November 21, 1980
The Powerhouse Theatre presented drama instructor Elizabeth St. John Villard ’67’s production of Félix Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna (1619). Based on an historical incident in the late 15th century, the play's action centers of the cruelty of a feudal commander to a rural village, Fuenteovejuna—particularly it's women. When he is murdered by the villagers, under pain of torture they uniformly claim "Fuenteovejuna did it." When no single guilty party is identified, King Ferdinand pardons the village. “There is neither hero nor heroine,” The New York Time wrote of Vassar's 1936 English language première of the play. “Characters merge into a common mass and their actions are strangely prophetic of the twentieth century.”
Villard said that her production pushed the innovative potential of the college's recently opened Hallie Flanagan Davis Powerhouse Theater "to it's limits." "Inherent in Lope de Vega's work," wrote Joan Moynagh '81 in The Miscellany News, "are two basic dichotomies—one which exists on a psychological level (that of the townspeople and the rulers) and one on a physical level (that created by the separate worlds in which they exist.) The conflicting forces in Villard's production are clearly articulated in the set, lighting and costume designs." Set designer Thaddeus Gesek told Moynagh, "we've divided the stage and audience equally, and have raised the nobility up on platforms while keeping the peasants on the ground level."
"During the scenes in which the aristocrats communicate with the townsfolk," Moynagh wrote, "the use of the two levels provides a striking, almost haunting contrast. Because the seating and acting areas are interspersed, the audience actually becomes a physical participant in the drama which makes for what Villard calls an 'environmental theater' situation." The Miscellany News