It was our Introduction to Literary Analysis class in the spring of 2017, and we had to take Federico García Lorca’s famous Bodas de sangre and adapt it to make our own play. We had full power over the concept, script, costumes, props, directing, filming, editing – every aspect of creating our own piece of theater.
So, of course, being a small room full of snarky college students, we turned Lorca’s tragic story of love, passion, betrayal, and murder into a gender-flipped high school drama where Death narrates via social media, the song “Despacito” features prominently, and La Novia hooks up with her best friend at the end.
Writing the Script
On our first day of the assignment, we all gave each other roles with the help of our TA, Sonia, and started brainstorming ideas. The high school drama concept was in place from the beginning, and we quickly decided to swap the genders of all the characters – not least because our class had a grand total of only two gentlemen. After that, we decided to throw in prom as the main event instead of a wedding, the lesbian love story on the side so at least one character got a happy ending, and the concept of Death as a “mean girl” – consistently on her cell phone and narrating chunks of the story via Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
I’m Sarah, and I was volunteered to write the script. Beyond using our class’s Facebook group chat to iron out a few of the big plot details, I quickly realized that this was going to end up being mostly a solo exploit – and we couldn’t really start on any other aspect of the play until I finished my part. So I sat down on my bed, laptop on my legs and my copy of Bodas de sangre at my side, and got to work.
Altogether, I was surprised at how fast it went. Since it was an adaptation of the play and not an entirely new work, I was able to pull some lines of dialogue straight from the original and bring over others with just a bit of tweaking. Beyond that, I had enough of a framework from our class discussions to imagine what the scenes would look like and put them on paper (or, rather, on Google Docs) from there.
Writing an entire script in Spanish was definitely an adventure, though. At several points, I had the wittiest one-liners or the most dramatic bits of dialogue… in English. In Spanish, they made no sense, but I was lucky enough to have Sonia help me edit for more colloquial phrases and a few grammar points.
One of the most interesting parts, in my opinion, was how we modified the script while filming. Some scenes looked exactly as I’d imagined them; a few were moved to other parts of the story, edited for length or phrasing, or deleted entirely; and several ended up with the same dialogue, but different stage direction – which felt more jarring than I’d expected. (I also wasn’t expecting to get casted as La Novia at the last minute. That definitely threw me for a bit of a loop.)
In the end, the play looked very different than I’d imagined it, but I honestly feel that the final version was better than anything I’d thought up.
But to get to that point – well, that’s where Lily comes in.
“Film a whole play in a day? Sure, we can try, but that’s probably not going to happen,” were my instant first thoughts as soon as we planned filming. Most of our group was confident that our play would be filmed and done in an afternoon; the director, on the other hand (aka Lilian, aka me), wasn’t so much. Sarah had done an absolutely wonderful job of writing our script and basically giving us all a guide of what to do. I, of course, wanted to do everything exactly the same as Sarah had written down, but because of set problems or lack of props, we had to tweak things a little more than I expected we were going to. We decided to record after our graduation (yes, in Instituto Franklin they’re so confident in your success they give you a diploma before you start your finals). Recording on this day actually turned out to be perfect since we were all already a bit dressed up because of our graduation ceremony. I enjoy making and editing videos a whole lot, so I knew from experience this was not going to be a short filming adventure. A fun one, yes, but definitely not quick. As much as I had warned my beloved actors that this was going to take a while, they still grew impatient during the first scenes, realizing that a fifteen-second scene was on average going to take fifteen minutes to film. But they quickly grew over that impatience and decided that if this was going to take long, we might as well have fun while we were at it. And indeed we did. I cannot tell you the amount of footage of bloopers I have (which you can see probably only 25% of them in the end of our video). Maybe I’m speaking for all of us, but I at least had a blast. Towards the end of shooting, some of our “mean girls” had to leave, so I also ended up having to act filling in the shoes of a character. I had been having so much fun making fun of people messing up their lines behind the camera, so now that I had to be in front of it, I understood their pain. Acting ain’t all that easy! But hey, much to my surprise, we finished in a day! I still can’t tell you how that happened, since to this day I’m astounded at how we did that. We did shoot a lot of scenes out of order in order to use our time more wisely, and as much as that confused me the day of, it really helped us finish way quicker. But I’m still astounded considering we spent way more time laughing than acting. When it came to editing, I took around six or seven hours to finish, but I had so much fun doing it that it honestly felt way faster.
This project was so much more fun than any exam or essay we could’ve done. Group projects aren’t always the most successful, but this experience was so great and one of my favorite highlights from the semester. I think Sarah can agree that there was a lot of pressure to make the most important decisions that we’d all be satisfied with for a large group. Editing a video couldn’t really be a teamwork type of job, so I did that myself without hearing any opinions or suggestions from anyone, which was a bit scary. I was worried my group wouldn’t like how I would edit certain scenes or how they wouldn’t like the mood I’d portray. Gratefully, they’re not harsh film critics and they all loved the final product. I distinctly remember our professor telling us on day one that we would have to act out a play at some point of the semester, and I immediately thought how that was definitely not going to end well. If only I knew then just how fun it would turn out. Maybe we didn’t follow Bodas de sangre exactly how Federico García Lorca would’ve wanted us to, but I think Baile de sangre was pretty great itself.