DePaul student Harmony Zhang acts in The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca, directed by Jeremy Aluma . Lorca’s final play set in the provincial Andalusia, Spain, ignites with the funeral service of Bernarda Alba’s second husband. Ever determined that her five grown daughters maintain a house of honor, Bernarda declares they will have an eight-year mourning period of absolute seclusion. When the eldest daughter receives a large inheritance, potentially sweeping her away from this fate and into an engagement with a handsome bachelor, conflict brews among the sisters repressed by Bernarda’s rule. Set in a time of tumultuous political climate, this story explores the underbelly of what happens when a tyrant seizes power.
The House of Bernarda Alba runs Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM November 7, through November 12, 2017. Free tickets can be reserved on October 27, 2017 at noon at the box office, by calling 773-325-7900, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Press Opening is Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 7:30 PM. **Preview is Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 7:30 PM. The House of Bernarda Alba will be performed in Room 403 of The Theatre School at DePaul University at 2350 N Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
What's your personal story?
I grew up in Tucson, Arizona as one of very few Chinese Americans in my neighborhood. I remember that my sister and I were the only Chinese kids in my whole elementary school. However, my family attended a Chinese church in downtown Tucson, and I also attended Tucson Chinese School where I learned to read and write Mandarin Chinese. I’m very thankful for the persistence that my parents had to have my sister and me grow up learning Chinese and holding on to our ethnic culture.
However, growing up, I felt like I was never fully Chinese nor fully American. I didn’t feel the need to blend in with the other kids, but I also desired to connect better with others. An opportunity came up in kindergarten when the entire grade put on a show for the whole school. This was the first time that I felt like I was part of a team, part of a larger group effort to create something fun and beautiful. I remember that year, our production was called ‘To the Future and Beyond,’ and I sang the final solo of the show.
In middle school and high school, I continued to take drama classes whenever possible. I loved learning about the lives of people so different from me, memorizing my lines, and sharing those stories with audiences. In college at Duke University, I decided to major in Psychology and Theater Studies, and also performed in three of the Theater Department’s Mainstage shows. Currently, I’m in my second year of my MFA in Acting program at The Theatre School at DePaul University.
What's your character's story in "The House of Bernarda Alba”?
My character’s name is Angustias, which means anguish or distress. She is the eldest unmarried daughter of Bernarda Alba and is already 39. Angustias is the sole daughter of Bernarda Alba’s former husband, while the rest of her sisters are the daughters of Antonio Maria Benavides, the man they are all mourning at the top of the show. Angustias’ father was rich, so when Antonio Maria Benavides dies and the property must be divided, Angustias’ share of the estate is much larger than that of her sisters. This wealth that Angustias has is then attractive to Pepe, who is trying to marry her, and while Angustias truly believes that he loves her for her, she really just wants to be loved and free from the oppression and alienation she feels within the walls of Bernarda’s house.
What challenges does your character face telling this story?
Angustias is constantly struggling with the antagonistic energy she receives from her sisters. No matter what she does, her sisters find some way to make her feel even more alienated and separate from the group. No one really gives her a chance to share more about herself. Angustias is always defending herself, but somehow it always comes off as offensive towards her sisters. She doesn’t feel understood. She wants her mother’s approval but also doesn’t feel fully understood by her either. Angustias has a hard time in this story because she doesn’t feel like anyone is on her side.
How does the character overcome those challenges?
Angustias changes throughout the play—I won’t give away too much, but in some ways, Angustias is redeemed from all of her bitterness at the end of the play when her sisters discover how they have wronged her. While Angustias behaved more out of spite at the top of the show, she begins to genuinely ask for help, advice, and empathy at the end of the play. Angustias overcomes her challenges of alienation towards the end of the play when she risks being judged by her mother and sisters by being more vulnerable, and seeking to find the truth, even if she gets hurt in the end.
Any other comments?
I hope that this play helps audience members to be thankful for the people in life who love them, to hold them close, and to try to understand each other instead of being blinded by individual desires. Why not work together? Why not be a team and create something beautiful? Life is too short not to make the most of it every day. Thank you so much for your time!