Diversifying the Classics | LA ESCENA/BLOG
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WORLD PREMIERE OF ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF WOMEN AND SERVANTS BY LOPE DE VEGA

From November 9-18, McMaster University’s School of the Arts will perform Women and Servants, a play by Spain’s great Renaissance dramatist Lope de Vega (see complete schedule and information below). Lost almost since its creation in 1613-14, and rediscovered only recently, in 2014, by Alejandro García-Reidy in Spain’s National Library, Women and Servants has never before been staged in English. Come see this witty, subversive comedy, where women and servants defy their masters—conspicuously absent from the title—as they affirm their freedom to live and love as they choose.

 

On Saturday, November 11, at 7pm, immediately before the 8pm performance, the play’s English translator, UCLA Professor Barbara Fuchs, will present “Love Knows No Master,” a discussion of the play’s challenging representations of personal autonomy, liberty in love, and the defiance of social norms. After the show, Professor Fuchs will join the cast and production team onstage for discussion.

 

Performance Schedule:

November 9 (Preview), 8pm

November 10-11, 8pm

November 15-18, 8pm

November 18, 2pm

 

Location: The Black Box

L.R. Wilson Hall

Price $20

$10 for students and seniors

 

Tickets available from Compass, or School of the Arts: (905) 525 9140 Ext. 27671

 

For more information on performances, visit: http://sota.humanities.mcmaster.ca/2017/11/01/women-and-servants/

 

For information on Barbara Fuchs’ lecture and discussion, see the poster below or visit: http://sota.humanities.mcmaster.ca/2017/11/07/love-knows-no-master-visiting-artist-lecture/

Women and Servants

Staged Reading of The Widow of Valencia

Join us on Wednesday, November 8th at 7:30PM for the staged reading of out working group’s latest translation, The Widow of Valencia.

 

 

Written by Lope de Vega between 1595 and 1599, this juicy play centers on the figure of Leonarda, a young widow, and her posse of suitors, who circle her house at all hours, hoping for a glance, a smile, or a kind gesture. Leonarda, however, is in love with Camilo, and in order to maintain the pious and reserved life that was expected of widows at the time, she devises a plan with her servants, Julia and Urbán, to lure him into her home. To add to the general sense of confusion, Lope sets the play in Valencia—one of the most vibrant and festive Spanish cities of the time—during Carnival, when amorality, chaos, and false identities were normalized and accepted.

 

Clever, compelling, and entertaining, The Widow of Valencia takes on universal themes of love, pride, and social standing, yet it remains unique in its daring portrait of intrigue and female sexuality. Directed by UCLA theater professor Michael Hackett, first year MFA students in the Acting and Directing Programs will bring Lope’s enthralling Golden Age characters to life.

The performance is free, but reservations are required. Please visit http://www.1718.ucla.edu/events/widow/

 

Jennifer L. Monti

widow poster

An Early Modern Double: The Comedy of Errors and The Force of Habit at Cal Poly Pomona

 

With unexpected reunions of long lost siblings, gender-bending explorations into nature and nurture, romantic triangles, and the constant threat of violence, Guillén de Castro’s 1610 The Force of Habit and Shakespeare’s 1594 The Comedy of Errors bear a family resemblance. On October 1st, members of the Comedia in Performance and Translation working group were fortunate enough to take in this early modern double-header at Cal Poly Pomona as part of this year’s Southern California Shakespeare Festival. Founder and artistic director of the festival Linda Bisesti arranged to follow an afternoon show of Shakespeare’s early comedy with a staged reading of the Guillén de Castro play, organized by Marta Albalá Pelegrín, Assistant Professor of Early Modern Spanish Literature at Cal Poly and working group member.

 

 

The staged reading, performed by many of the same actors from Shakespeare’s comedy, gave voice to our group’s translation, and the large, standing-room-only audience of students and the local community was able to access this rich drama in English for the first time. The actors, including Bisesti and Cal Poly Theater Department chair Bernardo Solano, immediately brought the spectators into Guillen’s complex and intriguing story of familial conflict and gender identity.

 

 

The actors who portrayed the reunited siblings, Hipólita and Félix, deserve extra applause. In Guillén’s drama, the daughter has been raised for battle and dresses in men’s clothes, while the son has been kept at home and taught embroidery. While the overbearing father, Don Pedro, attempts to force his children to adapt to traditional gender roles, Hipólita and Félix refuse—they refuse, that is, until they fall in love. These late scenes of character transition invite current audiences to wonder if the play is essentially a conservative argument for strict gender roles, or a more progressive revelation of the degree to which our gender identities are performances constructed for a social audience.

 

 

After the reading, the actors took questions onstage, where members of the working group joined them in a rich discussion of the play’s implications. The actors shared their thoughts on why they chose to portray their characters in certain ways. What an audience ultimately thinks about Guillén de Castro’s play depends in part on the violence of the protagonists’ transitions out of the gender identities of their youth, and the most troubling aspects of this early modern work were brought out by the insightful reflections of those who played its characters.

 

 

It was both illuminating and enjoyable to participate in that conversation, and the working group is grateful to the wonderful people at Cal Poly for this staged reading. These early modern Hispanic plays deserve a place on stage, and it is a delight to play a role in putting them there. Too many of them have been ignored for too long, but, as the night at Cal Poly reminded us, to retrieve and reimagine them in a new time and tongue is to find that the familiarity of their conflicts, the suspense of their stories, and the richness of their wit remain.

 

Robin Kello

TRANSLATION WORKSHOP (OCTOBER 17): PROFESSOR EDWARD “MAC” TEST (BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY) VISITS UCLA

Many thanks to Professor Mac Test for workshopping his translation of Juan Pérez de Montalbán’s La monja alférez (The Swashbuckling Nun) with us. As expected, our discussion brought together a fruitful mix of disciplinary backgrounds, including Professor Test’s expertise in contemporary Anglo- and Latin American poetry and English Renaissance literature and our own diverse interests in Golden Age letters, Early Modern Iberian and Colonial American history, and contemporary Spain and Mexico. It was also a meeting of the minds on Baroque drama. Professor Test has translated a text that, given its subject matter, would have instantly jumped to the top of our list of pending projects—a play that, like all those we have taken on, portrays extraordinary agency beyond traditional gender roles (the “swashbuckling” Guzmán shares much with Hipólita from The Force of Habit, Lisena from A Wild Night in Toledo, and Leonarda from The Widow of Valencia). Additionally, Professor Test has introduced us to a play that, like our own favorites, represents the performative nature of (gender and class) identities and the possibility (and frequent necessity) of dissimulation in modern urban life. His visit is a powerful incentive to continue our work—surely there are more (unjustly and unbelievably underappreciated) gems out there, just waiting to be translated! We hope Professor Test has also taken something away from our conversation, and we look forward to seeing his translation published soon. Thank you for visiting us, and very safe travels back to Boise.

 

Paul Cella.

A Weekend at Almagro in the Festival’s 40th Year

 

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In 1978, three years after the death of the military dictator Francisco Franco, the city of Almagro, Spain and its corral de comedias hosted its first ever Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico. Reviving the classical theater of Spain’s Golden Age was perceived by some as problematic due to its association with Francoist notions of Spanish greatness, and was not unanimously supported. Forty years later, the festival has become a space where artists, educators, journalists, and audiences from Spain and abroad critically interrogate past and present by questioning cultural norms and exploring alternative voices and visions. The festival is a testament to the quality, vitality, and relevance of Spanish classical theater.

 

Almagro’s corral de comedias was built in 1628 and is the only extant baroque popular theater in Spain. Its rediscovery in 1953, television debut in 1967, and rebirth as the soul of the Festival in 1978 also transformed Almagro as a whole. For several centuries in the medieval and early modern periods Almagro was a center of economic and military might, but it later fell into decline. Today, nearly all of Almagro’s historic structures are in some stage of repair and revival, and several sites besides the corral are used as spaces for the festival’s theatrical productions and accompanying cultural activities. These include the medieval Palacios Maestrales (which house the Museo Nacional del Teatro), the sixteenth-century Antigua Universidad Renacentista and Plaza de Santo Domingo (Espacio Miguel Narros), the seventeenth-century Hospital de San Juan de Dios, and the nineteenth-century Teatro Municipal. The magic of the festival is partly due to the symbolic and aesthetic weight of these spaces.

 

But what does a weekend in Almagro actually look like for the average visitor? I was able to explore the city and its major sites and museums, enjoy a leisurely visit to the corral de comedias, and see four productions over two evenings, all of which were worth sharing here.

 

The adaptation La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream) [vv. 105-106], whose producers include Moma Teatre and Teatros del Canal, successfully stripped Calderón de la Barca’s classic down to its “essence” (the stated goal of its dramaturgs), which is as deep, dark, and disturbing as the interdependent prisons of the play’s four protagonists: Basilio, a tortured king who imprisoned his son based on a grim prophecy; Segismundo, a prince whose only reality is a prison tower and the teachings and treachery of Clotaldo, his warden and tutor; and Rosaura, Clotaldo’s long-lost daughter, who helps Segismundo claim his throne as she reclaims her honor. Calderón’s play naturally leaves the audience with more philosophical questions than answers, and this adaptation’s pared-down cast and script, impactful makeup and wardrobe, and stark, chilling set made those questions at once more urgent and accessible.

 

Lope de Vega’s El perro del hortelano (The Dog in the Manger)—the story of a jealous noblewoman and her vacillating secretary maneuvering their way into marriage—was masterfully produced and performed by La Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (CNTC). A delightfully anachronistic set and wardrobe (powdered wigs, anyone?) added something new to a well-worn play, as well as another dimension to the superb, comical physicality of its seasoned actors. Slightly unsettling was the apocryphal presence of a blindfolded and bare-chested, dancing and dart-wielding allegorical figure representing Love, which proved distracting but not devastating.

 

La Joven Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (“The Young” CNTC, comprising actors under 28) took on Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna (The Sheepwell), highlighting the most sinister aspects of this hyper-canonical play, and making the audience’s collective skin crawl with distress and disgust. A town terrorized by a despotic commander eventually rebels, kills him, and then conspires to claim the murder as a collective, crying out under torture, “Fuente Ovejuna did it!” The play is often celebrated for its portrayal of group solidarity in the face of injustice, but the most powerful scenes in this production are the ones in which the townspeople abandon their friends through inaction and cowardice, or rabidly revel in death and debauchery. They seem to be poisoned, and not just by the commander’s abuses, but by the ominous presence of the Catholic Kings. Just minor characters in Lope’s play, Isabel and Ferdinand are always in the background here—literally. In costumes and makeup reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, they slowly circle the stage from opposite directions, drawn to each other as if possessed, and portray nothing less than evil. In La Joven’s Fuente Ovejuna, the sickness that spreads through authoritarian violence starts at the very top, and infects everyone.

 

The Catholic Kings, frozen onstage as the audience enters for Fuente Ovejuna.

 

La Calderona, produced by Cía and Pau Pau Productions, is a two-actor—plus one DJ—hip-hop-inspired reflection on the world of the comedia and the life of one of its most (in)famous actresses, María Inés Calderón. Raps and ballads narrate the rise and fall of La Calderona—a mistress of Philip IV, the Hapsburg king who locked her in a convent after stripping her of their son—, as well the stories of other figures central to her triumphs and tragedies, including a scorned queen and a scathing priest. It took a surprisingly short amount of time for Adidas and rap battles to feel like natural spectacles in Almagro’s famed corral, a space well utilized by the actors, who at times invaded the patio and occupied the balconies.

 

What else is there for the visitor to see and experience with just a weekend in Almagro, outside of its historic buildings and churches, restaurants on the plaza, curbside craft fairs, and affiliated performances in the style of “off-Broadway” and “after-dark”? First, there is the lace—in shops, on the plaza, filling the city’s Lace Museum—, intricate, handmade, worthy-as-a-gift-to-your-grandmother kind of lace. Just ask the grandmothers sitting on benches outside of the festival venues when the first round of plays lets out around 10pm—talking with their friends, dogs playing at their feet—because that’s what they do on Friday and Saturday nights, even when the festival is not in town. Then there are the eggplants. Yes, small, pickled, pimentoed eggplants bobbing around in barrels until they’re plucked out for you to enjoy right at the stand, bent slightly forward, juice dripping at your feet. And somewhere between irreverent, tourist-kitsch and treasured local legacy is the cross of the Order of Calatrava, ubiquitous symbol of Christian conquest. You’ll find it on your bottle of pilsner beer, on every trash receptacle in the main plaza, on costumes in more than one play (including Fuente Ovejuna)—and in the same embattled consciences that look upon the statue of Diego de Almagro, a brutal but celebrated conquistador of Chile and Peru, seated on his horse at the far end of the plaza, as if guarding the National Theater Museum.

 

Go to Almagro. Sleep in a sixteenth-century lodge. Take a picture on the steps of the corral’s stage. See as many plays as possible. Eat the eggplants. But, if you can avoid it, don’t go to the party alone because the festival is just that: a celebration of the survival, renewal, and reimagining of a timeless theatrical tradition, and a communal exploration of the contradictory, violent, materialistic, and yet forever hopeful world it was born in—a world that feels so strangely familiar because it is also our own.

 

The requisite photo on the steps of the corral’s stage, which is dressed here for a performance of La Calderona.

 

For a lovely retrospective on the Festival’s 40 years, visit http://festivaldealmagro.com/descargas/libro_conmemoracion_40ediciones.pdf

 

Payton Phillips Quintanilla

PROFESSOR EDWARD “MAC” TEST (BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY) TO VISIT UCLA ON OCTOBER 17

UCLA’s working group on the comedia looks forward to an upcoming visit from Professor Edward “Mac” Test (Boise State University) on October 17. A translator, poet, and Renaissance scholar, Prof. Test has invited us to workshop his recent translation of Juan Pérez de Montalbán’s play La monja alférez (The Swashbuckling Nun), which is based on the life of Catalina de Erauso, a Basque woman who escaped from a convent, cross-dressed as a man, and fled to America, where she led a life full of adventure. We are especially excited to explore with Prof. Test our common interests in the representation of gender in Golden Age drama—a topic that has occupied us from our first translation of Guillén de Castro’s La fuerza de la costumbre (The Force of Habit) to our most recent work: Lope de Vega’s La viuda valenciana (The Widow of Valencia)—and translation methodology, including challenges particular to translating dramatic verse (into poetry or prose?), and to producing English texts that appeal to scholarly readers and modern audiences. Thank you, Professor Test, for joining us, and welcome to UCLA!

Staged Reading of The Force of Habit

Join us on October 1st at Cal Poly Pomona for a staged reading of our translation of Guillén de Castro’s The Force of Habit (La fuerza de la costumbre).

 

The Force of Habit (c. 1610) makes spectators wonder if gender is a result of nature or nurture, if it is something that can be learned and unlearned, as the two siblings and protagonists, Hipólita and Félix, are brought up in the habits of the opposite sex. Hipólita, raised by her father on the battlefield, is fierce and competitive, while her brother Félix, who grows up by his mother’s side, is timid and sensitive. Once the family is reunited, however, the two siblings must adhere to traditional gender roles: they must learn how to behave as a man and as a woman—with all the social implications this change brings along. Though the play ends with Hipólita and Félix re-assuming their traditional gender positions, Guillén de Castro’s theatrical piece nevertheless points out the grave limitations of the gender system.

 

The staged reading of the play is part of this year’s Southern California Shakespeare Festival, an Actors’ Equity Association Company in residence at Cal Poly Pomona (https://www.cpp.edu/~scsf/). The Festival’s founder and Artistic Director, Theater professor and actor Linda Bisesti, decided to include a staged reading of the group’s translation of The Force of Habit after attending our workshop (organized by group member and Cal Poly Assistant Professor Marta Albalá Pelegrín) at Cal Poly Pomona on May 2nd, entitled Translating for Performance.

 

The staged reading of The Force of Habit will be preceded by this season’s performance: Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, which includes a cast and crew of roughly thirty Cal Poly Pomona students and alumni. The Comedy of Errors opens on Saturday, September 7th, at 7:30 pm at the Cal Poly Pomona Studio Theater.

 

We invite you to join us on Sunday, October 1st at 2:00 pm for The Comedy of Errors, and again at 5:00 pm for The Force of Habit, for an afternoon filled with fun and back-to-back gender-bending performances. For more information on locations, times, and booking, please visit https://www.cpp.edu/~scsf/performance-calendar/index.shtml

 

Jennifer L. Monti

Graduate Students Conclude a Successful Comedia Summer, Supported by the Pine Tree Foundation of New York

The Comedia in Translation and Performance Working Group and Diversifying the Classics is pleased to announce the successful completion of our first summer grant period supported by the Pine Tree Foundation of New York.

 

The Pine Tree Foundation’s generous two-year grant is aimed at expanding the “Library of Translated Hispanic Classical Plays,” which is home to the working group’s original translations and serves as an online resource for theater practitioners and others interested in the Spanish comedia. In summer 2017, funding from Pine Tree provided stipends for four graduate students to increase and improve the Library’s holdings. (Two more graduate students will receive stipends in summer 2018.) Coupled with an award from the UCLA Arts Initiative—which supported three additional graduate students in an ongoing collaboration with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television—the working group was able to greatly advance their work in terms of both publications and outreach.

 

Thanks to the Pine Tree grant, the working group was able to edit and annotate its translation of The Widow of Valencia, which was drafted during the academic year, and to write an introduction aimed at theater practitioners as well as students and scholars working in English. The process included intensive table-readings and detailed cooperative editing. Widow will be posted on the Diversifying the Classics website for open access, and published in hard copy by Juan de la Cuesta – Hispanic Monographs.

 

Widow will also receive a dramatic reading in November 2017 (date TBA). This activity is part of Diversifying the Classic’s durable collaboration with UCLA’s Department of Theater, through which, in the fall quarter of each academic year, first-year MFA students perform the working group’s latest translation. The performance not only assists the working group in communicating directly with the actors and fine-tuning the translation, but also helps theater practitioners-in-training to become acquainted with the corpus and discover “what lies beyond Shakespeare.”

 

In addition to their work on Widow, graduate students were afforded the space to improve earlier translations (A Wild Night in Toledo, Unhappily Married in Valencia, and What We Owe Our Lies) by submitting them to rigorous new table-reads, carefully incorporating feedback from previous dramatic readings in the Department of Theater, and ensuring that each facing-page translation strictly adheres to the group’s style guide, which was likewise fine-tuned over the summer. Juan de la Cuesta will also publish these translations, as well as 90 Monologues from Spanish Classical Theater, an anthology for actors who—like UCLA’s MFA students—wish to diversify their corpus by incorporating the comedia, a largely untapped resource in English-speaking theatrical circles.

 

Additional areas of research, collaboration, and outreach focused on undergraduate and K-12 education. Graduate students advanced their partnership with About…Productions, a local theater company, by completing a 12-session high-school level unit on Spanish comedia and Guillén de Castro’s The Force of Habit. This will be published on the Diversifying the Classics website and feature toolkits for exploring the world of early modern Spain as well as current discussions about gender identity, which is the subject of this timely and relevant play.

 

Grant recipients also worked with the UCLA departments of Arts Education and World Arts and Cultures to design a hybrid literature/service-learning course, the syllabus for which is currently under consideration for implementation in the 2017-2018 academic year. In this course, UCLA undergraduates would study early modern comedia alongside modern performance practice and theory, such as Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), and then design complementary curricula to be implemented in local middle schools.

 

A partnership between graduate student grantees and faculty at Cal Poly Pomona resulted in a dramatic reading of The Force of Habit, which will take place on October 1, 2017 as part of this year’s Southern California Shakespeare Festival. This follows a previous co-sponsored event at Cal Poly: a workshop entitled “Diversifying the Classics: Translating for Performance” (held on May 2, 2017), which was attended by approximately one hundred students and faculty and featured presentations and discussions led by Barbara Fuchs and several members of the working group.

 

Graduate students also laid the groundwork for future performances in Los Angeles by establishing contact with companies and performers in Spain and Mexico; built relationships with theater practitioners involved in Encuentro de las Américas, a bilingual festival of arts and culture in which the working group hopes to participate; identified and reached out to faculty from other Southern California campuses whose research and service dialogues with the working group’s; and published several blog posts, ranging from engaging book reviews to inspiring pieces on dramatic forms and drama festivals.

 

Finally, the summer 2017 stipends supported research and preparation for the working group’s next translation, Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s Amar después de la muerte (To Love After Death) (1633). This play was chosen in response to strong interest expressed by Spanish and U.S. theater practitioners in its themes and content—namely, inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict and conciliation. Set during a rebellion in 16th-century Spain, this will be the first tragedy and historical drama translated by the group.

 

We thank the Pine Tree Foundation and its director, Szilvia Szmuk-Tanenbaum, for supporting our mission, our work, and our students—and we look forward to another productive Comedia Summer in 2018!

 

Payton Phillips Quintanilla

 

Ñaque: A Theater at the Margins

A bare stage. Two actors. A tambourine. Such are the essential elements of ñaque, one of the Spanish baroque styles Agustín de Rojas enumerates in El viaje entretenido, his probing reflection on early modern theater. “The ñaque were two men…,” de Rojas explains, “They wore a scraggy beard, and played the tambourine; they lived happily, slept in their clothes, walked barefoot, ate hungrily, and in the cold of winter they did not feel the fleas.” In its austerity, the ñaque seems out of a place in an artistic era more commonly associated with grandeur and ornamentation, an anachronism better suited to a modernist stage. Yet, among its many admirers were Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Francisco de Quevedo, some of the greats of the Spanish Golden Age.

 

Pairs of actors may no longer walk barefoot city to city dragging a chest behind them, but the appeal of the ñaque form endures. Among those contemporary companies deploying the conventions of the ñaque to engage with the audience are Mexico City theater companies EFE Tres and Cabaret Misterio, whose collaborative project was performed at the 42nd annual Siglo de Ora drama festival at the Chamizal National Monument. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henry V, ¿Qué con Quique Quinto? presents the audience with Foca, Zote, and Ariel, traveling actors aboard the Nautilus Cabaret. Among the repertoire of plays they carry is the story of a young Enrique V (Henry V), or Quique for short, who reigns over the Kingdom of Children Everyone Ignores and must face the Kingdom of Censorship. With laughs, live music, and an innovative production, director Andrés Carreño attempts to bring the classics to a younger audience.

 

EFE Tres and Cabaret Misterio, however, are only the most recent companies to bring the ñaque style to Chamizal. Attendees of the 2005 Siglo de Oro festival also saw a play performed in the ñaque style with the production of Seis oficios, a saber. In a two-woman play based on Fernando de Rojas’s La Celestina and Gil Vicente’s Barca do Inferno, director Maritza Wilde and the Bolivian company Teatro Ñaque depict two women who attempt to enter heaven but are denied entry for their previous sins even as others with more severe transgressions are allowed in. Audiences are faced with questions about justice and the disparity in its application.

 

A theater at the margins, a poor theater, the ñaque dispenses with theatrical trappings, allowing the actor’s voice and body to become central to the performance. Ñaque remains timeless because it creates an intimate space out of the auditorium in which contact and exchange between performers and audience is unencumbered. At its core, it is a reflection on the relation between actor and spectator.

 

Rafael Jaime.

Court, Corral, Convent, and Comedia: A Review of Women Playwrights of Early Modern Spain Edited by Nieves Romero-Díaz and Lisa Vollendorf Translated and Annotated by Harley Erdman

English-speaking audiences might be forgiven for believing that the marvelous drama of the Spanish Golden Age was exclusively penned by male playwrights. In a list of twentieth- and twenty-first century productions of the comedia compiled by Kathleen Mountjoy and Duncan Wheeler, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz stands out as the only woman in the illustrious company of such titans as Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, and Miguel de Cervantes. Yet, as the title of this volume makes clear, early modern women in Spain were not only acting onstage, overseeing the theater business as autoras and empresarias, and taking in the spectacle from the cazuela, but also composing complex and intriguing theatrical works.

 

The introduction by Romero-Díaz and Vollendorf provides a context for these stellar translations by depicting the overlapping worlds of the court, the corral, and the cloister. Queen Isabel de Borbón’s regular attendance at theater performances, sponsorship of productions at court, and co-authorship of the 1622 Niquea’s Glory (La gloria de Niquea) may have been the most public female participation in the theater world—she was even rumored to have set mice loose in the cazuela to frighten women spectators, thus creating a play-within-a-play—but in the quiet space of the convent, literary production was also common. The fame of Teresa de Ávila as a popular author-saint led to increased educational opportunities for women, who wrote from, and often for, their own enclosed religious communities. This traffic between secular and sacred spaces, and the relationship between art and early modern Spanish society, can be glimpsed in stories like that of the famous actress La Baltasara, who claimed God had spoken to her during a performance, and answered his call by joining a religious order. That onstage conversion was in turn replayed in future theatrical performances.

 

The plays included here, by Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán, Ana Caro Mallén, and Sor Marcela de San Félix, reflect and comment on their society. In the First Interlude from her Tragicomedy of the Sheban Gardens and Fields (Tragicomedia de los jardines y campos sabeos), published in 1624, Guzmán’s characters are deformed parodies of mythological figures, who compete for the hand of the three “moldy” graces. In the end, all six suitors marry all three graces, in a conclusion where bigamy is the solution for physical desire and social propriety dissolves in a bawdy comic romp. Explicit sexual transgression, obviously forbidden in Guzmán’s seventeenth-century Seville, becomes possible on the stage. One suitor remarks, in Erdman’s fine rendering of the Spanish wordplay, “I accept the slouching sentence of this raucous caucus of Bacchus” (45). One may imagine that Guzmán’s audiences felt the same.

 

The life of Sor Marcela, illegitimate daughter of Lope de Vega and the actress Micaela Luján, and author of five volumes of literary works in addition to secular and religious drama, would make a good play on its own. Included here are four of her loas, which are short pieces designed to be performed as prologues to longer works, and an allegorical coloquio in which the female figures of Soul, Peace, and Sincerity must rein in the aggressive violence of masculine Zeal. Sor Marcela’s wit is most evident in the loas, which she may have both written and performed for her convent audience. The short piece Erdman titles “The Hungry Scholar” consists of a monologue in which the titular scholar wishes to trade a loa to a convent for food. A nun instructs him, “Give us a loa so utterly perfect, / so absolutely free from error, / that it surpasses in every way / the work of the great Lope de Vega!” (202). The continual references to hunger suggest the hardship of life, but a reader of this volume may also imagine the delight of Sor Marcela’s convent audience in response to her self-referential humor.

 

The sole play included in its entirety is Ana Caro’s Count Partinuplés, which draws from a medieval romance but places the lady Rosaura, rather than the Count, in the role of protagonist. Caro, born in Granada to a Morisco slave family in the late sixteenth century, would go on to become to only female playwright who we know was paid for her work. In Partinuplés, echoes of works from Lope, Calderón, Shakespeare, and Caro’s medieval source combine in a carnivalesque atmosphere of magic and spectacle, rich with nods and winks to the audience. When Gaulín, comic sidekick to the Count, realizes that he will be the only one unmarried at the end of the play, he says, “Here I am, the unhappy lackey, / who sees where this farce is headed / but has no lady to whom to declare / lovey-dovey words of passion. / The playwright, she’s made a big mistake. / May all of you forgive her!” (91). Erdman points out that “the playwright” (la poeta) is specified by Caro in the original as feminine.

 

In a note on the translations, Erdman expresses the need to consider both the contemporary reader and the original context of these works. He writes, “These plays come from a time and culture other than our own, and often take up non-normative positions (thematically and linguistically) even for their times. These translations therefore ask the reader to make the journey to another world—or at least to meet these works halfway” (28). In Women Playwrights of Early Modern Spain, Erdman, and the editors Romero-Díaz and Vollendorf, give readers a chance to take that journey, and to experience the social commentary and comic sensibilities of previously untranslated works. As Anglophone scholars, theater professionals, and audiences continue to look to the rich and complex drama of the Spanish Golden Age, this collection helps diversify the voices we may find there. Beyond being a delightful read on every one of its pages, the anthology allows us to go not just beyond Shakespeare, but beyond Lope as well.

 

Robin Kello.