Students Partner with Community Theater to Present ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in Spanish

by Rebecca Rhodin

Spanish studies are taking a dramatic new turn for Souderton resident Rebecca Rivera, in a way that will boost her language skills and help her community.

Rivera is one of four Montgomery County Community College students who are translating the play “Sleeping Beauty (and Friends)” into Spanish to perform it on stage as a reading.

The event, part of the Montgomery Theater’s 20th anniversary celebration, is aimed at drawing in members of the area’s growing Spanish-speaking population. It takes place on April 22 at 7 p.m. and admission is free.

“I love the fact that I’m giving back to my community, since I grew up in Souderton and will be part of something exciting for them,” says Rivera, 28.

The performance will also help improve her language skills. Although Rivera is already fluent in Spanish, “as we say, I learned ‘street Spanish,’ ‘at-home Spanish.’ I want to speak the language formally and improve my spelling and grammar,” says the Liberal Arts major.

The other participants in the reading are Malcolm Scott, a retired chemist; Lydia Crush, who has spent time in Ecuador, and Heorhi Auseichyk, who comes from Belarus.

They are all students of Assistant Professor Georgina Elortegui, who says she is not making it mandatory for her Spanish 230 class to participate nor offering extra credit because she wants them to have the experience “purely for  their satisfaction.”

“I didn’t want them to see it as just one more project for school,” Elortegui says. “Anyway, this isn’t a theater class. It’s Spanish conversation.”

Each of the four is doing a translation of the 30-page script, an eight- to 10-hour task. Then they are discussing the differences “and will go with what captures the thought most clearly,” the professor says.

“When translating, sometimes you have to translate the idea. For instance, in English we say ‘kick the bucket’ but in Spanish it’s translated as ‘to stretch one’s leg,’” says Elortegui. “If something like this comes up, we’ll have to address it with a ready-made Spanish phrase.”

Rivera says that translating “Sleeping Beauty” has “had its moments.”

“Sometimes you have to play with words and tweak it here and there in order for it to sound right, or well put-together.” Once on stage, she expects to be excited and anxious, yet thrilled to be part of an awesome event.

The idea to perform “Sleeping Beauty” in Spanish originates at the theater, located in Souderton, where Associate Artistic Director Jessica Bedford often hears Spanish spoken outside but not in the audience.

“There was a big meeting towards the end of 2012 in which the theatre staff talked about what events we should hold to thank the community for our 2oth anniversary and to celebrate,” says Bedford.

“One of the things that came up was the growing population of Spanish-speaking people who don’t come to the theater because the plays are in English. We want to get them in our door. We have workshops that may appeal to them, such as Young Actors Workshops. This is a good way to make that introduction.”

Elortegui, too, is looking forward to seeing her students on stage, knowing that they are proficient enough to make themselves understood and won’t panic.

“I think a play such as this shows students why studying a language is important,” she says. “You want to reach out to the community. People in the area are speaking Spanish more than ever before. The language is alive in the U.S.”

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