HARLINGEN — They took a risk, thought outside the box, and created something unique.
Maybe the judges at the UIL 32 6A One-Act Play District Contest earlier this week saw that too, but they apparently didn’t appreciate the effort of the team from Harlingen High School. One judge gave the work “Mother Courage and Her Children” a two, but the others gave a four and a five.
While director Chris Esparza was disappointed, he stood by his decision to adapt the work from a 17th century setting in Europe to a 20th century setting in Mexico.
“This is what I told my kids when we did not advance,” Esparza said. “I said, ‘From day one when I told my kids we were doing it like this, I said, ‘Guys, this is going to be a risk. We are either going to be a hit or it’s going to be a miss.”
He remembers the moment he saw the ballots.
“When I saw that they did not like what we did with it, I said, ‘You know what, theater is subjective,’” he recalled. “We know what we put on that stage and we told a story that needed to be told.”
In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because the judges didn’t see the beauty of the work that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Esparza and his students took the work by German dramatist Bertolt Brecht and turned it into a one-act play. The original piece was written about the Thirty Years’ War in Europe between the Protestants and Catholics.
The basic elements of the story could apply to numerous situations, however, and that’s how Esparza presented it to his students.
“I said, ‘We can cherry pick this and set it in the late 1900s during the war between the Mexican drug cartels,’” he said. “We spun it to where Mother Courage and her children were Mexican citizens during the war between the cartels and her children ended up getting killed by the cartel.”
Certainly this rendition presented its own challenges, but Esparza and his students persevered.
“I feel like some of the most challenging parts would be creating the environments without having it written in the script,” Esparza said. “That’s something they did compliment us on. The judges were in awe of how much we cut out but at the same time how much we did physically to show what was going on. It was all things that we just kind of visualized, conceptualized, and we put that all on stage.”
He believes in the chances he took and plans to take more.
“I would rather have taken a risk with my high school students and introduced them to Bertolt Brecht and all that he stands for and what theater is all about,” he said. “It’s about uncovering the real truth to our world than giving them something safe and not pushing the boundaries that we did.”