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Volume 62 / Humanities

LITERATURE: SPANISH AMERICA: Drama


SANDRA M. CYPESS, Professor of Spanish, University of Maryland
BARBARA MUJICA, Professor of Spanish, Georgetown University

THE PLAYS ANNOTATED IN THIS VOLUME continue to show the great vitality of Latin American drama. While some of the publications show the still active presence of such internationally famous writers as Mexico's Emilio Carballido (Vicente y Ramona, item #bi2005004036#) and Elena Garro (Sócrates y los gatos, item #bi2005003491#), Cuba's Abelardo Estorino (Teatro escogido, item #bi2005003490#), and Argentina's Griselda Gambaro (Teatro, item #bi2005003498#), the experienced names do not dominate the scene; many new playwrights from all over Latin America attest to the richness of the region's theatrical activity. Many seem to be reworkings of previous texts, such as the remakes of Faust by Cuban Reinaldo Montero (item #bi2005004034#) and Mexican Federico Villagómez (item #bi2006000539#), as well as the latter's revisions of Pedro Páramo and Unamuno's Niebla. Hugo Carrillo of Guatemala uses not only the canonical final scenes of Hamlet for his El corazón del espantapájaros, his El Señor Presidente (1974) is a dramatization of Asturias' novel, while La Chalana (1977) is loosely based on another Asturias novel, Viernes de Dolores. (For a collection of works featuring these four plays, see item #bi2005004037#.) These texts do not call for not traditional stagings, but more audacious interpretations that follow a postmodern esthetic.

Another fundamental feature of many of these plays is the inclusion of themes that were ignored, or at least, not likely to be represented onstage in the past. The anthology of one of Guatemala's more more recognized playwrights, Hugo Carrillo, includes his play, La calle del sexo verde (1959), which is considered to be the first Guatemalan play with a homosexual theme. In Baja California, Mexico, López Solís offers El grito de las campañas (item #bi2005004039#). Set in a church, this strange play appears to consider not the traditional theme of dishonesty in the clergy, but hypocritical homosexual partnerings. Also prominent is the frequent use of regionalisms in dialogue; one notes the use of popular language in such plays as Corella's Mira, paloma, tu vuelo (item #bi2005004024#), González Dávila's De la calle (item #bi2005004046#), as well as in the Alfredo Bushby's Perro muerto and Historia de un gol peruano (for both plays, see item #bi2005004043#) and Ignacio Apolo's La pecera (item #bi2003005832#). Some of the Peruvian plays found in Voces del interior (item #bi2003005836#), while written in Spanish, nevertheless show their Quechua indigenous traditions in their titles: Aureo Sotelo's Karadoshu (or El alma de Emiliano Pantoja) and G. Juan Vilca's Atún Yachaywasi (or Gran casa del saber). Women playwrights, too, are being published in greater numbers, either in individual editions, as is Bárbara Colio's work (item #bi2005004018#), or in personal anthologies, such as María del Carmen Escobar's collection of plays for children and young adults (item #bi2005004049#); or included in general anthologies, such as the one of Teatro joven de Tamaulipas (item #bi2005004023#). As seen in such plays as Cristina Escofet's Eternity Class (item #bi2003005832#) or Larisa López's Metamorfosis (item #bi2005004023#), which combines dance and theatre, women's plays are as diverse in theme and form as those of their male counterparts, so their work can no longer be labeled "women's theater."

Also useful are the various anthologies from countries typically less well represented in publications: there is an anthology of recent Ecuadorian plays edited by Lola Proaño Gómez (item #bi2005004044#), and a Peruvian collection, which includes plays from the Yuyachkani collective, edited by Ramos-García and Ruth Escudero (item #bi2003005836#). Also important to note are the many plays from Central American countries, including those of Costa Rican Alberto Cañas (item #bi2005004019#), and the Guatemalan Hugo Carrillo (item #bi2005004037#).

In Mexico, the number of dramatists who live and work outside of Mexico City and still are able to be published has increased. The state governments have attempted to encourage this decentralization by supporting conferences and prizes from the different regions. Plays that would otherwise have gone unnoticed are now being published, providing an outlet for particular regional problems and local expressions of individual states, such as Sonora or Chihuahua. The general desire to express a national identity has actually led to a more fragmented view, so that a greater development of Northern Mexican dramaturgy in particular has taken place; this more local vision and further emancipation from the metropolis can be seen in such plays as Mira, paloma, tu vuelo by Roberto Corella of Sonora (item #bi2005004024#) and El corrido del venado by Sandra Balderas (item #bi2005004023#). [SC]

POLITICS CONTINUES TO BE A CENTRAL THEME of many Spanish American plays, but today's playwrights often approach the subject through myth or allegory. Works such as Triunfo Arciniegas' Torcuato es un león viejo (item #bi2004002051#), María Maure's Adiós Olimpia, and Mónica Camacho's Ciudad vacía (item #bi2004002052#) convey the authors' views of the need for change, using nonrealistic techniques. Several Argentinian and Chilean playwrights have revisited the repression and insecurity of the 1970s–80s. Jorge Goldenberg's Knepp and Sería más sencillo (item #bi2004002447#) depict repression, abuse of power, and, through metaphor, political and social disintegration. Benjamín Galemiri deals with political manipulation and the psychology of power in El coordinador, while in Buena presencia, Víctor Winer conveys the political and economic insecurity of an Argentina struggling to regain its bearings (for both works, see item #bi2004002053#). Nora Glickman explores another sad chapter in Argentine history in Una tal Raquel: the importation as slaves of Polish women (see item #bi2004002054#).

Other playwrights focus on current problems in their own countries. For example, Sergio Arrau depicts corruption in Lima (item #bi2004002433#), while several Colombian writers have focused on social and political issues of national importance. Larios Manrique censures political repression (item #bi2004002060#), while in Me/moría, Luis Alberto Sierra Mejía depicts violence and despair among the urban poor (item #bi2004002443#).

Contemporary values continue to be a recurring theme. Edelmiro Menchaca Bernárdez provides a searing view of the materialism and greed that dehumanize modern society (item #bi2004002059#). Similarly, the plays in Inés Muñoz Aguirre's Teatro en tres tiempos expose the sense of futility and alienation that characterize today's materialistic world (item #bi2004002448#). Muñoz, like Gustavo Ott, depicts the tendency to transform every event, no matter how tragic, into a public spectacle to be broadcast on television. Ott's other plays focus on today's obsession with celebrities and with runaway bureaucracy (items #bi2006002056# and #bi2006002057#).

Interpersonal relations are an enduring concern, in particular, the cohesiveness of the family and the couple. Jacobo Langsner presents a positive view of marriage in Locos de contento, a play about a husband and wife struggling with economic and sexual issues (item #bi2004002449#). Rafael Spregelburd portrays a dysfunctional family that nevertheless manages to stay intact in La inapetencia (item #bi2004002439#). Alberto Fuguet's Dos hermanos also reaffirms family bonds through the depiction of the reconciliation of two estranged brothers (item #bi2004002057#). In contrast, Néstor Amílcar Cipriano's Al lado de los proyectos stresses the lack of communication between people and the tedium of contemporary life (item #bi2004002050#). Gustavo Ott brings together love and politics in Tu ternura Molotov. Rafael Spregelburd explores parent-child relationships in La extravagancia (item #bi2004002439#). In the recent plays of Javier Vidal i Pradas, the characters are bolstered against life's tragedies by those they care about (item #bi2004002444#).

With the surge of women playwrights, female sexuality and related topics have emerged as another important theme. Penelopeas, by Patricia de la Torre, deals with themes of intimacy and fidelity (item #bi2004002435#). Nora Glickman stresses solidarity among women in all her plays (item #bi2004002054#). Without idealizing female relationships, Mónica Ottino depicts women's struggles to survive in a patriarchal society (item #bi2004002432#). Not all the playwrights who depict strong women characters are female. In Ambas tres, by Javier Vidal i Pradas, three women find strength in their friendship (item #bi2004002444#).

Other aspects of sexuality, including homosexuality, emerge as significant themes in theater since 2000. In Berlín 1940 Ramón Perelló presents a moving portrait of a gay man, the angst his homosexuality causes his mother, and their transcendence of the issue (item #bi2004002445#). In La inapetencia Rafael Spregelburd depicts a homosexual husband and his highly eroticized wife (item #bi2004002439#).

Topics related to ethnicity and identity are fundamental in several new plays, although the traditional theme of indigenismo is not prevalent. Instead, religious ancestry and ethnic identification are issues. For example, in Nora Glickman's Liturgias, a woman must come to terms with her Jewish past (item #bi2004002054#).

Creativity and theater itself are the subjects of several plays. Tierras incógnitas, by José Luis Costamagna explores the psychology of the genius (item #bi2004002435#), while Marco Rosenzvaig focuses on the writer's loneliness and the difficulty in capturing the artistic vision in the work of art (item #bi2004002441#). Two new plays depicting poets are Abelardo Castillo's Israfel, a fascinating portrait of Edgar Allan Poe (item #bi2004002058#), and Enrique Vargas Ramírez's Destino del unicornio, which explores the last days of Federico García Lorca (item #bi2004002056#).

New theater continues to explore timeless topics of a philosophical nature. Ricardo Ríos Ortiz questions aspects of science and religion in Un desolado infierno (item #bi2004002442#). Sacha Barrera Oro explores existential themes in El cuarto en común (item #bi2004002435#).

Several useful histories of Latin American or national theater have been published since 2000, among them Historia del teatro argentina: desde los rituales hasta 1930 (item #bi2004002434#) and Crónica del teatro al aire libre de la Media Torta, on a theater in Bogotá (item #bi2004002440#). In addition, important collections of articles on theoretical issues have appeared. These include Tendencias críticas en el teatro (Argentina) (item #bi2004002438#) and Historia del teatro en El Meta (Colombia) (item #bi2004002436#). [BM]


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