Rutgers Theater Company presents "Acting Is Believing (Lo Fingido Verdadero)" April 8-13

When all the world’s a stage, the line between playing a role and living one’s life can get a bit hazy (and murderous). Rutgers Theater Company travels south of the border to explore the actor’s art of illusion in Lope de Vega’s Acting Is Believing (Lo Fingido Verdadero), running from Tuesday, April 8, through Sunday, April 13, 2014, at the Jameson Studio Theater.

Lo Fingido Verdadero (translated literally as “the real fakery”) was written during Spain’s Golden Age, the 17th century, by Lope de Vega as a dramatization of the story of Roman martyr Genesius, who converted to Christianity while preparing to perform the role of a Christian in a play. His subsequent performance turns make-believe into reality, befuddling his fellow actors. How far will an actor go to achieve authenticity?

“Lope does an incredible job with layers of theatricality,” says Christopher Cartmill, director of the play. “He forces the audience to wonder if what they’re seeing is acting, or is it real?”

In this play-within-a-play, translated into English by Michael McGaha, Roman emperor Diocletian takes to the throne after murdering his would-be predecessor’s murderer, and then commissions several plays to celebrate his success. If it sounds a bit gory, it’s meant to, says Cartmill.

“The saint plays of Spain’s Golden Age were not devotional pieces, they were great stories with lots of blood and guts,” he says. “They’ve got dramatic body counts.”

Although the story of Genesius may be an example of Method acting taken to the extreme, with dire consequences, not everything in the play is dark and dramatic. Through a healthy mix of “funny and poignant stuff,” Cartmill says the performance has been modernized with a “colorful and lively” nod to contemporary Latin America, from the parrot-hued costumes to the music of merengue, samba, and tango.

“It’s like looking into a living shrine,” says Cartmill, who teaches global theater at the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Within this sanctuary of sinners, it may be hard to tell who’s faking it and who’s making it. One thing is certain, though: Genesius went down in history as the patron saint of actors—and torture victims.

“Sometimes,” says Cartmill, “they’re the same thing.”

Acting Is Believing (Lo Fingido Verdadero) runs from Tuesday, April 8, through Sunday, April 13, 2014, at the Jameson Studio Theater. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $12 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $10 for students with valid ID. The Jameson Studio Theater is located at 30 Jones Avenue, on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.

Posted March 2014