- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 13 April 2017
- Written by ANNA BLAINE | STAFF WRITER
In celebration of Spanish artistry and to showcase the upcoming new play The Women of Padilla, Two River Theater presented an evening of reading Spanish language poetry in English translation on Wednesday, March 29. The event was also honoring the playwright of The Women of Padilla, Tony Meneses. Meneses is a renowned Spanish-American playwright whose previous play, Guadalupe in the Guest Room, made its debut at Two River Theater.
The poetry event was moderated by Anika Chapin, a literary manager at Two River Theater. To warm the audience up, Chapin read a poem by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca called “The Ballad of Black Pain,” in which she later on read an English translation of that same poem by Langston Hughes. Lorca was one of Meneses’ inspirations for writing The Women of Padilla, which is amazing considering that Lorca was also a playwright.
According to Chapin, who dropped tidbits of biographical information about Meneses during the reading, “Meneses traffics in poetry even when he is writing prose.” She spoke about his affinity for revealing the beauty of the Spanish language and the culture associated with Spanish-speaking people in his plays. Meneses was born in Mexico and was raised in Texas. Because of his bi-lingual upbringing, his plays usually deal with overcoming language barriers and the biases that obstruct people from communicating effectively.
Chapin’s enthusiasm for Spanish language poetry was evident with her extensive knowledge of many Spanish poets, including Pablo Neruda. Throughout the evening she opened the floor to poets and poetry readers of different ages, starting with some of the young, gifted writers at Project Write Now, a non-profit business for writers in Red Bank.
Jennifer Chauhan, the Executive Director at Project Write Now, read a poem entitled “A Woman Sleeps on an Island,” and some of the young writers read their own Spanish/English translated poems entitled “Gathering Woods” and “Oh My.” It was gratifying to see the response to the readings and to see various people read poems that they identify with.
Amanda Espinosa, a staff member at Two River Theater, read a poem that held a special place in her heart since elementary school. “Legal Alien” by Pat Mora is a poem that illustrates the two different worlds that bi-lingual people navigate through. As Espinosa read the words, she gradually built to the climax of the poem which encompassed the reality that many descendants of Spanish immigrants faced. The poem questions the notion of citizenship and brings up the question, where must a bi-lingual speaker of Spanish and English fit in if they are not accepted by either culture? Finally, the poem expresses the way language has a universal connection that should be embraced, instead of shunned.
One of the last poems read at the poetry reading was entitled “The Eagle” by Joy Harjo. This poem was selected by artistic director John Dias, who felt inspired by the theme of the poem which deals with the connectedness of human beings and the circle of life. He spoke about the Native American roots of the poet Joy Harjo, and how that tied in with the Spanish language and English poetry reading. It flowed naturally with the other selected poems that were read that evening.
After the event was concluded, Anika Chapin commented on the experience of moderating poetry readings at Two River Theater. Chapin said, “We did the first poetry reading in the lobby with no particular theme. It felt like such a natural fit to celebrate this form of communication. This art form goes really well with The Women of Padilla because the play is so specific.”
Opening night of The Women of Padilla will be Friday, April 14 at 8 p.m., and will run until Sunday, April 30. For available tickets, please call 732.345.1400 or email tworivertheater.org.