Latoya Letmon ’14 will present her senior directorial project, “The Love Suicides at Amijima” by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and Sat., Feb. 22, in the Babcock Studio Theatre at Sweet Briar College.
A theater major from Greenville, S.C., Letmon says she has always been interested in Japanese culture and the kabuki (dance-drama) theater style. Monzaemon was one of the first professional kabuki playwrights, although “The Love Suicides,” his most famous piece, was originally intended as a bunraku play (puppet theater). Like many bunraku plays, however, it was adapted for kabuki.
“This play is a perfect example of the traditional Japanese love story,” Letmon says, adding that she was making it her own by “trying to make it more translatable to the American culture.”
First performed in 1721, Monzaemon’s play centers around the tragic relationship between Koharu, a 19-year-old prostitute, and 28-year-old paper merchant Jihei, who cannot afford her release from the brothel. The play ends in a love-suicide.
“Making a Japanese play understandable to an American audience is a bit tough,” Letmon admits. While a character’s actions may be “seen as honorable and an act of love in the Japanese culture,” to Americans they might seem “desperate or disrespectful,” she says.
Letmon’s cast includes Sweet Briar students Charlotte von Claparède-Crola ’16 (Jihei), Anna Gerber ’17 (Koharu), Taneal Williams ’16 (Osan), Sarah Müth ’14 (Magoemon), Emelie Wurster ’17 (Tahei), Chelsea Alvarado ’17 (Aunt and Sugi), Faith Frampton ’14 (Proprietress and Denbei) and Ashlynn Watson ’16 (Tama and Geisha), as well as religion professor John Goulde (Gozaemon and Minstrel).
Backstage, the actors are supported by an equally large stage crew, featuring Charlotte Barbour ’16 as stage manager, Brittney Suttles ’16 as assistant manager, Jesse Schaaf ’15 as light designer/master electrician, Katy Drews ’16 as master carpenter, and Shelby Macurak ’17 as prop master, as well as Katlynn Ketchum ’17 (paint crew) Maryam Rasoulian ’14 (costume/make-up) and Anna ten Bensel ’17 (sound).
“The Love Suicides” marks the culmination of Letmon’s four years at Sweet Briar and will be her final stage credit, which includes being a stage manager for “Richard III” and “Waiting for Godot,” among other productions.
Letmon plans to teach abroad in Korea before putting her theater degree to work behind the scenes. Sweet Briar, she says, has prepared her well for that next big step.
“I really appreciate the work my professors have put into helping me find my passions in life.”