Thoughts on Theses: Paty Cardenas
Issue   |   Wed, 03/26/2014 - 00:39

Paty Cardenas is a double major in Spanish and Theater and Dance. Her Theater and Dance thesis, “A quinceañera” will be performed at 8 p.m. in Holden Theater on April 10, 11 and 12. Her advisor is Professor of Theater and Dance Wendy Woodson.

Q: Tell me about your thesis.
A: My thesis is a senior project in performance and I, in collaboration with my cast, have written a play. I am directing it and I will also star in it. Its title is “A quinceañera” and it follows a girl as she celebrates her quinceañera.

Q: For those who don’t know, what is a quinceañera?
A: A quinceañera is a tradition celebrated in many Latin American and Latino communities. When a girl turns 15, she has a mass and will have a party. She will have a beautiful poofy dress, and get dressed up, get makeup and get everything done. This play really follows her through that day from beginning to end. She really grapples with some questions about coming of age, about what it really means to be a woman and a little bit about being Latina. So that’s my play.

Q: What was your inspiration for this performance?
A: Freshman year spring semester, I took Latino Literature with Professor Stavans and we had to come up with our own final project. I was really drawn to quinceañera so I wrote a how-to book about quinceañera, though my focus was really about having the most extravagant one, and really playing up to a commercialized version of a quinceañera which is what is has become, honestly. And I just have been fascinated with the performative aspects of it and the extreme over-the-top rituals that go into it.

Q: What has been your favorite part working on this performance?
A: My favorite part has been getting to know my cast. I should point out that I have two cast members from Amherst and I have one cast member from Hampshire. And it’s been so much fun getting to work with them and getting to know them as not only performers but also just as people. We’ve had some great discussions about differences between Amherst and Hampshire, so it’s just been fun getting to know them in a different kind of setting. It feels a little more organic the way we’re getting to know each other because it’ll usually happen when we’re working on a scene and it’ll remind us of something and we’ll chuckle about it and then go back to work so it feels more natural.

Q: What has been the most challenging part?
A: Well, learning to direct others. The work I’ve previously done as a performer has been self-directed and I’ve only had to worry about myself. And now I have more bodies in the space needing me to direct, guide and give information and direction to, and it’s been a bit of a challenge to articulate what I’m seeing and my vision to them. Also, learning to be a little blunt and saying, “I don’t like that. Do it again,” in a good, positive and constructive way of course. It’s been a challenge learning to work with others in a creative context and sharing that creativity, letting them feel as much part of the process as they are really.

Q: Do you have any advice for someone thinking about doing a performance thesis?
A: I’d say just own your creativity. People may not take you seriously because you’re writing a performance thesis but I think own it because not everyone can put on a show and perform in it. And really just be confident in that you are a creative person, you know what you’re doing and really just have fun with the process because ultimately you’re going to find your end result. It might take you a while but you’ll get there, so you might as well be confident in all of it.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/26/2014 - 13:14

I am continually disappointed that the Student rarely does pieces on theses in the sciences. I know science writing is somewhat of a specialized skill, but if other papers can do it then so can you!

LooLoo A. (not verified) says:
Fri, 03/28/2014 - 18:24

I have to refute the last anonymous comment and say this thesis topic is very interesting and heart-warming. I feel there is a lack of value when it comes to cultural traditions in today's society. Hence, it is important to treasure the traditions because it allows people to be educated about their history and culture.

I'm so proud of you Paty for sharing your Latin culture to the students of Amherst, and I hope people can get an understanding of what it is like to have a quinceneria as well as see the art that evolves from your performance. I wish you the best of luck in your production. Lots of love from California <3

Responding alum (not verified) says:
Sat, 03/29/2014 - 13:11

Maybe the paper's policy on featured theses should more transparent. Why not institute a policy of rotating by broad disciplinary division? Arts, Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences... (but please don't confuse the arts with humanities)