Columbia's International Play Reading Fesitval Kicks Off with a Reading of Rarámuri Dreams

BY Angeline Dimambro, October 14, 2020

The Columbia University School of the Arts International Play Reading Festival kicked off its third year (and first virtual run) this month with a reading of Rarámuri Dreams written by Camila Villegas. Villegas is a Mexican playwright who after studying economics and living for two years with the Tarahumaras—an indigenous community of Northern Mexico—redirected her career towards theatre. In 2008, she founded Tepalcate Producciones, an association for female actors, directors, and playwrights that has produced over thirty plays. This iteration of the play was translated from the Spanish by Daniel Jáquez and directed by Opalanietet. Jáquez is a director, theater-maker and translator of plays. He has translated plays by multiple award-winning Mexican playwrights, and his translations have been published in numerous publications. Opalanietet is a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribal nation. In 2012, Opalanietet founded Eagle Project, a theater company dedicated to exploring the American identity through the performing arts and Native American heritage.


The International Play Reading Festival was co-founded by Carol Becker, Professor of the Arts and Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts, and Associate Professor David Henry Hwang. The annual festival features readings of three plays by living international playwrights alongside conversations with the playwrights and translators. 


Introducing her play, Villegas said, “I keep the play Rarámuri Dreams very close to my heart. The stories of Jacinto y Nicolasa come from love, sorrow, and admiration.” Hwang also shared some opening remarks at the reading: “In these tumultuous times, the theatre can play an invaluable role to help us understand and embrace the humanity of people from around the globe, yet US theatre for the most part remains dangerously myopic.” The festival seeks to bring exciting international plays by living authors to the Columbia community and beyond. The evening marked the first of three listening parties that will be put on this month, followed by two panels, one inviting the playwrights together; the other, the translators.


In Rarámuri Dreams, Nicolasa goes to the police to report that her son has been kidnapped. Jacinto confesses to the murder of his friend. Unfolding in the rugged landscape of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Northern Mexico, both parents seek justice and redemption—if only the system worked that way. 


The reading featured performances by Tanis Parenteau as Nicolasa and Reza Salazar as Jacinto. Thoughtful sound design brought their performances to life, as the sounds of the animals and nature, as well as the music of Northern Mexico created a robust aural experience. The listening party also provided real-time translations of notable Tarahumara words (a Mexican indigenous language of the Uto-Aztecan language family) that appeared throughout the play, providing the audience with additional context and understanding. 


Listen to the podcast here and see the complete festival schedule here for future events.  Villegas will discuss Rarámuri Dreams in the festival’s Playwright Panel Discussion later this month.