Performance Space for Extract From Yerma

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To stage the given extract from ‘Yerma’, the type of performance space chosen is crucial. Set and lighting are also key elements in communicating the play’s themes to the audience. ‘Yerma’, written by Frederico Garcia Lorca, is set in rural Spain during the 1930s. The protagonist, Yerma, has been married for three years and desperately longs for children. However, her husband Juan is opposed to the idea, leading to Yerma becoming the subject of gossip in the village. Throughout the play, Lorca explores several themes that establish the prevailing atmosphere.

One of the central themes in the play is isolation, as Yerma feels isolated from the other women in her village who have already had children, while she has not been able to. This theme is evident in her meeting with her sister Maria. Maria expresses excitement, saying, “It’s…well it’s happened!” Yerma’s response reflects her jealousy, as she questions the short time it took for Maria to become pregnant, considering that Yerma has been married for “twenty-four months.” These themes of isolation and jealousy run throughout the play.

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The theme of Frustration is portrayed through Yerma’s experiences, such as the constant gossip about her by other women, her unfulfilling marriage with Juan, and their inability to have children. Yerma expresses her frustration by saying, “What you know. Why am I childless? Must I spend the rest of my life feeding chickens and hanging neat little curtains in the windows? Tell me what to do and I’ll do it even if I have to stick pins in my eyeballs.” This quote demonstrates Yerma’s intense desire to have children, emphasizing the theme of passion. Additionally, the theme of nature is present as each act takes place during different seasons: “The lighting changes to a sunny morning in springtime.” Initially, I considered setting the stage in an ‘in the round’ layout, but transitioning between the dream sequence at the beginning, Yerma’s house, and finally a field would prove to be challenging: “The curtain rises on a stage lit with a weird dreamlike light… The lighting changes to a sunny morning in springtime.”

For my set design, the stage will have a simplistic abstract form and follow a proscenium arch layout. The design will be minimalistic and create a harsh environment, using dry earth tones to reflect Yerma’s barrenness. As represented in the quote “MARIA: Yes, but why? You’re the only one of us left now who…”, the stage floor will be steeply raked with multiple levels. Yerma will be positioned on the lower levels, while other women will stand above her in certain areas, symbolizing her isolation from the rest and their gossip about her. Yerma expresses this when she says “YERMA: Every woman has enough for four or five sons.”

But if you do not possess them, your blood becomes poison. This is the predicament I am facing. Additionally, when Victor sings, his voice resonates as Yerma’s desired companion. In a conversation between a Pagan Woman and Yerma, the Pagan Woman inquires if Yerma enjoys being with her husband. Yerma seems unsure and is questioned further about her feelings towards him. She admits to not knowing and denies experiencing any physical sensations of excitement when he is close or touches her. The Pagan Woman is surprised by this response.

YERMA recalls a moment of dancing with Victor, representing her longing for everything that is beyond her reach. To visually depict her deepest desire, YERMA envisions a higher level with a large mobile symbolizing a baby. This level stands at the top, signifying her utmost yearning. Occasionally, YERMA attempts to ascend it but fails, highlighting her constant frustration. YERMA expresses her anguish in a hushed tone, questioning why she is unable to have children and pondering if she is destined to spend the rest of her life tending to mundane tasks.

Yerma is willing to do anything, even sticking pins in her eyeballs, if someone tells her what to do. There is a metal wire or fencing around an area, up to knee height, in which only Yerma can go through a gap in the back. This happens while she is dreaming. This area represents the themes of isolation and entrapment. Yerma is isolated from the outside world due to Juan’s over protectiveness, as she never goes out.

JUAN claims that the street is only for people who have nothing to do. YERMA, feeling resigned, agrees with him. She expresses her longing for a child by mentioning the idea of having a rocking chair in this area. VICTOR agrees that their house lacks a child. YERMA agrees, acknowledging that God knows this to be true. Additionally, in her dream, YERMA envisions herself sitting on the rocking chair. Through my research, I discovered that such a dream symbolizes a life of ease, comfort, and relaxation. However, she then imagines falling out of the chair, as an empty rocking chair in a dream represents sadness, which mirrors her feelings of emptiness without a baby. YERMA lowers her voice and asks what VICTOR knows.

Why am I childless? Must I spend the rest of my life feeding chickens and hanging neat little curtains in the windows? Tell me what to do and I’ll do it even if I have to stick pins in my eyeballs. Although the scene of the women washing clothes is not in this scene there would be a pool of water where the women would be able to do so, and since act one is set in spring “The lighting changes to a sunny morning in springtime”, which is the season of new life, water would go together with that since it symbolises life and fertility.

The stage would have a cyclorama in the background, projecting an animation to depict the time of day and season. This could be shown through a tree animation with green leaves for spring and yellow leaves for autumn. Each act represents a different season, as mentioned earlier. I have included a sketch to illustrate the stage design, with minimal props focusing on the essentials.

Some of the props I will have include a shepherd’s stick, symbolizing the shepherd character who enters quietly with a small boy. To depict the absence of a boy, I will use a red shawl that the shepherd will carry. The color red represents the blood spilled by Yerma at the end of the play due to her longing for a child. Additionally, there will be an embroidery frame and sewing kit that Yerma uses in various scenes while asleep. Maria will carry a bundle of clothes, which could be yellow to signify her happiness as she is pregnant. Finally, Yerma enters with a basket. All of these props will be designed to appear old and worn, reflecting the modest nature of the characters and the rural Spanish setting.

In the dream, the lighting would be simple. Yerma would be highlighted with a light blue gel while the shepherd and the rest of the stage would remain in darkness. The cyclorama would have a projection of a tree against a dark sky with a moon. As Yerma wakes up, the moon would set and the sun would rise, and the lighting would change to a yellowy whitish wash that would create a daytime atmosphere for the entire set. After deciding on this set design, I considered how it would work. In the dream scene, the shepherd would walk on a curved path in front of a pool of water and then exit. I made sure that he wouldn’t obstruct Yerma and that he was not facing away from the audience since it is a proscenium arch stage. Since it is not in-the-round, I don’t have to be concerned about angled acting, but I did ensure that none of the props or characters block each other during the performance.

The staging effectively portrays the separation between Yerma and the other characters as she strives to achieve her goals. This divide is physically represented through her attempts to climb towards them. Overall, I aim for the audience to perceive Yerma’s evident isolation from the rest of the characters, as well as her frustration and the way others belittle her. The staging and various levels are designed to visually convey this isolation. As Yerma states, “Every woman has enough for four or five sons. But if you don’t have them, your blood turns to poison. That’s what’s happening to me.”

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Performance Space for Extract From Yerma. (2017, Feb 17). Retrieved from

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