February 11, 1997

Middlebury College Student Feature:

COERT VOORHEES '97: As Fate Will Have It

The hand of fate has played an important part in the life of Middlebury College senior Coert Voorhees of Corrales, New Mexico. The joint Spanish/theatre major took a Spanish course in his sophomore year that required him to read The Toothbrush, by the Chilean absurdist playwright Jorge Díaz. He read it, and instantly felt he wanted to direct this play, and decided to write an English translation. As he studied the play and other works of Díaz, he discovered that little of the playwright was known in the United States. So, to further his research, Voorhees made the decision to spend his junior year in Chile, hoping to meet the artist. Once he arrived there, however, he was told Díaz was in Spain. But fate stepped in, and, while Voorhees was touring an historic house in Chile, he passed a bulletin board and saw, highlighted, an article about a nearby lecture that was being given by Díaz in two days. Naturally, he went to the lecture and introduced himself afterwards. Impressed by the young man, Díaz gave him his phone number and weekly get-togethers at a local coffee house ensued.

Voorhees finished his translation of The Toothbrush in the spring of '95, sharing it with Díaz as he went along. The play has been around for 30 years, but has never had a published translation in the U.S. Voorhees will direct his translation of The Toothbrush in February of 1997, from the 13th through to the 16th, at the Middlebury College Center for the Arts. The play has a cast of two-a man and wife-a technical staff of six people, and music composed by Dylan Bolles '96. Said Voorhees of his work, "At first it was fairly choppy and sounded like a translation. But, now we have been rehearsing, both the actors and I hear how it sounds and have made decisions about changes. The play just lends itself to creativity."

The production of The Toothbrush is another step towards Voorhees' goal. With a Fulbright scholarship in hand, Voorhees, who will graduate in February of 1997, will head back to Chile after producing the play. "I hope to come back with a volume on Díaz. I plan to select 10 of his plays that will show the different stages of his career," he said. "The volume will contain plays, translations, essays, interviews and a biography of Díaz. He's a wonderful man. I want to get him well-known in this country. His works have relevance to U.S. society today."

But for now, the play's the thing. "I've been thinking about doing this for two years," said Voorhees. "It's a great culmination of my college life. It's been invigorating to have something on my brain so much."