What does it truly mean to live and to die? To love and to hate? What does it mean to feel happiness and passion, and at the same time, loneliness and fear? These are some of the questions Chayton Pabich Danyla ’21 explored in his senior project, “Flores caídos.”
“Flores caídos,” a virtual solo performance, was the first production of the 2020-21 Theater and Performance Studies curricular season. Viewings of the show were broadcast from Yale’s Whitney Theater last weekend. Scripted by Pabich Danyla himself, the project examines the life and historical circumstances of 20th-century Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca. Pabich Danyla intertwined the story of García Lorca — an outspoken social activist and openly queer man — with his own to create an intricate exploration of race, gender, sexuality and identity.
“I believe in the theater of desire,” Pabich Danyla said. “I believe that theater is for those who want it and who take it. Yale Theater has taught me to not sit around and wait for somebody to be casting me in my dream role, but to do my dream role — the rest will follow.”
Pabich Danyla conceived the idea for “Flores caídos” when studying abroad in Spain. After reading García Lorca’s poetry collection “Romancero gitano,” he was fascinated by both the words he read and the poet who had written them.
García Lorca is one of the foremost Spanish literary minds of his time. He was a leading member of the Generation of ’27, a group of Spanish intellectuals who sought to incorporate traits of 20th-century avant-garde movements and Spanish literary traditions in their works.
García Lorca is best known for his poetry and plays, in which he addresses social issues such as gender roles and discrimination against ethnic minorities. He was assassinated at the age of 38 by Nationalist militia during the beginnings of the Spanish Civil War for his homosexuality, outspoken nature and leftist political beliefs.
Throughout “Flores caídos,” Pabich Danyla pays homage to García Lorca in subtle ways — from quoting poetry passages to adapting color symbolism from the writer’s works. The title, “Flores caídos,” is a reference to both García Lorca’s play called “Doña Rosita la soltera o el lenguaje de las flores” and the Spaniard’s fondness for floral motifs.
Pabich Danyla also takes inspiration from García Lorca’s queerness to explore gender fluidity in the title. To subvert gender and linguistic expectations, Pabich Danyla pairs a masculine adjective with a feminine noun.
The senior project is the culmination of the theater and performance studies major, allowing students to engage with different media forms. For Pabich Danyla, preparation for this project took years. COVID-19 introduced a sudden and daunting challenge.
Initially, there was uncertainty about whether Pabich Danyla could perform at all. He was eventually allowed to perform alone in the Whitney Theater, provided that he adhered to health and safety guidelines. Pabich Danyla re-scripted his performance to adapt to a virtual format and new technology. The production process was also complex since team members were working remotely from different locations, including California, England and Turkey.
Yet Pabich Danyla said he was grateful for the learning experience and the support he received from his production team, mentors and administration.
“Art will continue,” Pabich Danyla said. “Art will keep fighting. And that is what I am interested in. I am interested in art and theater that fights for its right to be there.”
Calvin Kaleel ’22, who attended the performance, said he was shocked but unsurprised by the seamless and creative format of the online performance. He said it seemed to be “produced not despite, but with Zoom in mind.”
“I couldn’t stop smiling while watching him onstage,” said Iragi Nkera ’21, another attendee. “The amount of research and dedication put into this project was clearly shown, and most importantly, you could tell he was enjoying every single moment. Zoom theater is extremely difficult to do, but Chayton, along with the help of others, managed to create a beautiful piece of work.”
“Flores caídos” captures the magic of theater in all its facets, Kaleel said, inspiring emotions of love, hate, passion, confusion, curiosity, tenderness, fear and intimacy all at once.
Reflecting on the global hardships of 2020 and the social challenges that García Lorca faced during his lifetime, Pabich Danyla sought to bring a sense of optimism and perseverance into his production.
“I want the audience to leave with a little more hope, to be able to see the world’s colors just a little brighter,” Pabich Danyla said. “Ideally, I want them to feel every emotion, but above all, I want them to be hopeful.”
The next production of the 2020-21 Theater and Performance Studies curricular season is “The Family Showcase,” which will take place Nov. 12-14.
Wei-Ting Shih | firstname.lastname@example.org