Properties of Silence

This remount was presented at The Carrie Hamilton Theater at The Pasadena Playhouse in February-March, 2015

One compelling story after another, begins as an exploration of one person’s past and ends as a moody meditation on the nature of memory and all family histories.
— Chicago Reader, 2001

Poetry, science and history meld as famed 17th century poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz crosses paths with Barbara, a contemporary realtor, and Tom, her pool contractor husband, in a multi-layered dreamscape. Set in Phoenix, Arizona, Properties of Silence centers arounds a contemporary couple who meet Sor Juana in a surreal dream landscape inspired by her most significant poem, “Primer Sueño” (“First Dream”). As Barbara and Tom come to grips with their troubled marriage, the Catholic Church is forcing Sor Juana to silence her pen and scientific inquiries. It explores how people make contracts – social, legal, marital – and how those contracts conspire to silence the inner voice. What happens when the outer trappings no longer add up to what’s inside us? Properties of Silence features original compositions by vocal artist Julie Adler and original black and white video by Janice Tanaka which emulate the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, to underscore Sor Juana’s life story.

Written by

Theresa Chavez, Rose Portillo and, Alan Pulner 

directed by

Theresa Chavez


Elizabeth Rainey, Rose Portillo, and Kevin Sifuentes


Julie Adler – original compositions
Janice Tanaka – projections

Original 1999 Production

Rose Portillo and Diane Robinson

Rose Portillo and Diane Robinson

When Properties of Silence premiered in 1999 at 2100 Square Feet Theater, LA Weekly’s Steven Leigh Morris called it “a testament to… the force of the author’s intelligence and wit, their potent lyrical sense,” while Julio Martinez wrote in Variety that “Playwrights Theresa Chavez, Alan Pulner and [Rose] Portillo… have made tangible the monumental struggle that one must go through to discover and maintain the deeply submerged inner voice that is the essence of his or her uniqueness.” The original cast starred Rose Portillo, Diane Robinson, and Clay Wilcox, directed by B.J. Dodge.