BVU Theater Makes History with First Bilingual Play


Photo by: Autumn McClain

Autumn McClain and Guy Tannenbaum

El Nogalar tells the story of a Hispanic family who abandoned their lavish life in Northern Mexico to move to the United States after their father has died. After spending all of their wealth in the U.S. over the course of a decade, they move back to their pecan orchard in Mexico. 

Those interested will be able to catch the performance Nov. 7-9 in BVU’s Anderson Auditorium.

“It is a play written in a mixture of English and Spanish, characters flip in and out of the languages,” said Dr. Bethany Larson, Professor of Theater at BVU and Director of El Nogalar.  

Helping the audience understand different cultural perspectives is at the heart of the production. 

“The audience has to work a little harder, but also they begin to realize the challenges of not being able to understand,” said Larson. “Humans are very good at interpreting, especially body language. So even if someone is speaking in Spanish, while you might not understand the precise meaning of the words, more than likely you’re going to understand the intent… we should not shy away from things that are challenging,” said Larson.  

The content of El Nogalar draws from relevant real world problems.

“The play takes place at a time when gangs and drug warfare is going on in Mexico, which is actually happening right now. The orchard is in danger of being lost to one of these gangs,” said Dr. Jared White, Assistant Professor of Spanish at BVU and Assistant Director of El Nogalar.  

With a large Hispanic population living in Storm Lake, White explained the significance of diverse community representation at BVU. He expressed his gratitude that BVU President Josh Merchant is attempting to connect with the Hispanic community of Storm Lake, and hopes that this will lead more local Hispanic students to BVU.  

“Growing up in Storm Lake, BVU was like its own little island. I didn’t even think of BVU as an option, but President Merchant is changing that,” said Matthew Marroquin, Sophomore Theater & Media Performance major. Marroquin plays the character Lopez in El Nogalar. 

Mexican-American citizens have been under pressure since the Trump administration has taken steps to secure the United States southern border between Texas and Mexico. Kenya Ortega, Junior Business and Spanish major and actor in El Nogalar, explains some of the stereotypes she has personally felt growing up as a Mexican-American citizen.  

“We, as Mexican citizens, don’t support the drug cartel. However, in the US we are seen as though we promote, as though all of us are a part of it…”

There is a timely importance of the play, given today’s current political climate around Mexican-American citizens and immigrants in the United States.  

“When president Trump was elected, there was this move to eliminate the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. I had a number of students who were very close to me, and that was a very emotional time. I am a white woman, so I have no real understanding of how much stress and difficulty folks have been through as a result of different policies. However, I hope that the play helps us understand the humanity of people, any people,” said Larson.  

Ortega explained how the cast members of El Nogalar have bonded through the play’s character content.  

“Anita, youngest of two daughters, has spent most of her life in the US. She knows Spanish, but she can’t speak it. She knows part of the culture but doesn’t understand it. I feel like the entire cast can identify with this character.” 

Dr. White explains what pride he feels seeing students passionate about their work and encourages those interested to attend performances.  

“I’m very proud of our actors. I feel great pride, and I am so excited for them to have this opportunity to use their Spanish on stage… to play characters that they can personally identify with. It’s inspiring for me as a Professor to see BVU adopt this initiative,” said White.  

 The show begins in Anderson Auditorium each evening at 7:30 p.m. and will run approximately 100 minutes. Admission is free of charge to all students, faculty, and community members. BVU students involved include Kenya Ortega, Marianna Gonzalez, Alondra Ramirez, Alondra Melendez, and Matthew Marroquin.