Many people have joined the cast and crew over the years, including professors and students at all levels. Some who audition have experience, and some have nada. Some help in other ways, with technical aspects like sound and lighting.
“The way we work together – it’s amazing,” Operé said, adding that theater creates intense and special connections among everyone. The group is holding a reunion this year, with about 80 people planning to attend; former actors will return from all over the country – and one even coming from Bogotá, Colombia.
Operé also has published a new book, edited with visiting distinguished professor Fernando Valverde, that commemorates the work of the UVA Spanish Theater Group, “Historia de un Escenario: 40 Años de Teatro en Español en La Universidad de Virginia (History of a Stage: 40 Years of Theater in Spanish at the University of Virginia).”
Herbert “Tico” Braun, a professor of Latin American history, performed with the Spanish Theater Group for many years. His favorite role was playing the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in 1994 in “Ardiente paciencia (Hot Patience)” by Chilean author Antonio Skármeta, a play (and book) better known worldwide as “Il Postino.”
Professor Sam Amago, who chairs the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, added his enthusiasm.
“The Spanish Theater Group is a signature example of the department’s longtime commitment to bringing the humanities to the community and University at large. Fernando has been leading these efforts, long before ‘public humanities’ and ‘community engagement’ became institutional buzzwords.”
Amago should know. He began acting in the theater group as a student in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and has returned to it now as a Spanish professor and a colleague of Operé’s.
The two joked that when Amago was recruited two years ago (he previously held an endowed professorship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), he stipulated that he be able to join the theater group again.
“Fernando promised that if I took the job and came back to UVA, he would give me roles. So far, he has kept his word,” Amago said.
The production is a great way to combine pedagogy and language learning with the performing arts, Amago said as he waited to rehearse his part as the uncle in “Fractales”, alongside his two sons, who were appearing onstage for the first time.