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Se habla espanol 

Spanish language theater group seeks common ground with La Clave de Sol

During the '60s in Atlanta, when Grupo Artistico Latino de Atlanta was just a dream shared by Visi Noya and Lazaro Herrera, the audience for Spanish language plays could barely fill one theater. Noya, a professional actress in her native Cuba, wrote, directed and acted in the group's first plays.

Nowadays, the 33-year-old volunteer theater group stages two plays a year to full houses. The plays come from Spain and Latin America and have the difficult task of speaking to the diverse Hispanic community in Atlanta.

"My mother's intention," says director Ramón Noya, "has been to connect with the people that know the language and would like to maintain it, as well as those that have studied [Spanish] and want to experience the living language."

GALA's newest play, La Clave de Sol or In the Key of So by Enr'que Paradas and Joaqu'n Jimenez, is a comedy of entanglement, mistaken identity and misunderstanding. The play gains its humor through puns on musical vocabulary. Ramón says the wordplay may be tricky for the non-native speaker, but a special program is provided that includes a plot summary in English.

"Did everybody get that?" Ramón asks during rehearsals, referring to idioms and vocabulary of a specific region or country. Blank stares from half the cast -- who hail from Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States -- call for text substitution. "There's no way to have a play that everybody understands. The intention is not just to make it understandable, but to stretch the range of the experience of Spanish," Ramón explains.

The actors, two of whom are making their debut in La Clave de Sol, are expected to stretch as well. "We don't have professionals, but we do have people that have a love for theater, which is the true meaning of the group," he says.

Grupo Artistico Latino de Atlanta presents La Clave de Sol April 18-21 in Lupton Hall at Oglethorpe University, 4484 Peachtree Road. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 4 p.m. $5-$10. 404-874-9920.

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