You may know the multilingual, socially and politically bold fine arts school Working Classroom from their presence on the streets of Albuquerque: They're responsible for many amazing murals found around town. Well, they also do live theater. Beginning with a gala performance on Aug. 10, Working Classroom brings their own spin to the timeless tale of how we deceive ourselves and others just to get by.
Dreamlandia is a modern adaptation of a centuries-old play written in Spain and set in Poland. La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream), written by Pedro Calderón de la Barca around 1635, is about a woman who, in crossing a national border, must give up her own identity and assume another to protect herself from persecution. The land she enters is embroiled in leadership struggles, and the struggles at the top have tangible consequences all the way down to the newest member of the local populace.
At the center of the leadership crisis in La vida es sueño, the king defends his own position of power with a blatantly unethical move, ostensibly for the good of everyone. If the king is a good one, it follows that him continuing as king is inherently good for the kingdom. But it turns out the common people have strong feelings about that unethical move, and the factions grapple for control of the situation.
With a few minor word substitutions, that description resonates well with current events. Immigrants crossing into our country must often abandon who they are to survive that transition. Our political system is regularly rocked by unethical moves perpetrated by leaders who apparently believe securing their own roles is the best thing they can do for anyone. Meanwhile, decisions made at the highest and lowest levels affect the entire scaffold of society—that is, individual people. This play could not be more relevant to our everyday lives, and it's unfortunate that "never before have we faced" is such a popular theme in public speaking when there's very little that we've never before faced.
Lest things get too heavy, be assured this is still entertainment. Playwright Octavio Solis says director Monica Sanchez's interpretation is “lyrical, dramatic and funny.” No matter how dark it gets, he says, the humor is always there, must always be there. Solis and Sanchez have worked together many times, and Solis spoke highly of Sanchez's abilities on both sides of the footlights. Written a dozen years ago, Dreamlandia retains broad currency. Solis points out that most human conflict is about territory and some kind of border. Bring your own boundary issues down to Barelas and see if you agree.