Dulcinea Nueva: A Conversation with Gisela Chípe
By Sally Lobel, Artistic Apprentice
In Octavio Solis’ play Quixote Nuevo, characters exist both in reality and in a fantasy experienced by aging literature professor Joe Quijano. Contending with dementia and old age, Joe believes that he is the legendary knight, Don Quixote. The dual worlds of the play require the actors to inhabit multiple roles and realities.
I sat down with stage and screen actress Gisela Chípe, who plays Dulcinea, Don Quixote’s idealized love interest, and Dr.Campos, Joe Quijano’s logic-driven therapist, in Hartford Stage’s production of Quixote Nuevo. Below are some excerpts from our conversation about love, identity, and female agency and independence. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
In Octavio Solis’ play Quixote Nuevo, Dulcinea first appears as an apparition to Quijano/Quixote. She describes herself as a “dreamgirl…blended with your miseducation of divas and muses…every [woman] that ever crossed [your] dreams.” We discover even more about her identity by the end of the play. Can you share your feelings about playing a character that often lives on the line between reality and fantasy?
As an actor, it is so freeing and so fun to play so many different versions of one character…because I’m playing through the fantasy of specifically Joe Quijano, a professor of literature. It’s quite freeing in some ways because I know that I’m seeing myself, my choices, through a lens. And oddly enough, it’s not unlike most of our experiences, right? We try to be certain people for others.
You’ve been working with KJ and Octavio [the director and playwright of Quixote Nuevo] to find Dr. Campos’ sense of agency. What has that exploration been like for you? What do you think drives her throughout the play?
This has been such a wonderful, collaborative experience thus far. Octavio Solis and KJ Sanchez were very open to my questions and thoughts about Dr. Campos. What is Dr. Campos actually doing here? And if we’re trying to do an adaptation of a classic, can we include things like a female agency for herself?
I was trained in the classics. Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekov. And so, I have had my fair share of propping up male protagonists’ arcs, and I can tell you that I’m not here for that.
I like to think about characters in a play like an orchestra; I used to play the cello. I like to juxtapose, just see how Dulcinea and Dr. Campos can resound with each other, can reverberate, and also have a little bit of frisson, you know, some discordancy.
How are Dulcinea and Dr. Campos in conversation with one another?
We do both care about this man. Dr. Campos’ world, her area of expertise, is more in the intellect. She and Joe Quijano had long talks about the motives of Quixote. That that was a way to soothe their ills, is they would talk and share intellectually. But for Dulcinea and Young Quijano, or Quixote, they shared their souls. And so, the purview of Dulcinea is to heal Joe Quijano through his soul, and also through his memory.
How does a figure like Dulcinea find her place in the 21st century? What remains valuable, or what becomes challenging, about Quixote’s version of chivalry, romance, and purity?
I think that’s still the question we’re still asking ourselves. We like to think that we exist in a post-feminist world. But as we’ve seen, there is still so much [taking advantage of women’s bodies] happening. So, standing for a kind of pure love is pretty amazing – pure in the sense that it is so innocent, and true, and long-lasting. That Joe Quijano has really saved himself for this woman he’s adored for his whole life.
I would love to see a Dulcinea Nueva, you know? And what I imagine is that she gives hard truths, as she does in this play.