Volume 40 Number 2

Frank Dauster (Ed.)

Perspectives on Contemporary Spanish American Theatre

1996
157 pages
ISBN 0838753450
Bucknell Review

In this collection, nine specialists in Spanish American theatre examine social and aesthetic issues reflected in today's vital drama. Since the boom of the novel in the 1960s and the receipt of the Nobel prize by several Spanish American authors, the novel of Hispanic America has developed a wide critical and reading public in Europe and the United States, and the influence of Borges and Garcia Marquez is worldwide. The prestige of Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, and others has given poetry some of the same recognition. Yet, the startling growth of t he theatre in the decades after World War II is all but unknown outside Latin America except for university campuses. The work of the generation of experimentalists in the 1930s and 1940s has led to a vigorous theatre that is based in but not restricted to the largest cities. The universities with their drama schools have been a significant influence in this development, providing the necessary grounding in theatre history and techniques, and at times a refuge for innovative programming. At the same time there are important and original regional characteristics, such as the development of the theatre of collective creation, based initially in Colombia, of the many groups involved in assimilating and adapting (and adapting to) indigenous ritual. There is a virtually omnipresent sociopolitical subtext of this theatre: from the protests against military tyranny in Chile and Argentina to the focus on indigenous problems, playwrights and directors' groups are effective and persistent voices against oppression. The essays in this volume reflect a pattern of interests rapidly becoming dominant among scholars. Several of them deal with questions of genre or focus on metatheatre and parody, theatrical techniques widespread in Latin America. The majority treat these topics in conjunction with their social context. Dominant themes include the question of whether there can be culture-specific genres, incorporating the extremely varied ethnic and cultural strands of the Spanish American social fabric, or the use (and reinterpretation) of tragic and comic structures and classical myths to express social marginality or demythologize received history. A number of essays focus on the problematic situation of women in Spanish American society and their struggle to achieve equality in a highly traditional culture. At the same time the authors examine the role of women in theatre, both as protagonists and as creative artists, and their struggle to gain acceptance of nontraditional roles and lifestyles. No single collection could adequately cover the gamut of Spanish American theatre today, with its bewildering variety of styles and themes. Instead, the essayists were instructed to pursue their interest where they led them. The result is a stimulating perspective on a complex society and the equally complex and vital theatre that it is producing today.

Contributors: Priscilla Melendez, Sandra Messinger Cypess, Kirsten F. Nigro, Ronald D. Burgess, Diana Taylor, George Woodyard, Peter Roster, Jacqueline Eyring Bixler, and William Garcia.

About the editor:

Frank Dauster is professor emeritus of Spanish at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey. His most recent book is Perfil generacional del teatro hispanoamericano (1894-1924): Chile, Mexico, El Rio de la Plata. He is currently working on a study of contemporary Mexican poets.

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