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‘The House of the Spirits’ production set to bring novel to life on Ohio State stage

Caption! Credit: Courtesy of

Leela Singh (left) as Alba, Anna Leeper as Clara, Jesse Massaro as Esteban Trueba and Derek Faraji as Barabbas in a scene from the Ohio State Department of Theatre’s production of ‘The House of the Spirits.’
Credit: Courtesy of Matt Hazard

The story of one South American family’s struggles is set to come to life in the Ohio State Department of Theatre’s upcoming production of “The House of the Spirits.”

The play, based on Isabel Allende’s novel of the same name, focuses on three generations of the Trueba family, spanning from the 1920s to the 1970s, and is heavily influenced by surrealism in the plot, said Beth Kattelman, director of the production and associate professor of theatre.

“Different generations are able to connect across times,” Kattelman said.

Jesse Massaro, a third-year in theatre, plays the role of Esteban Trueba, the patriarch of the family. He describes the character as a complicated man who loves his family but is also abusive.

“In general, he’s a tragically good guy that does some terrible stuff, but I hope in the play that we’re able to show that it was for a reason and sort of understand where I’m coming from,” Massaro said.

Anna Leeper, a fourth-year in theatre and communications, said while her character Clara is essentially the matriarch in the play, her circumstances are rather unfortunate.

”She’s seen as kind of an outsider and a lot of really of bad things have happened to her in her life, but despite all of that, she has a really tender, kind heart and that is shown throughout the majority of the play,” Leeper said.

Media and animation are set to serve as integral parts in the unfolding of the story, which includes a lot of adult themes regarding violence and sexual assault, Kattelman said.

Those intense subjects, however, were one of the reasons Massaro was drawn to the play and his character.

”When I found out about this play, I wanted this role so very bad because it’s so meaty and there’s so much to just grab on to,” Massaro said. “It’s been emotionally draining really — it’s very dramatic, tragic and sad. It’s been a lot to handle, but our director, Beth, has done a phenomenal job helping us out, and as a cast, we really had to delve into pretty terrible stuff together, but I think we have a really good story we’re telling.”

Kattelman said she did her best to work with the students on the mature material.

“You’re dealing with students acting out violence or sexual situations, so that’s challenging to make sure we’re doing that so everybody’s safe both physically and emotionally,” she said.

Despite these sensitive topics, Kattelman said she hopes audiences will enjoy the production for its overall theme.

“I like the idea of the concept of one generation passing along its story and its memories to another and how important it can be for us to learn from those who have gone before us,” she said.

The play is set to premiere Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Ray Bowen Theatre and run through March 6.

Ticket prices are $20 for the general public and $15 for students and can be purchased at the OSU box office located on the second floor of the Drake Performance and Event Center.

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