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The Promise Keeper to be performed at SUNY New Paltz

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NEW PALTZ -- How far would you go to keep a promise?

The Department of Theatre Arts at the State University of New Paltz presents the American premiere of The Promise Keeper, in an exciting new translation of the original script by Alfredo Dias Gomes, directed by Anita Gonzalez, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz. The Promise Keeper is the first theatre offering of the new semester and will be performed February 28, 29 and March 1, 6, 7, & 8 at 8:00 p.m. Matinee performances on March 2 & 9 at 2:00 p.m.

The center of a town square becomes the crossroads of life when a man, Ze Burro enters with his wife. Burro has made a promise to a friend (a donkey) – a commitment to divide up his land and to carry a cross into the church. The townsfolk are just beginning a carnival-like celebration when Burro arrives on thesquare. Amidst the festivities, the world tests Burro – the hypocrisy of the church, the media, the poets, the salesmen, the politicians and the law enforcers – and he refuses to cave in. The simple task of completing his act becomes a garish nightmare as the forces of human needs, greed, and desires overtake him and his wife.

During the production, capoeira, a Brazilian martial art form that involves acrobatic movements, is “danced” to the music of a berimbau, hand clapping, and song. It is a fighting form said to have developed from Brazilian slaves defending themselves in Quilombos or refugee communities. The actors have learned capoeira for the production from a Brazilian artist who lives in Albany and is known as “Aranha” (Stenio Almeida).

Anita Gonzalez informs us that, although at first glance The Promise Keeper might appear to be simply a folkloric work, “a thorough investigation uncovers newdepths of character, and wider implications of the simple parable emerge. The play is set in the here and now; its circumstances speak to today’s world and comments on today’s social systems. Burro’s insistence and determination in keeping a promise feels out of place and unsettling within a society steeped in artifice and self-service.” Gonzalez also says that “The cast has been working hard as an ensemble to recreate the atmosphere of the town square. As Burro¹s journey turns into a nightmare, the townsfolk begin to comprehend the irony of his situation. Each of the students who have helped to shape this work has transformed as they make their own separate journey into the elusive world of Bahia.”

In talking about the production, Dr. Frank Trezza, chair of Theatre Arts, says that “We are very proud to be doing a premier of this major work. It’s an important part of our departmental mission to expose our students to works from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures. It is also a wonderful opportunity for our students to be working on a new translation, in cooperation and collaboration with the translator.”

The playwright Dias Gomes is known for his regionalist approach to Brazilian drama. He was originally from Bahia and after working for a time in radio and television, this play established him as a seminal and important dramatist. The play opened July 29, 1960 at the Teatro Brasiliero de Comedia directed by Flavio Rangel. Although it has been translated into English and studied for some time, this is the first production of the play in the United States.

The Promise Keeper
has been recently translated by Christen Smith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Texas – Austin, who is recognized for her research and scholarships in Latin American Cultural Studies and in Performance. Gonzalez tells us that “this translation of the play captures the contemporary flavor of the language of the original script. Christen has lived for several years in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and has come to understand the vernacular culture of the people who reside there.”

About the director
Anita Gonzalez is an associate professor of theater at the State University of New York – New Paltz and has directed Urinetown and The Illusion. Gonzalez is also a writer, choreographer and teacher whose work has appeared on PBS national television and at Lincoln Center Out-of Doors, Dance Theater Workshop, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and other national and international venues.

Ticket and Special Events

Tickets $16 general reserved, $14 reserved senior/staff/student. They may be purchased online now at or at the Box Office, located in Parker Theatre, Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m beginning on February 19th.

Special Events to include:

Public Lecture on Brazilian Theatre
Friday, February 29, 3:30 pm
Lecture Center, Room 108

Assistant Professor Christen Smith from the University of Texas, Austin, Department of Anthropology. Dr. Smith (B.A. Princeton, PH.D. Stanford) is the translator of the play The Promise Keeper. Her lecture is sponsored by The Department of Theatre Arts, the Latin American Studies Program, the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, and the Office of Academic Affairs.

Post-Performance discussion
Saturday, March 1 (immediately following the performance which starts at 8:00 pm)
Parker Theatre

Discussion with translator Christen Smith, director Anita Gonzalez, production designers, and cast members from The Promise Keeper.

About SUNY New Paltz

The State University of New York at New Paltz is a highly selective college of about 7,800 undergraduate and graduate students located in the Mid-Hudson Valley between New York City and Albany. New Paltz was named "Hottest Small State School" in the 2008 Kaplan/Newsweek How To Get Into College Guide, which identifies America's 25 Hottest Schools. The guide features schools that all offer top academic programs and are making their mark in the competitive world of higher education.

The college was also recently ranked 7th among the best public universities and 38th among public and private universities in the North that offer bachelor's and master's degree programs, according to the U.S. News & World Report's rankings for America's Best Colleges 2008.

Degrees are offered in the liberal arts and sciences, which serve as a core for professional programs in the fine and performing arts, education, healthcare, business and engineering.