The Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance presents Pedro Calderòn de la Barca’s 17th century masterpiece of the golden age of Spanish theater, “Life is a Dream” in the Sally Stevens Players Theatre in NIU’s Stevens Building, February 10-12 and 16-18.
The production features beautiful, heightened language, spoken primarily in English, but also featuring bits of Spanish, Polish and Russian. It includes a brilliant cast guaranteed to provide thrills, laughs, emotional ups and downs, and excitement.
Audiences will enjoy staged fights while having their heartstrings pulled by the poetry of the script. They can also expect cast member interaction, entertainment by live music and even enjoy a few laughs. By the end of the night, viewers will leave thinking about the very nature of life, reminiscing on the powerful words delivered to them on this fantastic journey.
The show’s director, Stanton Davis, associate professor of Theatre and Dance describes the show’s themes as, “honor, decency, love, forgiveness, and what constitutes reality itself which are as timeless and relevant now as they ever were.” Davis said it was vital to find just the right translation of this work. “A paramount concern of ours was finding a translation that captures the poetry but doesn’t reek of old timey patina,” Davis said. “We wanted the script to be accessible both to a modern actor and to the ears of the audience that listens. Finding a text that balanced the literal language with the poetic meanings was not easy. I think we found just that balance with the translation we are using from Harley Erdman and Lauryn E. Sasso.”
Key in finding that translation was Kerry Wilks, dean of the NIU Graduate School, who is also a professor of Spanish and associate vice president of International Affairs at the university. She has done research on seventeenth century Spanish theatre and has served on the board of the Association of Hispanic Classical Theatre since 2008. Wilks is working as the dramaturg for this run of “Life is a Dream.”
Pre and post show discussions
The production debuts Friday, February 10 with a 7:30 p.m. performance, and will feature a pre-show discussion at 7 p.m. featuring Wilks and Bruce R. Burningham, professor of Spanish Studies and Theater at Illinois State University where he specializes in early modern Spanish and Latin American literature, Iberian and Latin American theater and performance theory.
Following the performance there will be a talkback with the audience, a question and answer period featuring Wilks and Burningham along with the show’s director, cast and designers.
A week later, before the Friday, February 17 performance, another pre-show discussion at 7 p.m., will feature Wilks along with another pair of Spanish theater scholars. Kathleen Costales is associate professor of Spanish at the University of Dayton. Her research interests include early modern Spanish literature, performance theory, gender studies and translation. Alejandra Juno Rodríguez Villar is associate professor of Spanish at Hanover College. Her research focuses on Spanish Early Modern Drama, especially in Calderón de la Barca’s autos sacramentales, which she studies from a cognitive literary perspective.
After the show the three will be joined by the director, cast and designers for a talkback question and answer period.
Tickets for “Life is a Dream” are $7 for adults and seniors, NIU students are admitted free of charge. Visit niu.edu/theatre for tickets. Performances are Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, February 12 at 2 p.m., and Thursday, February 16 and Friday, February 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 18 at 2 p.m.
The Stevens Building is located next to the NIU visitor lot and behind McDonalds on Lincoln Highway. Directions and maps can be found at niu.edu/maps for help with parking and finding the space.
Biographies of the Spanish Theatre scholars featured in the pre-show talks and talkbacks
Kerry Wilks (Dramaturg) is a professor of Spanish, dean of the Graduate School and associate vice president of International Affairs at Northern Illinois University. She is the chair of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools and has served on the board of the Association of Hispanic Classical Theater since 2008. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago (2004).
Her research focuses on seventeenth century Spanish theater (the comedia) with an emphasis on contemporary productions. She is a founding member of Translation Lab, a research group that has been working collaboratively for fourteen years with Hispanists and Thespians to produce actor- and audience-friendly translations of entremeses (one-act plays). This work, combined with that of other Spanish and theater scholars, will soon be published, bringing 17 new translations to the hands of English-speaking practitioners.
She has presented her research at multiple venues, including Association of Hispanic Classical Theater, Association for Theater in Higher Education Conference, American, Modern Language Association, Renaissance Society of America, Society for Theater Research.
Her journey into the study of comedia began with her serendipitous participation as dramaturg for a production of “Life is a Dream” in Chicago (she didn’t even know what dramaturg meant).
She is thrilled that during her first year at NIU, she has come full circle working with a wonderful director and incredible students in this production.
Bruce R. Burningham (PhD, Yale University) is Professor of Spanish Studies and Theater at Illinois State University, where he specializes in medieval and early modern Spanish and Latin American literature, Iberian and Latin American theater, and performance theory.
He is Editor of Cervantes, the journal of the Cervantes Society of America. And he is President of the Association for Hispanic Classical Theater (AHCT).
Burningham’s latest book is an edited volume of essays titled Millennial Cervantes: New Currents in Cervantes Studies (University of Nebraska Press, 2020). He is also the author of Tilting Cervantes: Baroque Reflections on Postmodern Culture (Vanderbilt UP, 2008) and Radical Theatricality: Jongleuresque Performance on the Early Spanish Stage (Purdue UP, 2007).
He is a recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
Kathleen Costales is an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Dayton. She received her Ph.D. in Spanish with a secondary interest in theater from Vanderbilt University. Her research interests include early modern Spanish literature, performance theory, gender studies and translation.
She has published in journals such as Bulletin of the Comediantes, Comedia Performance, and Revista Comunicación. She is the editor of a critical edition of Calderón’s comedy No hay cosa como callar (UP of the South, 2016). Her most recent work, in conjunction with Ian Borden, is a translation of Cervantes’ entremés, El retablo de las maravillas (The Entremés for Performance: Translations of Short Spanish Golden Age Plays, edited by K. Wilks and Ian Borden, Liverpool UP, Forthcoming).
Alejandra Juno Rodríguez Villar is an associate professor of Spanish at Hanover College. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Santiago de Compostela in the History of Spanish Theater and a Ph.D. from Duke University in Romance Studies. Her research focuses on Spanish Early Modern Drama, especially in Calderón de la Barca’s autos sacramentales, which she studies from a Cognitive Literary perspective.
She also directs The Barrack, a student Spanish theater company, with which she directs tv-movies based on Spanish early modern theater, as part of her dedication to outreach. Her interests revolve around cognition, emotions, decision-making processes, plot structure, humor, and digital humanities.
She has published in journals such as Comedia Performance and Frontiers on Integrative Neuroscience, and she is the author of the monograph Cuando Compostela subió el telón: crónica sentimental de la década dorada del teatro santiagués (Alvarellos, 2011).
Life is a Dream
by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
Translation by Harley Erdman and Lauryn E. Sasso
Director: Stanton Davis
Dramaturg: Kerry Wilks
Assistant Director: Samantha Bliss
Music Director: Naava Ofri-Akman
Lighting Designer: Kev Kollmann
Scenic Designer: Tyler Sikorski
Properties Designer: Dave Doherty
Movement Director: Maya Paletta
Fight Captain: Rylan Johnson
Stage Manager: Megan Thompson
Rosaura: Emma Vaughn
Estrella: Kayla Crispino
Clarion: Kristen Serbia
Basilo: Jack Gordon
Segismundo: Emma Mansfield
Clotaldo: Rylan Johnson
Astolpho: Logan Blake
Chorus: Becca Katz, Matthew Killinger, Antonette Miller, Naava Ofri-Akman, Cristian Oñante, Maya Paletta, Kairin Rose
Run time is approximately 2 1/2 hours with an intermezzo and an intermission.
I heard Calderon’s “Life is a Dream” from a student in a dramatic literature class the first year I taught at a university. Years before, I had read the play in graduate school as a part of my training in theatre. However, I have never heard the words spoken out loud in English, let alone the original version written in Spanish. In my first year of teaching at the State University in New Paltz, New York, a student did a dramatic reading from the play of Segismundo’s blockbuster speech that ends act two as a part of her class presentation. She performed it first in English and then in Spanish. It was haunting to hear it in English and then, knowing what the words were, to hear the poetry in Spanish. It floored me in the moment. I remember saying to myself, someday I want to work on this play and hear the whole thing, to experience this profound and deep musing from beginning to end. That was 23 years ago. I finally found my chance to work on this masterpiece of the golden age of Spanish theatre here at NIU. It has been a haunting journey for myself and our company of artists who have gone on this adventure with me.
A paramount concern of ours was finding a translation that captures the poetry but doesn’t reek of old-timey patina. We wanted the script to be accessible both to a modern actor and to the ears of the audience that listens. Finding a text that balanced the literal language with the poetic meanings was not easy. With the help of our dramaturg, Kerry Wilks, I think we found just that balance with the translation we are using from Harley Erdman and Lauryn E. Sasso. We have spent a great deal of time trying to unearth the universal truths hidden beneath the dramatic traditions and conventions of this far-off time and place. Spanish Renaissance theatre first seemed foreign to us as contemporary American theatre artists. We hope we have found the poetic soul of this profound piece of work while making it accessible and exciting to you, the audience. Its themes of honor, decency, love, forgiveness and what constitutes reality itself are as timeless and relevant now as they ever were. I hope you enjoy the beauty, warmth and poetry in this earnest attempt to give order, meaning and purposes to our dreaming lives.
Logan Blake (Astolpho) is a second-year B.F.A. actor at Northern Illinois University. He has been acting for six years and has a tremendous passion for the craft. Some of his works at NIU include the 24-Hour Theatre Festival, the improv shows, “Need to Know” and more. He would like to thank his family and friends for always being supportive of his path. He would also like to thank everyone for coming and hope they will enjoy the show as much as everyone involved enjoyed creating it.
Kayla Crispino (Estrella) is a second-year B.F.A. acting candidate from Elgin, Illinois. She is thankful for her cast, director, assistant directors, stage manager and tech team for all the work and support they’ve put into this production. She hopes you enjoy the show as much as she enjoyed bringing the story to life.
Jack Gordon (Basilio) is a third-year B.F.A. in acting candidate. Recently, Gordon made his professional debut as a member of Canterbury Summer Theatre’s 2022 Resident Company. At NIU, Gordon performed as Chuck in “She Kills Monsters” and flew around as Golden Pheasant in “Conference of the Birds” directed by Cecilie D. Keenan. Jack wants to thank his family (biological/NIU), friends and cast/crew for their endless support.
Rylan Johnson (Clotaldo/Fight Captain) is a third-year B.F.A. acting candidate. Previous notable performances are Michael Novak in “God of Carnage,” Tyler in “You are You” (NIU), Banquo in “Macbeth” (College of DuPage), Sir Sebastian in “Cinderella” (CYT Chicago), Santa Claus in “Elf the Musical” (CYT Chicago) and Mayor Shinn in “The Music Man” (CYT Chicago). Johnson would like to thank everyone involved in the creation of this show for making it a fun and enjoyable process. He would also like to thank his family for always supporting him. Enjoy the show!
Becca Katz (Chorus/Musician) is a freshman theatre minor, and she is beyond excited to make her NIU debut in “Life is a Dream.” Recent credits include “Women of Lockerbie” as Hattie, “Night of the Living Dead” as Tommy, “Proof” as Claire and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as Snout
in Warren Township High School’s theatre program. Katz is incredibly grateful to have been able to be a part of such a wonderful, supportive cast. She would like to dedicate this performance to her parents, whose support and love she couldn’t have done this without.
Matthew Killinger (Chorus) is a third-year B.A. theatre studies major from Schaumburg, Illinois. This is his very first show at NIU and his sixth show overall. He is grateful and excited for the chance to act on stage again after returning to theatre, having spent three years studying engineering. He would like to thank all his friends and especially family for supporting him through this change, and he hopes that you enjoy the show.
Emma Mansfield (Sigismundo) is a third-year B.F.A. in acting candidate. Their previous NIU credits include Mary in “The Language Archive”
and Tilly in “She Kills Monsters.” They want to thank the cast and crew, Professor Kerry Wilks for her endless knowledge and support, and Stanton Davis for everything he’s done for this production and for entrusting them with Segismundo’s story. They are honored to bring “Life is a Dream” to the NIU stage and hope you enjoy.
Antonette Miller (Chorus) is a first-year theatre minor. Her previous roles have been at Pec Playhouse Theatre as a 90-year-old woman in “Offed at the Bake-Off,” Amy in “Little Women,” and her personal favorite, a 12-year-old boy in “Over The Tavern.” In 2021 she attended ARTS International as an actress and model. Miller has also been involved in the 24-hour play and improv shows at NIU. She is honored to be working with Stanton Davis and the wonderful cast of “Life is a Dream.”
Cristian Oñate (Chorus) is an actor and dancer. He has performed with the Goodman Theater’s PlayBuild Intensive as a camp counselor in “From Camp, With Love” (devised), was seen as Aladdin in “Aladdin” at the Greenhouse Theater within Take the Stage and Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast” at the Greenhouse Theater within Take the Stage in Chicago.
Kairin Rose (Chorus) is a theatre studies minor at NIU. After recently appearing in the Stagecoach Players Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Story,” they’re thrilled to be a part of their first NIU production. They’re proud to have contributed to the telling of this wonderful story and grateful for the opportunity to work with an amazing cast and production team.
Kristen Serbia (Clarion) is a junior B.F.A. acting candidate and is so very glad to be in the Sally Stevens Players Theater this time around at NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance. Recent NIU credits include Frances in “Melancholy Play” by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Bethany Mangum-Oles; Hoopoe in “The Conference of the Birds” by Sholeh Wolpe and directed by Cecile Keenan, and Brenda in a staged reading of “La Ruta” by Isaac Gomez. Other credits include Grusha in selected scenes of “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” by Bertolt Brecht and directed by Laura Pulio-Colbert,and an ensemble member in “Anna in the Tropics” by Nilo Cruz and directed by Kevin Long. She is honored to be creating art on the stage and growing as an actress during such dark and uncertain times. She would like to dedicate this performance to her family, for without their love, support, and encouragement of her wildest dreams and ambitions, she wouldn’t be here today, and to director Stanton Davis for his endless wisdom, guidance, support and encouragement throughout this process. La Vida es sueño, Viva! Jeremiah 29:11
Emma Vaughn (Rosaura) is a junior B.F.A. actor at NIU, and she is so thrilled to be playing Rosaura in this production of “Life is a Dream.”
She was previously seen at NIU as Lillith in “She Kills Monsters” and Mockingbird in “Conference of the Birds.” She recently studied at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin and spends the rest of her time studying music as a music minor here at NIU. Vaughn hopes you enjoy this beautiful production.
Production Team Bios
Sam Bliss (Assistant Director) is a senior B.F.A. in acting candidate. Her past NIU acting credits include “Much Ado About Nothing,” “You are You,” “Edward II,”
“Angels in America” and “A Bird in the Hand.” Some of her favorite past credits from Commonwealth Theatre Center include “The Winter’s Tale,” “Richard III” and “The Laramie Project.”
Stanton Davis (Director) is a voice and acting teacher at NIU. He’s in his 15th year as a member of our acting faculty. He teaches speech, dialects, verse, stage combat and rhetoric. He holds a B.F.A. from the University of Utah and an M.F.A. from the Professional Theatre Training Program at the University of Delaware. Stanton has acted professionally on stage, film, television, voiceover and audiobook narrations. He’s a certified Fitzmaurice Voice instructor. He lives on a farm with his spouse and many furry and feathery friends.
Kev Kollmann (Lighting Designer) Kev is in his first year as an M.F.A. lighting design student. Kollman has recently received his B.A. in theatre from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, focusing on directing and stage management. This is Kollman’s second show at NIU. He was the assistant lighting designer on “She Kills Monsters” earlier this semester. He hopes you enjoy the show.
Naava Ofri-Akman (Music Director/Chorus) is a senior B.F.A. in acting student. She has previously appeared in NIU’s productions of “Carmina Burana,” “Melancholy Play,” “A Bird in the Hand,” “Everybody” and “The Language Archive,” as well as RI Shakespeare Rep’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She hopes you enjoy this show.
Maya Paletta (Movement Director/Swing/Chorus) is a third-year B.F.A. acting major and dance minor. She has been training in dance and movement for 18 years. This is her first production as movement director and looks forward to pursuing more choreography opportunities in the future. Previous NIU credits include Agnes Evans in “She Kills Monsters”, A-Gay in “Hit the Wall” and dancing in the NIU Best of Broadway Dance Concert. Later this spring she will be playing Olympia in NIU’s production of “Big Love” by Charles Mee. She is incredibly thankful and honored for the opportunity to contribute to this production.
Megan Thompson (Stage Manager) is a senior B.F.A. in acting candidate from Louisville, Kentucky. Some past credits from NIU include “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Hit The Wall,” “Bike America” and “Bird In The Hand.” Some past credits from Commonwealth Theatre Center include “The Trojan Women” and “Macbeth.” Cheers to live performance!
Kerry Wilks (Dramaturg) is a professor of Spanish, dean of the Graduate School and associate vice president of international affairs at Northern Illinois University. She is the chair of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools and has served on the board of the Association of Hispanic Classical Theater since 2008. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago (2004).
Her research focuses on 17th-century Spanish theater (the comedia) with an emphasis on contemporary productions. She is a founding member of Translation Lab, a research group that has been working collaboratively for 14 years with hispanists and thespians to produce actor- and audience-friendly translations of entremeses (one-act plays). This work, combined with that of other Spanish and theater scholars, will soon be published, bringing 17 new translations to the hands of English-speaking practitioners.
She has presented her research at multiple venues, including: Association of Hispanic Classical Theater, Association for Theater in Higher Education Conference, American, Modern Language Association, Renaissance Society of America and Society for Theater Research.
Her journey into the study of comedia began with her serendipitous participation as dramaturg for a production of “Life’s A Dream” in Chicago (she didn’t even know what dramaturg meant). She is thrilled that during her first year at NIU, she has come full circle working with a wonderful director and incredible students in this production.
Technical Direction Advisor – Tracy Nunnally
Scenic Coordinator – Sahin Sahinoglu
Scene Shop Supervisor – Adam Rager
Scene Shop Graduate Employees – Elizabeth Ahles, Eric Brockmeier, Alicia Margerum
Scene Shop Employees – Jordyn Crooks, Sunshine Despeines, Mike Kozel, Kairin Rozenfeld-Mayberg, Tyler Sikorski
Run Crew – David Alvardo, Kane Crotty, Taylor Maurchie-Banks
Costume Design Advisor – Jeremy W. Floyd
Costume Director – Lori Hartenhoff
Costume Shop Supervisor – Clare Richey-Kaplan
Lighting Advisor – Brandon Wardell
Lighting Shop Supervisor – Chris Kurszewski
Lighting Designer – Kev Kollmann
Lighting Shop Employees – Logan Bryant, Conall Doherty, Timothy Peters
Student Electricians – THEA 210 students, THEA 295 students, THEA 395 students
Resident Master Electrician – Chris Kurszewski
Sound Board Operator – Megan Thompson
Properties Director – Dave Doherty
Production Assistant – Jordan Clifton
House Management Supervisor – Cornelia Hayes