Spanish and Portuguese Department hosts Penn State Prof. Malena Ramírez for bilingual theatre workshop


Fiona Roach/Daily Senior Staffer

During the workshop, Christine Pérez, managing director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, discussed her work to promote local Latine theater companies in Chicago.

Fiona Roach, Daily Senior Staffer

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese hosted Pennsylvania State University Prof. Malena Ramírez Wednesday night to lead a bilingual theatre workshop, in which students participated in improv skits about Latine culture. 

Ramírez, a Puerto Rican actress, comedian and lecturer at the Penn State School of Theatre, said for the workshop activities, she used the same “skeleton” as her theatre and clowning courses. She added in the Spanish language component to allow students to become more comfortable with the language in a low-stress environment. 

The Spanish Professional Development and Extracurricular Activities Committee, which plans events throughout the year for professors and students alike, hosted the workshop. Spanish and Portuguese Prof. Raquel Amorese, the committee’s chair, said she hoped the event would encourage students to be creative and have fun with the Spanish language. 

“I loved the spontaneity of the students,” Amorese said. “It was amazing to see that they were comfortable enough to express themselves in Spanish, to act out (their skits) and to learn a little bit about the culture.”

The workshop began with a presentation from Christine Pérez, managing director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance. She discussed her work to uplift and advocate for local Latine theatre companies in Chicago. 

Though about one in three people in Chicago identify as Latine, that number is not represented in Chicago theatre, Pérez said. She added that the late CLATA co-founder Mynra Salazar recognized this discrepancy and set out to change it. 

“It was her mission to be able to advocate for the arts,” Pérez said. “She started this organization … to promote a better, more equitable arts community for Latino people.” 

Ramírez then led students through several activities, including short, improvised skits based on multiple customs in Latine culture, such as an unwritten rule that one should arrive at a party two hours after it is set to begin.

Ramírez said she worked with the committee to plan the structure of the workshop, but also relied on improvisation at times during the event. 

“(This workshop) is a good way to build community, so (students) know each other outside of the classroom, and also to de-stress,” Ramírez said. 

Students from multiple Spanish levels attended the event, which was promoted by the committee as a fun and relaxing way to practice their language skills outside of the classroom. 

Weinberg Sophomore Zosia Alarr, who heard about the event from her Spanish professor, said she decided to attend in preparation for her study abroad program in Argentina this fall. 

“Since I’m going to go study in a Spanish-speaking country in the fall, I’m trying to get as much exposure as I can to just being around the language and speaking,” Alarr said. 

The workshop was the committee’s final activity of the quarter, but Amorese said the organization will probably continue to host events in the fall. 

For Ramírez, informal language activities like the workshop are important because they allow students to have fun and practice their language skills in a non-traditional way. 

“I love encouraging people doing fun stuff, to have joy in their life,” Ramírez said. “This is a fun way to do that while also learning something.” 

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