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Play captures spiritual struggle of Maya deer hunter


Article Written by Paige Stewart


As the lights dimmed inside Olin Recital Hall, the audience got quiet and faced the screen at the front of the room.

The screen introduced “Venados,” or “Deer,” a play by Feliciano Sánchez Chan, an author who visited Roanoke this week.

Students and faculty in the Modern Languages Department and the Latin American and Caribbean studies concentration presented “Venados” on Wednesday evening. Directed by Spanish professors Dolores Flores-Silva and Teresa Hancock-Parmer, the play highlights the tendencies of Maya hunters to overhunt and disrespect the nature that surrounds them.

It was conducted entirely in Spanish.

Starring in “Venados” was the character Juan, played by Nicole Lancry, who spots a large deer he is determined to kill. When Juan is shot in the calf, however, he is warned to take a break from hunting so that he can heal.

Juan fights the pain in his leg so that he can continue to hunt, but all the while he is haunted by visions of deer dancing around him. They urge him to return the stone, a symbolic object that grants hunting rights to those who hold it.

Juan struggles with these visions for the rest of the play as he attempts to kill the deer.

This production was part of a larger event series this week called Expanding the Fiesta. The goal of the week, organized by Flores-Silva and visiting professor Keith Cartwright, of the University of North Florida, was to inform people about the history of students from Mexico and the Choctaw Nation at Roanoke College. The events included poetry readings, historical walks and discussion panels designed to celebrate unique cultures at Roanoke.

Cartwright said he had prepared for the week’s events with Flores-Silva for years. Together, they researched the Choctaw Nation during his professorship at Roanoke from 1989-2003, so they were excited to finally bring their discoveries to life this semester.

“Roanoke has a unique cross-cultural heritage to tap into,” he said.

Cartwright said he was impressed with how the week progressed. He was pleased that Sánchez Chan saw his play at Roanoke and that the Choctaw Nation has a relationship with Roanoke. A student agreed. Sophomore Meghan Rudolf said she initially decided to attend the production to support her classmates and professors, but she also found its cultural implications to be appealing.

“The plot interested me as I am a deer hunter, and I was curious to see their take on the spirituality that goes hand in hand with hunting,” she said.

“Venados” taught a number of important lessons to its audience. “My biggest takeaway was the need to respect and honor nature and maintain the balance between man and beast,” Rudolf said.