Policarpa By Diana Burbano

Playwright's Note

by Diana Burbano

In the not too distant future, Gran Colombia is controlled by the very wealthy, and now infested by an inexplicable plague. Ingrid Bolivar–the outcast ex-wife of Colombia’s leader–is the only one who knows that the plague is carried by young women of the streets, who have been weaponized against the corrupt government. Policarpa, a girl with magical gifts, is supposed to be Ingrid’s secret apocalyptic weapon. But when Policarpa falls in love with a top government official, she resists the allure of becoming a creature of destruction and instead seeks to become a savior through sacrifice. Can she instead become a savior? Rooted in traditional Latin American magical realism and science fiction, Policarpa’s nightmare world exists in a neither here-nor-there.

The play is based on the life of Policarpa Salavarrieta (1795-1817), a Latin American revolutionary during the wars for independence from Spain.

The play is about the manipulation of truth for power and the revolution necessary to dismantle entrenched hierarchies.

Policarpa has been developed by The Drama League’s Rough Draft series, Theatricum Botanicum Seedlings, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Black Swan Lab Latinx Play Project, and Milagro Theatre’s Ingenio play reading series. It received an Honorable Mention for the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award and was a finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

Franklin & Marshall was four weeks into rehearsal, with three more to go before its scheduled run (April 2 - 5, 2020) was ironically and frighteningly interrupted by a real-life pandemic.

Creating Theatre Designs

The director of F&M's production was Olga Sanchez Saltveit. Design inspiration images help guide the director and the designers toward concrete production choices that impact: physical relationships among performers, costume design, scenic design, lighting design, sound design. The images that inspired this production's world included fragments of nature, graffiti, La Cruz de la Sal de Catedral, and the Colombian flag.

Collaborating with Community

Storytelling involves world-building. Throughout the process of developing F&M's production of Policarpa, collaborators created an imaginary space inflected by real problems and real fears. As playwright Diana Burbano describes, the world of Policarpa is a "nightmare world (that) exists in a neither here-nor-there."

While developing Policarpa, F&M was inspired by the generosity of Lancaster's Teatro Paloma, a theatre-making group focused on celebrating the rich heritage of Latinx performance. Members of the group collaborated through conversation with F&M faculty, and partnered alongside students as performers.

Evolving a Floor Design

The floor of the stage in the Roschel Performing Arts Center on F&M's campus went through a series of paint treatments in preparation for performance, though the painting was never finished.

Scenic Design by Shannon Zura, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre

Story Into Sound

Sound design by Dan Rock, class of 2020

The Cast of F&M's Policarpa

Back, l-r: Ian Sanchez, Francis King Harvey, Victor Ceballos, Lauryn Harper, Jack Barket, Annie WuQianyi (ASM); Center, l-r: Shanay Jones, Maria León Reyes, Jasmin Perez, Sheryl Apunte, Katherine Rodriguez, Priyanka Patil; Front, l-r: Lisbeth Marquez-Delgado, Cesar Silva, & Kyla Nitahara (missing: Citlalli Gomez)

Rehearsal February 19, 2020

Thoughts on process from the actors

I enjoyed that all of the cast was ready to try new things on the spot every rehearsal. What I look forward to seeing is how everything comes together. With this being my first production ever, it is very eye opening seeing everyone being so welcoming with each other and our different levels of acting. Refining my set moves as well as moving freely as a butterfly is what I am trying to work on at home.

Ingrid encourages Policarpa's design, Bibiano+Paciencia, Valentía weeps, & El Soldado keeps watch

Policarpa sits in her jail cell protected by butterflies

Auditioning for Policarpa reminded me how much I actually love theater. After middle school, I decided to give up altogether ... I thought I was done with theater until I received the email describing the play, I thought it sounded awesome, and I loved the Colombian background the story held.

Realidad schools Bibiano on manners

The one thing I wish to improve is the scene in which Bibiano is thrown out of the wheelbarrow and is left to flop about on the ground whilst waiting for someone to help him.

I would likely practice my movements outside since there is more space. I think connecting myself with nature will improve my performance, because I am portraying a butterfly.

Policarpa begins to sew the dress for Valentía's presidential inauguration

As an individual who is not comfortable with public speaking or being the center of attention, this field of work has certainly helped me build confidence while doing something that I truly love. … I was nervous to be around a new group of people and I honestly thought everyone around me had lots of acting experience. Turns out the majority of the cast said that this was their first time acting. Surely that eased my mind. I learned something new every day from rehearsals both personally and the ins and outs of being on the stage.

My focal point of strategy to make my performance better will be allocated to my volume and also the positioning of my body. In a sense, these two things coincide with one another because if my body is shifted a certain angle, I lose my projection as well.

One of the most important parts of being on stage is being present. And I don’t just mean actually showing up for the role, but rather being in the moment and being aware … one personal critique on my performance has to do with spatial and time awareness. Knowing where my characters are at each point in time and also being aware of where others are

How do you transform your movement and posture into something that makes people almost forget that it is not a real butterfly? My next steps and visions for my role are to master my posture, stealth, grace, mystique, and entrances. There is something quiet and mysterious to a butterfly. You never really know what a butterfly is doing when it flies past.

Butterflies are deadly

The sacrifice

If the play actually happened last weekend as it should’ve, I was thinking of incorporating some martial-art stylized movements into moving set pieces off stage during transitions where it is low lit and not a blackout. In judo, there are leg sweeps and throws. I was thinking that the butterflies could “sweep” the parts on wheels off stage or “throw” the chairs or cubes off.


Created with an image by Joseph Pearson - "untitled image"