Play Preview: ‘The Dictator’s Granddaughter’

Janan Fugel ’19
Staff Writer

On Nov. 5, the Hallie Flanagan Studio Theater will open its doors to the public to show “The Dictator’s Granddaughter.” The play, written by acclaimed Catalan playwright David Desola, was translated by Smith’s theater department chair Ellen Kaplan, in conjunction with Professor of Spanish Estela Harretche.

The translators, who are also both professional actresses, perform in the play in both Spanish and English. The production is self-directed by the two professors. Kaplan said this has proved to be one of the most difficult aspects.

The story follows a woman returning to her ill grandfather’s side after several decades. While there, she begins to discover the truth about her grandfather’s position and about her own life, which she has been suppressing for quite some time. Kaplan and Harretche play the same character: the dictator’s granddaughter. With the change of each scene comes a change in language and actress.

Before coming to Northampton, the play was performed in Puerto Rico, where it was very successful. Kaplan explained how audiences related to the story on a very personal level, as they felt it was an important part of their own history in Latin America. Taking the play from a house in Old San Juan to Northampton has been challenging, especially with the busy schedules of both cast members. After the performance in Northampton, they will take it to other locations, adapting the set, lighting and sound to each new place with very little rehearsal time.

The bilingual aspect captivates audiences. According to Kaplan, although there is only one character, the two languages allow the audience to get a slightly different perspective on her. Kaplan said, “The language makes it interesting because the psyche speaks through a language, and so my character, which is also the same as Estela’s character … is somewhat different. It gives us a way to look at multiple sides of the same person.” In translating the piece into English, some of the embellished Spanish text is simplified, allowing the audience to get a sense of the two sides of one woman.

According to Kaplan, “You can understand [the play] and enjoy it whether you speak Spanish or English, or both or neither!”

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