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The Adaptation of the Western World: Taking Up (Liminal) Space




Taking Up (Liminal) Space


M. Isabel Cruz

American theater remains a decidedly Anglo-patriarchal institution, up to and

including what is deemed worthy of being called “American” theater. Not seeing

themselves represented on stage, people of color have created their own companies,

and endure the criticism of not only engaging in what is sometimes considered a self-

inflicted segregation, but also being seen as inferior to mainstream theater. There is

the need for a third option: a theater between traditionally exclusionary “American”

theater, and the “ethnic” genres that have been reduced to niche theater. I propose

adaptation as that third option.

Through Gloria Anzaldúa’s Nepantla theory, existence between two worlds, I

establish my own need to claim space and tell stories that exist in the in-between; a

liminal space for me and theater makers like me, who don’t quite fit in one designated

space or the other. For this project, I adapted a work from the Irish canon, The

Playboy of the Western World, by John Millington Synge (1907), setting it in a time and

place in U.S. history that is also Latin American history: 19th century California. As I

consider my history and, even as I question my own identity, I propose this

adaptation as a vehicle for representation and self-identification. I conclude that, due

to casting, a staged reading and a workshop production were successful in distinct ways.

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