Living La Vida 'Lorca'
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Jonathan Stockhammer. Bottom: Director and librettist Margarita
Galbán at the barre during rehearsal.
Lorca is the sort of writer who inspires slavish devotion,
but he has few disciples as passionate as Galbán. Of the
poet and playwright, she says: “There is no one like Lorca.”
The intensity of Galbán’s emotion is on full display
during the long weeks of rehearsals. Hands dug deep in the pockets
of her corduroy slacks, muttering in Spanish, she paces like a basketball
coach on the sidelines, her team down by two points with seven seconds
left on the clock. Galbán knows exactly what she wants, and
when she doesn’t get it, she makes palms-down, back-and-forth
motions with her forearms and marches up the steps to the stage:
She coaxes and cajoles. She sidles up to one of the
dancers, Irit Specktor, and whispers in her ear. “Mi amor,
more sexy, for me?” When all else fails, she presses the palms
of her hands together in supplication: “Pleez, pleez! My lovely
ladies! Mis bellezas! Act! Act!”
“You can’t fake it in front of her. You
have to either feel it or not do it at all,” says Karin Mushegain,
a 24-year-old master’s student who plays a gypsy in Lorca.
In the 1980s, Galbán won a development grant
from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to write a theatrical
work that would introduce American audiences to the great Spanish
poet. There is little she does halfheartedly, and she dove into
the project with her customary zeal. Her research took her to Spain
and the small town of Fuente Vaqueros. For several weeks, she pored
through archives at the poet’s birth home, a two-story house
of whitewashed stucco that is now a museum and library. There she
found invaluable documents — “letters to friends, lovers
— everything,” along with filmed interviews with Lorca.
Much of this material would be incorporated verbatim into Galbán’s
libretto; except for the bridges connecting one scene to another,
every word that she wrote for Lorca is from the writer’s
pen or mouth.