The Hippo


Jun 3, 2020








Carey Cahoon and Mark Marshall in Uma Vida Imaginária. Matthew Lomanno photo.

See Uma Vida Imaginária

Where: Derry Opera House, 29 W. Broadway, Derry
When: Friday, June 26, at 7:30 p.m.; 
Saturday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 28, at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $20

Brazilian page to American stage
Theatre KAPOW ends season with Imaginary Life

By Kelly Sennott

Uma Vida Imaginária wasn’t originally written in English, and it wasn’t originally a play. It was a book by Nick Farewell, a Brazilian author well-known for his novel GO. 

But when has something that trivial stopped theatre KAPOW from making a show part of its mainstage season? The play, whose name translates to An Imaginary Life, ends the company’s seventh season this weekend at the Derry Opera House.
It was co-founders Matthew and Carey Cahoon’s friend Valentina Lattuada of Barcelona who persuaded them to take on the challenge. Matthew Cahoon had met Lattuada during a director’s symposium in Italy in the summer of 2013, and they got on so well they decided it only made sense to collaborate again. She attended a training workshop with theatre KAPOW in the winter of 2014, and earlier this year she helped them translate the work to the American stage.
Farewell was initially resistant — he grew up with Lattuada in Brazil and was insistent Uma Vida Imaginária was not a play, rather a book — but Lattuada knew it had the chops to be a fantastic stage production. She got the Cahoons on board with an elevator pitch.
“When Valentina introduced [Matthew Cahoon] to the work, she said, ‘This is the book that made me believe in love again.’ And it really does,” Carey Cahoon said during an interview last week.
In Uma Vida Imaginária, a man wakes up one day and imagines that his entire existence is the result of another man’s imagination. The play itself is told entirely through dialogue between this “imaginary” man and his wife. 
“The plot is very simple. By the time we see them, boy has already met girl. They’ve already been together. But how do boy and girl figure out how to live together? How to be together and happy?” Carey Cahoon said. 
Matthew and Carey Cahoon and actor/filmmaker/set designer Mark Marshall were at the company’s brand-new barn-turned-theater-studio at the time of their interviews. The space had also previously been an antique shop, which was perfect for theatre KAPOW because all the shelving had been left intact. Along one wall were the wigs from this winter’s Russian Roulette/Parisian Poker, green, pink, white and orange in all their glory. Roller skates and old props covered the shelves, and in the back room hung theatre KAPOW’s growing costume collection.
With just two weeks to go until showtime, there were still kinks to smooth out. Lattuada and another local Portuguese actor, Rafael Marinho, provided translation help. Local playwrights Marshall, Kyp Pilalas and Lowell Williams offered writing advice.
Transforming the book into a stage production wasn’t completely new territory for theatre KAPOW; nine of its mainstage shows the past seven years have been English translations, adaptations or pieces originally penned in another language. 
But there are still difficulties, like when a character steps up to the front door and exclaims, “I have arrived!” because Americans don’t say that. At the time of their interviews, they were still finding revelations in the work, which was exciting but also daunting.
“As an actor, you’re taught fidelity to the word. You learn what has been given to you,” Carey Cahoon said. “But here we have a lot of freedom, which is great and very scary. You have to really work so that you’re still faithful to the intent.”
Playing opposite her is Marshall, an alumni of theatre KAPOW’s 24 Hour Play Festival, whose film company is also designing sets that will be projected on the almost all-white props and backdrop. The play spans many years and many houses, so for a show like this, it made sense. 
The company is flying Farewell up to see the play opening weekend.
“It will be both nerve-racking but also I think exciting to share it with Nick. As a writer, it’s like he’s putting this piece of himself out there,” Matthew Cahoon said.
As seen in the June 25, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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