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Seton Hill production of 'The House of Bernarda Alba' designed to give pause

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
The cast of Seton Hill University's 'The House of Bernarda Alba' rehearse a scene. Credit: Seton Hill University

In “The House of Bernarda Alba,” listening to what the characters are not saying is almost more important than the dialogue, according to Lisa Ann Goldsmith, director of Seton Hill University's Theatre and Dance Program production.

The drama by Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, which opens this weekend in Greensburg, explores the repression of passion and the repression of women by society — and by other women. The all-female cast features Natalie Spanner of Bethel Park, a junior theater-performance major at Seton Hill, as Bernarda Alba, the mother of five grown women in Andalusia, Spain, during the 1930s.

“At the beginning of the play, she is widowed for the second time, and the audience witnesses her dealing with being the definitive matriarch of her household,” Spanner says. “She is a tough woman, authoritative and unyielding.”

Spanner says she has struggled to find sympathy for her character in all that she does to herself and to her family.

“The most difficult part of this play, for me, was finding and, then, using the ugliest parts of myself to bring truth to this character. Bernarda has been a hard woman to maneuver,” she says.

Anna McDunn of McCandless, a sophomore dance major, plays Angustias, the oldest of Alba's five daughters and the only child from her mother's first marriage. This, combined with the fact that both husbands left the majority of their inheritance to her, creates a great deal of tension between Angustias and her sisters.

“Tension evolves into outright animosity when the sisters learn of Angustias' engagement to a much younger and more eligible man,” McDunn says.

Emily Urbaniak of Pittsburgh portrays another daughter, Magdalena, and says the drama includes some intense moments and it should make people think.

“We can all relate to issues within a family, the bond of sisters, or friends, and how we interact with each other, but more importantly, the secrets we keep and what we try to hide from each other. I think that this play will make everyone reflect on their own relationships, especially the women who come to see the show,” Urbaniak says.

Goldsmith says one of her most important goals as director of the Seton Hill production is to help the young women in the play to understand how the repression of passion can have a profound effect on the soul. She hopes that audiences will take away “at least one concept that makes them each think, and pause, perhaps a little longer, the next time their words or actions affect more than just them.”

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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