Blanco hopes to bring Spanish speakers to the theatre through ‘La Lengua’

Fueled by a desire to provide access to Spanish speakers to theatre, Virginia Blanco started a bilingual theatre company in 2019. Their first in-person production, entitled “Las Azurduy,” is running through Aug. 28 in San Francisco. (La Lengua Teatro en Español photo) Cover photo by Michelle Castillo

Virginia Blanco remembers the first time she had to prepare for an audition in English. The native Argentinian was auditioning with a piece from Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Blood Wedding.” The Spanish playwright and poet’s work is fueled by passion, with characters often being overtaken by earth-shattering circumstances.

Yet, when Blanco delivered those mesmerizing words of Lorca, all of the passion and power disappeared.

“I realized immediately that the translation was not even close to the original one,” said Blanco. “I was like, they’re missing a whole paragraph here. The culture, tone of voice and the inflections of the voice that are proper Spanish are also part of the story, and we miss all that when we hear a translation.”

Blanco is a native Argentinian and San Francisco resident, and grew up with many works of theatre. Even though she decided early on that theatre might not pass the hobby stage as a Bay Area creative in her decade as a resident, those initial instincts have now been officially and mightily ignored.

Blanco and her new bilingual theatre company, La Lengua Teatro en Español, has officially taken flight, their inaugural world premiere production “Las Azurduy” now running at Brava Theater Center Cabaret through Aug 28. The show, written by fellow Argentinian Florencia Aroldi, explores the extraordinary and courageous life of Juana Azurduy de Padilla, a 19th century fighter for Latin American independence. 

As someone who grew up in a theatre environment, she understands very well the challenges of sustaining a life, made double challenging in a region as expensive the Bay Area. Still, Blanco’s resolve is incredibly sturdy.

“I decided a while back not to dedicate my life to the theatre because I didn’t think I would be able to make it,” said Blanco. “At some point though, I decided that I can make a living doing this. I have the feeling that life is short and this is something I want to do.

“Starting a theatre company, especially being an immigrant, it takes a lot but it’s a joy to be part of something that is slowly growing and more people are being touched by this creation and getting involved.”

Yet not everyone is completely moved to support these efforts, her new idea being something she initially bankrolled by herself back in 2019. Then 2020 happened, zoom and pajama pants firmly became the standard uniform for all modes of activity.

One of the harshest realities that Blanco faced was that a bilingual company was not something that financial gatekeepers were ready to get behind and fund. Yet with a heavy helping of grit, none of the setbacks weakened her resolve.

“I’ve been rejected so many times for almost three years applying for grants,” said Blanco. “It was like people asked why I wanted to do something like this, as if nobody thought that this could be important. I have to prove why a Spanish speaker has the right to have theatre in their own language.”

Blanco is a firm believer in theatre’s potential for equity and access. In her conversations with fellow Latinx artists, she has found that many of the parents who migrated to the United States in the past ten or 20 years cannot engage fully with the careers of their children due to the language barrier.

Blanco is working hard to fix that.

“One of the artists I work with whose mother is from El Salvador told me his mother doesn’t speak English and is afraid of going to the theatre because it’s intimidating. She doesn’t feel like she belongs. If that fear is being transmitted to other generations, we are missing a lot of artists that think theatre is not for them because maybe they have an accent or just because they are Latinx.” 

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

La Lengua Teatro en Español presents “Las Azurduy”
Written by Florencia Aroldi
Directed by Eugenia Arbol
Brava Theater Center Cabaret
2773 24th St., San Francisco
Through Aug. 28
Tickets range from $25 – $100
For tickets, call (415) 641-7657 or visit www.lalengua.org

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