass.

 2: But one day…. one of the insects tried to fly beyond love. He fell in love with a form that was way beyond his life… maybe he’d read, with some difficulty, the verses of a book left behind by one of the few poets who walk round the countryside, and was poisoned by “I love you, impossible woman.”

 1: That’s why I beg you all not to leave behind in the prairies your poetry books, because you too might be the cause of sorrow in other insects.

 3: The poetry which asks why the stars travel through space is hurtful to unopened souls.

 2: It seems useless to tell you that the poor little bug died.

 4: Death sometimes dresses up as love.

 1: Many are the times that the skeleton with the scythe we see portrayed in the prayer books takes the shape of a woman to fool us as she opens the door of her shadow.

 4: Cupid sleeps many times in the deep crevices of Death’s skull.

 1: Many are the old stories where a flower, a kiss or a look play the horrible part of the sword.

 3: An old sprite from the woods, who escaped from one of the great Shakespeare’s books; this sprite, who walks around the prairies holding his withered wings with a crutch, told the poet this story during an autumn night, when the flocks had left and now the poet repeats it to you, enveloped in his very own melancholy.

 1: But before we start, we want to ask you the same question the sprite asked the poet that Autumn night, when the flocks had left.

 4: Why are you repulsed by some clean and shiny insects who move graciously in the grass?

 1: And why are you people, full of sins and incurable vices, disgusted by the worms who calmly walk across the prairie sunbathing in the lukewarm morning?

 4: Why do you look down on Nature’s most negligible creatures?

 1: While you insist on not loving deeply the stone and the worm, you will not enter the kingdom of God.

 2: The old sprite also said to the poet: “The animal and plant kingdom will soon take over. Man forgets his creator, while the animals and  plants live very close to his light. Poet, tell Mankind that love grows just as intensely in all planes of life, that the rhythm of the leaf rocked by the wind is the same as that of the distant star and that the words spoken by the fountain in the shade are spoken in the same way by the sea. Tell Mankind to be humble: everyone’s equal  in Nature’s eyes.

 4: And that’s all the old sprite said.

 1: And now, listen to our comedy.

 3: Maybe you’ll smile when you hear these insects talking like young men, like adolescents.

 1: And if you learn a deep lesson from this story, go down to the forest, to thank that sprite on crutches – go down to the forest on an Autumn night, when the flocks have left.


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