TDPS’s “Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War” Commemorates 80th Anniversary of the Conflict

This October, the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War, co-written by TDPS professor Peter Glazer and Eric Bain Peltoniemi. Presented in conjunction with the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Heart of Spain follows a group of US volunteers—men and women from a mix of socio-economic classes and ethnic backgrounds—across the Atlantic, over the Pyrenees, and into battle as they fight to defend the Spanish Republic against fascist General Francisco Franco’s military coup on the eve of WWII. Interweaving eyewitness accounts, historical documents and writings, original compositions and traditional songs accompanied by a four-piece band, the production brings to life the bitter war that inspired everyday Americans, most with idealistic beliefs but minimal military training, to fight. Heart of Spain plays October 21-30, 2016, with performances on Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM in Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office ( or at the door.

Heart of Spain opens in 1936 as a call to arms goes out internationally for volunteers to travel to Spain and defend the newly elected Spanish Republic against a coup by the fascist Nationalist Spanish generals. The show’s first act plunges viewers into the Depression-era America of the 1930’s as volunteers gather: communists and left-leaning revolutionaries fighting for change, laborers and unionists supporting the Spanish people, journalists documenting revolution, and liberals appalled by the rise of fascism and what it represented for the world. The second act follows the volunteers as they journey to Spain to join the front, as their hope turns to despair when they encounter the forces (backed by Hitler and Mussolini) arrayed against them, as they confront the realities of their own idealism, and as they are forced back to the US, where they are greeted with suspicion and labeled un-American.

The passionate willingness of international volunteers to intervene in another country’s civil war speaks to today’s contemporary debate about the United State’s involvement in regime change and overseas interventions. “Heart of Spain brings up many questions about the nature of internationalism,” says director Peter Glazer, “When and why is it appropriate for a nation to intervene overseas? This was a big part of the controversy around the Spanish Civil War at the time it was fought, and those questions persist today.”

With a live four-piece band, songs and poems from the period, evocative staging and costumes, and a talented cast, Heart of Spain transports audiences to this historically-important, ideologically-fraught conflict fueled by the fervent idealism of anti-fascist volunteer soldiers who were willing to hike over mountains and huddle in foxholes, steadfast in their belief that great global issues at stake.

Production Details

Heart of Spain opens Friday, October 21 and continues through Sunday, October 30, 2016 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office at or at the door.

Heart of Spain features scenic design by Kate Edmunds, costume design by Annie Smart, lighting design by Dylan Feldman, sound design by Emily Fassler and musical direction by Mark Sumner. The cast includes: Yohana Ansari-Thomas, Eddie Benzoni, Melissa Chapman, Josie Clark-Steinmetz, Isabel Cruz, Harry Fahn, Alexander Gebert, Yoonji Jang, Veronica Maynez, Akash Patel, Claire Pearson, Shauna Satnick, Vaisakh Shankar, Alyssa So, Bri’Unia Stock, Ali Toia, and Boris Zabavsky.

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About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Peter Glazer

Associate Professor Peter Glazer is a professional director and playwright, as well as a longtime member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Board President of Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco, and a member of the Board of the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley. He is the creator of the musical Woody Guthrie’s American Song, which has been produced over 100 times nationwide since its premiere in 1988, at theaters including Seattle Rep, Berkeley Rep, Ford’s Theater, Northlight Theater, San Jose Rep, Missouri Rep, and Marin Theater Company, all under Glazer’s direction. The New York production of American Song at the Melting Pot Theater Company received two Drama Desk nominations, among the many awards the show has received in its long history.

Other theater pieces Glazer has written or co-written include Foe, adapted from Nobel Prize winner J. M. Coetzee’s novel of the same name; Michael, Margaret, Pat and Kate with singer-songwriter Michael Smith; O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music with Celtic harpist Patrick Ball; and Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War with composer Eric Bain Peltoniemi.

Glazer has also co-written, produced and directed numerous commemorative performances remembering the American anti-fascist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, in New York, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area. He sits on the Board of Governors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), and served on the Board’s Executive Committee for four years. His book, Radical Nostalgia: Spanish Civil War Commemoration in America, explores the commemorative history surrounding the volunteers, and argues that the memories and traditions called upon at these events through music, texts, and photographs, have progressive potential in the contemporary world.

About Eric Bain Peltoniemi

Eric Bain Peltoniemi is a singer/songwriter, actor, Grammy-winning producer and the former President of acclaimed indie folk label Red House Records. Peltoniemi’s original songs have been recorded by artists like Bok, Trickett & Muir; Robin & Linda Williams; Sally Rogers & Claudia Schmidt; Lisa Asher; and prominent Finnish artists Topi Saha and Koinurit, among others. He has also written music, lyrics and occasional book for eleven plays, including the regional hits Ten November (a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Steven Dietz) and Plain Hearts (with playwright Lance Belville). Along with his collaborator Peter Glazer, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the creation of Heart of Spain, a musical about the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. His music will soon be featured in Ikitie (The Eternal Road), a new Finnish/Swedish/Estonian film production in which he also appears (to be released in 2017).


Melissa Schultz
UC Berkeley TDPS
Tel: (510) 644-7612