By Jose San Mateo

The Cowell College Dining Hall will be transported abroad when the lights go down and the curtains rise for the seventh annual International Playhouse (IP).

IP, a brainchild of the UC Santa Cruz Language Program, will run from today through Mother’s Day weekend, and will showcase plays in five different languages.

Miriam Ellis, director of a French play titled “Fanny,” helped launch IP in Spring of 2000.

“Seven years ago, we decided to share the works of language students with everyone,” Ellis said.

IP will feature plays from France, Spain, Germany, Russia, and Japan, all of which will be performed in their native languages, putting the emphasis on the undergraduate language program students who perform in the plays.

To assist audience members, a projector screen will descend during each performance to display subtitles in English.

Sakae Fujita, a Japanese language program lecturer, is directing the Japanese play “Boshibari” (“Tied To a Stick”). She said her students have been practicing the play since January.

“The plays are very stylized and use different voices,” Fujita said.

“Boshibari,” a classical Japanese comedy from the 1700s, provides an added challenge for students because they have to stay true to the culture of the time period, in addition to learning the language.

“The challenge is double because you are trying to be Japanese and play a certain theatrical role,” Fujita said.

Bruck Mataresse, a second-year language program student, took Japanese classes for four years in high school before coming to UCSC. He felt that participating in IP was a great learning experience.

“Doing this forced me to memorize my lines,” Mataresse said. “It’s a creative way of getting better at a language.”

Paco Ramirez, a Spanish language program lecturer, who is directing the play “El Delante Blanco” (“The White Apron”), emphasized how cultural and linguistic accuracy in the performances translates into learning the language.

“They have to learn cultural references in dialogue and about the particular historical and cultural moment of the plays,” Ramirez said. “Through this, they learn discipline and language skills.”

Ramirez added that IP is a serious project because it requires students to consistently listen to and speak the language they study. “This is about as close as it can get to being in a different country,” he said.

IP has also become a rewarding experience for the play directors. Bill Nickell, a Russian language lecturer and literature professor, is directing the play “Dead Souls” by Nikolai Gogol. “This is a chance to work closely with students and this year, I tried to get students involved in the creative aspect,” Nickell said. “This is also a chance for teachers to see their students flourish on stage.”

For students, IP has been a great bonding experience. Maira Sutton, a politics major, enjoyed being part of “Boshibari.”

“It’s been really fun bonding and talking in Japanese,” Sutton said. “I’ve got a deeper understanding of Japanese culture.”

Mataresse had similar feelings about working in IP.

“It has been fun working with a lot of my friends for this play,” he said.

There are high expectations when IP begins Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. Ramirez said that admission will be free every night.