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Volume 64 / Humanities

LITERATURE: SPANISH AMERICA: Drama


SANDRA M. CYPESS, Professor of Spanish, University of Maryland

MEXICO'S STRONG THEATRICAL TRADITION continues, as the latest publications of plays attest. Elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central American, the publications also continue to grow at a steady rate, although not in the numbers seen in Mexico. In these latest publications, in addition to works by canonical dramatists like Emilio Carballido, Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda, and the Dominican Franklin Domínguez, or Nobel Laureate Miguel Ángel Asturias, readers have the opportunity to become acquainted with plays by figures from earlier generations who have not been seriously studied. The Mexican Fernando Sánchez Mayáns, who died in 2007 and was a member of the Generation of the Fifties, along with Carballido, Luisa Josefina Hernández, and Sergio Magaña, received the National Theatre Prize in 1962 for his first play, Las alas del pez. In the new anthology of his works (item #bi2007003395#), this play and seven others show his general preoccupation with the hypocritical posturing of ordinary people and with rebellious youths who question the authority of their parents, similar to the focus of the early plays of Hernández and Magaña, for example. Ilse Heckel, a retired professor of theatre at UNAM, offers interesting approaches to historical figures and shows her interest in music and religion (item #bi2007003387#). Religion is a motif not only in her plays, but also in plays by established authors such as the Mexican Rascón Banda (item #bi2007003397#), the Dominican Franklin Domínguez (item #bi2007003575#), as well as the Honduran Felipe Acosta (item #bi2007003388#), and even in the Cuban José Milián (item #bi2007003572#).

The trend toward cultural, geographic, and linguistic diversity of the 1990s continues unabated, as does the innovative use of the stage. It is no longer unexpected that playwrights are producing their work outside of Mexico City or in countries like Honduras. Good examples are the publication of such anthologies as that of Alejandra Tello Arenas, an historical review of theatrical activity in Jalisco (item #bi2007003578#), and the anthology of young playwrights from Yucatán (item #bi2007003384#), or the plays by Central Americans (items #bi2007003388# and #bi2007003393#). Yucatecan writers illustrate the versatility of a new generation of theater practitioners who are being produced and published along with established dramatists. Emilio Carballido, who died in 2008, leaves us with a definitive compilation of his many pieces in D.F., proving once again that while he focused on one geographical area, his thematic versatility, characterizations, and language use was always varied and worthy of note (item #bi2007003583#). The prolific Chihuahense, Victor Hugo Rascón Banda, who also died in 2008, is represented here by a single work, Ahora y en la hora (item #bi2007003397#). Its setting and emotional tone reflect the experiences he suffered as a result of his illness and hospitalization between 2000 and 2004.

Another interesting trend involves the expansion of puppet plays. These works are not only intended for children and lately also tend to mix puppets with actors. One of the first plays with puppets and live actors in the 1980s was Minotastasio y su familia by the Mexican Hugo Hiriart. A work that attests to the vitality of this theatrical genre is Pandemonium by Carlos Converso, a play found in the collection entitled Teatro para títeres (item #bi2007003390#). Moreover, Manuel Galich, who worked in Cuba, suggested that his play, Entremés de los cinco pescaditos y el rio revuelto, could be staged with puppets and/or live actors (item #bi2007003577#).

Mythological stories continue to be staged, whether from American lore or the classical Greek repertoire, as evidenced by the new version of Orestes by the Yucatecan Miguel Ángel Canto: Orestes, o Dios no es máquina (item #bi2007003384#); the Costa Rican Fedra written by Manuel Arce Arenales (item #bi2007003393#); and the Cuban Oedipus that Tomás González offers in El viaje en circulo (item #bi2007003573#). Puedelotodo vencido by Manuel Galich recreates a myth taken from the Popol Vuh (item #bi2007003577#), while La maizada, by David Olguín, uses the folktales of the Tzoque-Popoluca community to tell a creation story of how the "Corn-boy" helped to form the animals and humans (item #bi2007003386#).

While the use of colloquial expressions and youthful argot is no longer surprising, the definition of what constitutes drama continues to be expanded, as demonstrated in the anthology of plays by Yucatecan authors (item #bi2007003384#). While Carballido was known for plays that incorporated dance and music, in this collection of young authors from the peninsula some pieces contain more dance than dialogue, as in Danzas en el carapacho del Armadi-yo, conceived by the choreographer Érika Torres. She calls her text a "partitura" of actions, whose songs and dance movements are created, as her subtitle indicates, to frighten away one's fears. In Cuba, music has always been important, as Fulleda León illustrates with his musical monologue, Remolino en las aguas.

Thematically, too, many plays expand the objectives being explored on stage. Pirarucú la Sirena by Gabriel Arroyo offers an innovative appraisal of ecological issues (item #bi2007003384#), while La fe de los cerdos by Hugo Abraham Wirth Nava offers an ominous portrait of the effects of drug dealing (item #bi2007003398#), while Telefonemas, by Edgar Chías, covers addiction as well as suicide, betrayal, and other offenses of contemporary life (item #bi2007003386#). Most of the plays, whether from Yucatán or Mexico City, from the Dominican San Juan or Puerto Rico's capital, graphically portray the various uncertainties and distresses of contemporary life, especially with reference to the harmful effects of drug addiction, globalization, and ecological dangers such as pollution, deforestation, and endangered animals. Feminist issues are also of great concern, as seen in Las creyentes by the Yucateca Concepción León, which shows the extremes to which women are pushed when threatened with abandonment (item #bi2007003384#). The Puerto Rican Teresa Marichal's tour de force, Rejum-reja-mujer-rejum, is a monologue that is visually and verbally powerful regarding the disturbing theme of incest (item #bi2007003396#). The stage is empty except for the disconcerting presence of an abused woman tied to a chair during the entire one act. As the woman describes how her abuse has harmed her as well as her family, the audience is encouraged to take a stand against such cruelty and ill-treatment.`


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