José Rubén de León presents his critically acclaimed play in Lorca's native language
It happened in Kentucky. José Rubén de León, a local playwright, performer, and vocalist, took his one-man show LORCA to Murray State University. He performed the piece, about the life and work of Spain's beloved and controversial poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca, to an audience of language and humanities students. After the performance, a student came up to him. "Yo soy Mexicano," the student said, and then asked why de León didn't present LORCA in Spanish.
And so, on September 8, at Jump-Start Theatre, he'll debut the Spanish version, which he's finding surprisingly affecting. "Spanish was my first language. In Spanish it really resonates, knowing that this is his language," de León says.
The original English-language version premiered last October at the Little Carver as the centerpiece of a Lorca festival. For de León, it was the culmination of years of writing, months of workshops and readings, and the advice and insight of friends and colleagues. Afterward, he offered the show to the Laredo Little Theatre, the place where his theatrical career began 30 years ago as a high school freshman, and where de León served as artistic director from 1982-87. The three-day run raised money for the theater.
Aside from the language, very little has changed as de León prepares to revive, almost a year later, his version of Lorca's last days. He has incorporated one or two suggestions, however, such as a rephrasing suggested by a professor who saw the show in Laredo.
"He actually wrote me a long e-mail," recalls de León. "He said that it was very unpoetic for Lorca to have referred to himself as a homosexual because in Spain 1936 he wouldn't have used that word. He suggested 'I'm a man who loves men.'"
"I think this show is something that a whole bunch of people have created with me and I feel very connected to everyone that went to those workshops and presentations, who gave feedback," he says. "And, of course, if Lorca hadn't lived and written I wouldn't be doing this so I'm indebted to him. The material is just so beautiful in both languages." •