School of the Arts

The River Bride

"The River Bride" poster

California State University, Chico’s School of the Arts will present the theatre production The River Bride from Thursday–Saturday, April 4–6 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday, April 6–7 at 2 p.m. in Wismer Theatre. Tickets are available at the University Box Office or by calling 530-898-6333.

Helena loves Duarte, yet Duarte is going to marry her sister, Belmira. Three days before the wedding, Duarte and his soon-to-be father-in-law pull a handsome and mysterious man from the Amazon River who changes the sisters’ lives forever.

The River Bride was written by award-winning playwright Marisela Treviño Orta. She describes the play as a “grim Latino fairytale.” The play is part of a trilogy of fairy tales Treviño Orta is writing that are inspired by Latino folklore and mythology.

Treviño Orta’s decision to base the series of plays on cultural fairytales was directly influenced by The Brothers Grimm (Jacob and Wilhelm). The two German authors wrote and published folklore in the 19th century, and the majority of their work depicted dark and cautionary tales.

“The play is a tale of faith, reason, dreams, and life-long regret over a missed chance at true love,” said William Johnson. Johnson is co-directing the play with fellow Department of Music and Theatre faculty member Cynthia Lammel.

The Department of Music and Theatre faculty and students are thrilled to showcase The River Bride. Actors include Cheyenne Courvoisier (Helena), Maria Figueroa Rodriguez (Belmira), Mateo Diez (Moises), Sergio Diaz-Carreno (Duarte), Alex Ojeda (Senhor Costa), and Talia Helder (Senhora Costa).

“Our acting students have had an exciting time exploring the beautiful language and complex relationships, and our design students have been challenged and delighted by the design of the set and the quality of the painting, lighting, and sound,” added Lammel.

The production will be vibrant and full of color.

The set, designed by Department of Music and Theatre faculty member Brian Redfern, consists of a raised one-room house and a set of piers on the banks of the Amazon River, surrounded by a large, curving backdrop of the Amazonian rainforest.

Amazon River at sunset

“The floor of the theatre is painted to look like the water of the river itself,” said Johnson.

The costumes for the play were designed by talented first-time student designer Tristan Knox; they range from standard fishermen work clothes to stunning wedding dresses. 

The audience is in store for a poetically written, visually stunning, and enchanting performance,” said Johnson.

The River Bride was developed in residency with AlterTheater Ensemble in San Rafael, California and was selected as the National Latino Playwriting Award co-winner at the Arizona Theatre Company.

The play had its world premiere at the 2016 Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was so well-received that it has been performed at multiple festivals and colleges. 

The San Francisco Chronicle labeled AlterTheatre’s production “a sly delight.” The Times-Standard described the Oregon Festival version as “A mesmerizing, magical tale of heartbreaking romance. A shining example of what live theatre is all about.”

“Everyone will find something to relate to in this mysterious tale of the gift, as well as the loss, of betting everything for true love,” noted Lammel.

Tickets for the play are priced at $20 adults, $18 seniors, and $8 students and youth, and are available to purchase at CSU, Chico’s University Box Office, 530-898-6333.

Wismer Theatre is a small, intimate performance space within the Performing Arts Center at CSU, Chico. Seating is limited and purchasing tickets in advance is recommended. 

Information about special seating accommodations is available by calling 530-898-6333. For more information about the production visit the School the Arts website and Facebook page.

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Story by Tashia Jones, School of the Arts publicity assistant
Poster by Sabrina Mushnick, School of the Arts graphic design assistant
Illustration by Jasmine Esterman, School of the Arts graphic design assistant


Additional Information

CSU, Chico’s School of the Arts presents the fairly new dramatic folklore play, The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta. Performances take place Thursday–Saturday, April 4–6 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday, April 6–7 at 2 p.m. in Wismer Theatre. Purchase tickets at the University Box Office or by calling 530-898-6333.

This play is inspired by Brazilian folklore about river dolphins who come ashore to seduce women. Set in a small fishing village in Brazil, it revolves around two sisters of marrying age. Belmira is to marry Duarte, her sister Helena’s secret love. But three days before the wedding, a mysterious man is pulled out of the river by a fisherman. He offers the sisters an alluring, possibly dangerous future. The relationship of the sisters begins to unravel from misunderstandings in this tale of love, grudges, transformation, and the ever-present river. The playwright’s intention is to give us a story of cautionary love that is more Brothers Grimm than happily-ever-after.

The River Bride was developed in residency with AlterTheater Ensemble in San Rafael, California. In 2014, a reading was done by Lost Girls Theatre and its first production was done by AlterTheater. It was co-directed by Ann Brebner and Jeanette Harrison. The world premiere of The River Bride took place at the 2016 Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directed by Laurie Woolery, where it was very well-received. Other performances include Santa Clara University (2015), Arizona Theatre Company (2017), Halcyon Theatre (2017), and Su Teatro (2018).

Orta was the 2013 Arizona Theatre Company’s National Latino Playwriting Award Co-Winner for The River Bride. She was also runner-up for the 2016 Latinidad Playwriting Award at The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF).

All of the critiques found on The River Bride are overwhelmingly positive. The San Francisco Chronicle labeled AlterTheatre’s production “a sly delight.” The Times-Standard described the Oregon Festival version as “A mesmerizing, magical tale of heartbreaking romance. A shining example of what live theatre is all about.” North Bay Bohemian described it as “Evocative, stunning…it’s easily the best new show in a strong current batch of four that just opened the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.”


About the Directors

Cynthia Lammel

Cynthia Lammel is a member of Actor's Equity Association. Her professional acting credits include 22 productions with the Alley Theatre in Houston as well as roles at other regional theatres; off-Broadway in New York; at Alan Ayckbourn’s Theatre-in-the-round in Scarborough, England; and on national tour in Foxfire with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. She is the author of the textbook, The Actor’s Job, and has taught acting and other theatre courses at Rice University, Westminster College, and in resident programs in Cambridge and London, UK. Over 23 years, Lammel has taught at one time or another almost every acting and voice/speech course at California State University, Chico and directed a dozen productions. In addition, she has acted in or directed productions locally at the Blue Room, Chico Cabaret, and Shakespeare-in-the-Park. She holds an MFA from Ohio State University.

William Johnson

William Johnson holds an MFA from Penn State. In his 26 years at California State University, Chico, Johnson has taught all levels of acting, voice/speech, and text analysis, and has directed over 20 productions.  He is a past chair of both the Theatre Arts and Music and Theatre departments.  Acting credits include roles at Houston’s Alley Theatre, the Houston and Colorado Shakespeare Festivals, Stage #1 in Dallas, and the Pennsylvania Festival Theatre. Locally, he has acted and directed at the Blue Room, Chico Cabaret, and Shakespeare-in-the-Park. Other directing/assistant directing credits include productions off-off Broadway in New York, and at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.