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Maria: A Telenovela for the Stage

 

Written by Stephen Richter. Performed in the Experimental Theatre at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Winter 2015.

 

Winner of the Dharma-Grace Award for playwriting, Maria: A Telenovela for the Stage is a Latinx retelling of the Medea myth. A leading lady past her prime, Maria attempts to salvage her television career while falling in love with Jairo, a disgraced futbolista. Together they steal The Golden Fleece, a script they believe will revive Maria’s fading star. However, the chauvinistic network executive León and his starlet daughter Gabi seek to ruin Maria by turning Jario against her. Everything falls apart when Maria is implicated in the kidnapping and murder of Jairo’s two sons, forcing her to flee the country despite her innocence.

 

The script of Maria is peppered with clips from television dramas and celebrity gossip shows while the plot concerns the very production and ramifications of this mediatized culture. In order to emphasize the mediatized culture at play, the high theatrics of telenovelas, and the nesting melodramatic narratives at play, I opted for a Brechtian approach that placed the production’s focus on its liveness. The scenic design (Cody Lee) and lighting (Alyssa Glenn) sought to replicate the look and feel of a sound stage, an over-the-top and obviously constructed façade for the stories to unfold. The clash between classes—Leon’s affluence contrasted with Cuauhtémoc’s poverty, for example—was reflected in the over-the-top costumes (Carrie Sayphraraj) and sound design (Nina Mostowfi). In these ways, the stage became the television, separating the audience from the action just enough to question the improbable events as they unfolded.