Sunday, October 27, 2013

Humboldt Unbound: How It Started, Where It's Going

The Humboldt project began with Francisco de la Cabada of the HSU World Languages and Culture department, who envisioned a play about Humboldt that began with him addressing an HSU audience during the school’s centennial—which is exactly how Humboldt Unbound begins.

 He first thought of it as a project for his class in Spanish drama. He described his ideas to Margaret Kelso, chair of Theatre, Film & Dance. "He knows a lot about Humboldt and as he talked, my imagination just went wild,” she said. “I saw how this could be exploded into something amazing.”

 “So I talked to Francisco about this as a bigger project. Lilianet Brintrup, a colleague in his department, is an expert on Humboldt, so she became involved as well.”

 “When Francisco was first talking, I saw all these images—the meteor shower, the frogs, the parrot who was the last speaker of a Native language—and they all had the quality of spectacle. So I thought of Michael Fields and the kind of productions that Dell’Arte does.”

 “I talked with Michael and he was interested. He proposed starting with a class in devised theatre that would begin the process of creating this. As we all continued our discussions, we saw we couldn’t accomplish all of this in a single semester. So we came up with a plan for a couple of courses followed by the production. We proposed all of this to Dean Kenneth Ayoob who was very gracious in supporting it.”

 Others such as geographer Stephen Cunha became involved, as well as students in the two classes and others informally. Then the cast and creative team took over, as described by Michael Fields in the director’s interview. 

It all culminates in the two weekends of the premiere production at HSU, but may not end there. The Humboldt Unbound production has been invited to the upcoming International and Interdisciplinary Alexander von Humboldt Conference which will be held in Santiago, Chile in January 2014. This will be the seventh such conference, previously held in Latin America, China, Germany, Morocco, with the inaugural conference in Arcata in 2001. HSU’s Lilianet Brintrup is president of this conference.

 “The conference will provide room and board, and a beautiful theatre for the production,” said Margaret Kelso. “ Through the Instructionally Related Activities Fund we have a financial commitment to help send the students in the production and in technical support. We’re now seeking funding to send the necessary non-student technical people and to ship the set.”

 “This could be very cool,” said director Michael Fields. “And it’s one reason our piece is partly in Spanish.”

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