Diversifying the Classics | About
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The comedias of the Hispanic Golden Age were plays for the people: performances took place in open-air theaters, where attendees of all classes and both sexes commingled. At the same time the works are sophisticated urban dramas, offering pointed reflections on the constructed nature of class and gender as well as the performativity of social roles in the burgeoning city, issues that resonate with audiences today.

Over the past two years, under the direction of Professor Barbara Fuchs, the Center for 17th– & 18th-Century Studies has endeavored to bring the comedia to Los Angeles audiences by attending to issues of translation and adaptation; connecting academics with practitioners; and hosting performances.

Diversifying the Classics encompasses five initiatives: L.A. Escena Performance Series, Hispanic classical theater and adaptations for L.A. audiences; Library of Translated Hispanic Classical Plays, a digital resource for theater practitioners; Classic Comedia, a bilingual digital and print anthology of monologues for actors; Classics in the Classroom, a program to introduce Hispanic classical theater to students via adaptations, the compilation of supporting materials, and connections with K–12 arts educators; and a future Performance Studies Database, listing scholars in the field prepared to guide theater professionals approaching new and underrepresented texts.


L.A. Escena Performance Series

Hispanic classical theater and adaptations for L.A. audiences

At UCLA’s Clark Library and on campus, in collaboration with Playwrights’ Arena, we have offered three Golden Tongues festivals: adaptations of classical Hispanic plays by Los Angeles playwrights, presented in staged readings. Luis Alfaro’s, Painting in Red, based on Calderón’s El pintor de su deshonra, which was presented in our first season, went on to a commercial production in Fall 2014. We have also hosted workshops on verse in classical Hispanic theater, and welcomed the Madrid-based Fundación Siglo de Oro’s Entre Marta y Lope in Fall 2014. An “Arts Initiative” grant funded summer work on A Wild Night in Toledoand a Fall 2015 reading by students in UCLA’s Theater Department is planned, under the direction of Michael Hackett. In October 2015, we will also welcome Spanish company Pánicoescénico for a performance of El Greco y la legión tebana, in Spanish with subtitles.




Library of Translated Hispanic Classical Plays

A digital resource for theater practitioners

The UCLA working group The Comedia in Translation and Performance addresses issues of translation and adaptation, while also bringing together academics, playwrights, translators, directors, and actors. Under the direction of Dr. Barbara Fuchs, group members have translated four previously untranslated plays, and have held staged readings of two. All the plays are slated for digital publication on our website, which will be fully searchable and archived by the UCLA Libraries. We expect completion of the website by Fall 2016.

We have undertaken our translations with the primary goals of making the plays easy to perform in English. We have attempted to make the language fluent to read and texts easy to adapt. To this end, we have chosen to translate every line of each play; to translate from verse into prose (with occasional exceptions); to include brief but vital footnotes; and to offer the original Spanish texts. Each play’s introduction offers plot summaries, key themes, performance histories, and additional information on editions consulted and other particulars. We hope that these efforts assist theater practitioners to read, adapt, stage, and direct these plays for modern audiences.


Remarkably modern in its meditation on gender and class, the comedia offers phenomenal female roles and much to attract contemporary audiences. Here is a brief summary of the plays we have translated to date. Our working group is available to provide additional information and/or dramaturgical support.

Guillén de Castro, The Force of Habit

Can gender be learned and unlearned? Félix and Hipólita, two siblings separated at birth, are brought up in the habits of the opposite gender. Kept close by his mother’s side, Félix is timid and sensitive. Hipólita, trained by her father on the battlefield, is fiercely attached to her sword. When the family is reunited, the father insists on making the siblings conform to traditional gender roles. Helped along the way by their respective love interests, the two gradually assume traditional positions, but their journeys expose the limitations of the gender system.

Lope de Vega, A Wild Night in Toledo

In Spanish popular culture, the phrase “una noche toledana” refers to a long and sleepless night of wild, often amorous intrigues, or of unrelenting annoyances. Such is the case in this funny, fast-moving play, in which young men and women cross paths at a hostel in a single night. Under the covers of darkness and disguise, they use ingenuity and humor to navigate personal desires, negotiate collective frustrations, and test whether they can rewrite their destinies alongside their identities.

Lope de Vega, Women and Servants

Recently rediscovered in Madrid’s National Library, this comedia emerges from its 400-year sleep with a remarkable freshness: it presents a world of suave dissimulation and accommodation, where creaky notions of honor and vengeance have virtually no place. Lope depicts a sophisticated urban culture of self-fashioning and social mobility, as the titular figures outsmart fathers and masters to marry those they love. The sisters Luciana and Violante prefer their choices to men of higher standing, and are more than capable of getting their way.

Guillén de Castro, Mismatched in Valencia

Amazingly modern, this biting comedy shows what happens after the traditional happy ending. Two married couples air their disillusion with marriage, while the cross-dressed mistress of one of the husbands merrily manipulates one and all. With everyone attracted to the wrong person, innuendo, accusations, and revenge steal the show.


90 Monologues from Classical Spanish Theater:

With the help of a UCLA Faculty Research Grant, we have begun work on this project, assessing and selecting possible materials for inclusion. The anthology of select monologues for actors, in the original Spanish and in English translation, with contextualizing introductions, edited by Barbara Fuchs, Jennifer Monti and Laura Muñoz, with a prologue from Dakin Matthews, will be published by Smith & Kraus in 2017.


Classics in the Classroom

A program to introduce Hispanic classical theater to students via adaptations, the compilation of supporting materials, and connections with K–12 arts educators

In Summer 2015, and with a grant from UCHRI, we established a partnership with 24th Street Theater (http://www.24thstreet.org/) to develop an elementary-school curriculum based on our translation of The Force of Habit. We have also recently established a partnership with About…Productions in Pasadena (http://www.aboutpd.org/) to develop a high school curriculum based on this play.




Performance Studies Database

A list of scholars in the field prepared to guide theater professionals approaching new and underrepresented texts.