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GEORGE WOODYARD, Professor of Spanish, University of Kansas
AS REPORTED IN HLAS 48, the rate of growth in this field continues to be high. Most plays are still politically motivated, although not as much as in previous years. It is encouraging to note that some of the emerging political theater is now laced with humor (item bi 89008320). Many of the new plays focus on historical figures (e.g., Tupac Amaru, Morelos, Pablo Neruda, Eva Perón), at times for their human interest, as in the case of Juana la Loca (item bi 89008389) or Victoriano Huerta (item bi 89008430), but generally for their metaphorical importance in contemporary political situations. A few plays have a philosophical, metaphysical or existential slant (items bi 89008328 and bi 89008383) or even evolve from religious allegory (items bi 89008326 and bi 89008334).
Perhaps the largest single category consists of plays dealing with family situations, often with psychological and even nostalgic overtones. Classification by single category is always presumptuous and misleading because the best plays are the most resistant to simple description, but this grouping contains plays by, among others, Bortnik (items bi 89008322 and bi 89008321), Chocrón (item bi 89008330), Gallegos (item bi 89008338), and Serebrisky (item bi 89008396), prematurely deceased. Some concern for women's issues and rights also appears (items bi 89008367, bi 89008369, and bi 89008376).
Several anthologies collect groups of plays, especially from the Cuban groups Cabildo Teatral Santiago (item bi 89008401) and Teatrova (item bi 89008414). A curious item is a collection of puppet theater (item bi 89008403). A reassuring number of known playwrights reappears here, such as Gambaro (item bi 89008339), Leñero (item bi 89008355), and Vargas Llosa (item bi 89008429) while talented younger writers are faring well (items bi 89008324 and bi 89008343). Given the difficulty of publishing theater texts in general, the reprinting of earlier and now inaccessible plays, often with introductions, is perhaps a sign of vitality in a field often deprived of normal outlets (items bi 89008341 and bi 89008387).
Criticism is still of uneven quality, ranging from analytical book-length textual analysis (item bi 89008461) to sentimental journeys through a personalized past (items bi 89008457, bi 89008466, bi 89008482, and bi 89008491). Several studies reported here achieve a comprehensive view of a particular national theater history, such as González Cajiao's work on Colombian theater (item bi 89008464), or at least make an attempt, as in the case of Mexico (item bi 89008518) and Panama (item bi 89008525). Studies of a particular theater house are interesting, as in the case of the Santiago Municipal Theater (item bi 89008450) and the National Theater of Caracas (item bi 89008530). Close readings of particular plays are extremely valuable and too numerous to mention individually, but good examples include studies of plays by Dragún (item bi 89008443), Triana (item bi 89008436), and Usigli (items bi 89008455 and bi 89008473). The shift from thematic studies or character development to the function of language in the written or performance text is a mark of recent trends in dramatic criticism (items bi 89008462, bi 89008475, and bi 89008537). Established theater journals (Conjunto, item bi 89008553; Latin American Theatre Review, item bi 89008474) have been joined by many new publications, another indication of the burgeoning scholarly and professional interest in the field. Examples are: Gestos (item bi 89014021), Tablas (La Habana: Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de las Artes Escénicas), Diógenes (item bi 89008454), and Espacio (item bi 89008459). Criticism may finally be catching up with the texts with which it interacts.