1 SONIDO Y SENTIDO EN ESCENA: EL PAPEL DE LA MÚSICA EN LA COMEDIA ESPAÑOLA DEL SIGLO DE ORO Y EL TEATRO POLÍTICO LATINOAMERICANO DE LA SEGUNDA MITAD DEL SIGLO XX by Martha Beatriz Bátiz Zuk A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Spanish and Portuguese University of Toronto Copyright by Martha Beatriz Bátiz Zuk 2011
2 ii SONIDO Y SENTIDO EN ESCENA: EL PAPEL DE LA MÚSICA EN LA COMEDIA ESPAÑOLA DEL SIGLO DE ORO Y EL TEATRO POLÍTICO LATINOAMERICANO DE LA SEGUNDA MITAD DEL SIGLO XX Doctor of Philosophy 2011 Martha Beatriz Bátiz Zuk Department of Spanish and Portuguese University of Toronto SHORT ABSTRACT The academic analysis of drama often tends to privilege the written word over those sensory elements that are such critical aspects of live theatre. Rhythm, music, dialect, and silence all these auditory features contribute significantly to the impact and meaning of a play, and they allow playwrights together with the actors and stage directors who realize their dramatic visions to convey political messages and address specific political issues without having to necessarily state them overtly within the dialogue. As Augusto Boal stated in his Theatre of the Oppressed, drama is a weapon to fight against oppressive regimes. Thus this dissertation analyzes the role of the senses especially those related to hearing in developing the themes and intentions of political plays from Latin America and Spain. The aim is to explore how this has or has not changed throughout the centuries, with the ultimate objective of finding common musical and sensory elements, as well as possible affinities in the use of auditory features, to further enable a deeper understanding of how theatre is different from other literary genres.
3 iii To facilitate the analysis, this dissertation explores a total of six dramas: three Latin American political plays written in the second half of the 20 th century and three Early Modern Spanish comedias that depict political scenes or themes. These plays are treated by pairs in each chapter and analyzed according to their use of auditory features in concert with written stage directions and dialogue as a means to reflect or denounce social problems pertaining to the different historical periods in which the plays were initially staged. Specifically, the dramatic pairings are as follows: Chapter 1: Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman (1991) The Mayor of Zalamea by Pedro Calderón de la Barca (ca.1640) Chapter 2: Information for Foreigners, by Griselda Gambaro (1971) Fuenteovejuna, by Lope de Vega (ca.1610) Chapter 3: The Extentionist, by Felipe Santander (1978) Cruelty for Honour, by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (ca ). Each play is analyzed according to the theoretical frames that better serve its specific needs and particularities. However, the theories of Giorgio Agamben, Augusto Boal, José Antonio Maravall, Angel Rama, Walter Ong, and especially Bertolt Brecht, form the spinal chord that sustain this study and tie the three chapters to one another. The attention given to each one of these critics and their theories is explained in each chapter s introduction. As the conclusions show, these plays rely on sensory, linguistic and musical elements to denounce social and political problems of their time, and to try to move their different audiences towards reflection or action, in order to improve the society in which they lived.
4 iv SOUND AND SENSE ON THE STAGE: THE ROLE OF MUSIC IN THE EARLY MODERN SPANISH COMEDIA AND MODERN LATIN AMERICAN POLITICAL THEATRE Doctor of Philosophy 2010 Martha Beatriz Bátiz Zuk Department of Spanish and Portuguese University of Toronto LONG ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION The academic analysis of drama often tends to privilege the written word over those sensory elements that are such critical aspects of live theatre. Rhythm, music, dialect, and silence all these auditory features contribute significantly to the impact and meaning of a play, and they allow playwrights together with the actors and stage directors who realize their dramatic visions to convey political messages and address specific political issues without having to necessarily state them overtly within the dialogue. As Augusto Boal stated in the introduction to his Theatre of the Oppressed, drama is a weapon to fight against oppressive regimes (IX). Thus this dissertation analyzes the role of the senses especially those related to hearing in developing the themes and intentions of political plays from Latin America and Spain. The aim is to explore how this has or has not changed throughout the centuries, with the ultimate objective of finding common musical and sensory elements, as well as possible affinities in the use of auditory features, to further enable a deeper understanding of how theatre is different from other literary genres.
5 v To facilitate the analysis, my dissertation explores a total of six dramas: three Latin American political plays written in the second half of the 20 th century and three Early Modern Spanish comedias that depict political scenes or themes. These plays are treated by pairs in each chapter and analyzed according to their use of auditory features in concert with written stage directions and dialogue as a means to reflect or denounce social problems pertaining to the different historical periods in which the plays were initially staged. Specifically, the dramatic pairings are as follows: Chapter 1: Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman (1991) The Mayor of Zalamea by Pedro Calderón de la Barca (ca.1640) Chapter 2: Information for Foreigners, by Griselda Gambaro (1971) Fuenteovejuna, by Lope de Vega (ca.1610) Chapter 3: The Extentionist, by Felipe Santander (1978) Cruelty for Honour, by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (ca ). Each play is analyzed according to the theoretical works that better serve its specific needs and particularities. However, the theories of Giorgio Agamben, Augusto Boal, José Antonio Maravall, Angel Rama, Walter Ong, and especially Bertolt Brecht, form the spinal chord that sustain this study and tie the three chapters to one another. The attention given to each one of these critics and their theories is explained in each chapter s introduction. Modern Latin American theatre, as stated by Diana Taylor, remains a relatively marginal activity, notwithstanding the dramatic rise in the quantity and quality of the plays produced since the late 1950s (12). She explains that theatre has received less critical attention than the narrative and poetic genres, adding that in Latin America plays
6 vi have been underproduced, underpublished and understudied for several reasons. For one, the dramatic texts were eclipsed by a simultaneous boom in the novel (12). Another problem that Latin American theatre continues to face is the lack of appropriate infrastructure. Most theatres don t have the necessary resources neither technical nor financial to produce as many plays as are written, or to give the available ones the necessary publicity to attract a broader audience to their halls. Prestigious continental and international theatrical festivals have been cut short or cancelled because of either lack of funding or political censorship, or both. There is no formal registry of plays written and staged in most Latin American countries. The only archival resources available are newspaper reviews, which sometimes focus more on who attended the play s opening night rather than on information the performance itself and how it was received. This situation leaves Modern Latin American theatre in a vacuum very similar to Early Modern Spanish theatre, for which there is little information available as to production and staging. Consider, for example, that the comedias were presented during daytime. Consequently, playwrights had to state within the dialogues whether the action was taking place during day or night. Added to this, the scenery was painted on simple pieces of fabric and, in spite of there being an effort to clothe the actors in lavish costumes when appropriate, the mis-en-scènes were visually humble. As a consequence, there was a need to privilege the aural senses. What the audience could not always see, they could hear either by having it sung or described to them in a speech. Walter Ong explains why this is relevant: Sight isolates, sound incorporates. Whereas sight situates the observer outside what he views, at a distance, sound pours into the hearer. Vision comes to a
7 vii human being from one direction at a time: to look at a room or landscape, I must move my eyes around from one part to another. When I hear, however, I gather sound simultaneously from every direction at once: I am at the center of my auditory world, which envelopes me. (72) Before advancing any further, it is important to acknowledge that not all the Modern Latin American plays and comedias paired up for analysis are known to the English-speaking audience. In order of rendering this abstract more accessible to the English-speaking reader, I have summarized the key elements in the plays plots. CHAPTER ONE Ariel Dorfman wrote Death and the Maiden upon his return to Chile after the fall of Pinochet s dictatorship in It portrays the story of Paulina Salas, who was raped during the dictatorship by a doctor who played Schubert s Death and the Maiden quartet in the torture chamber, after she had been attacked with the picana (a baton used to penetrate her and through which she was administered electric shocks). Paulina is married to Gerardo Escobar, who is newly appointed by the recently elected democratic president of Chile to head the official commission which will lead the investigation of the military crimes that ended up in death. (It should be noted that such a commission did exist at the time the play was written: the Rettig Commission after the person in charge of it. In real life, as well as in fiction, this commission ignored thousands of other victims who did not die. This was a problem which Dorfman wanted to address, inviting everyone to work together towards reconciliation. The action begins when Gerardo arrives at their seaside cottage in a stranger s car. Paulina recognizes the voice of the man who brings her husband home. It is the same
8 viii doctor who abused her years ago. Knowing all too well that she has no chance of filing a case in court, she seizes her opportunity to seek justice, even if it must be by her own hand. What unfolds after that is a conflict through which Dorfman strived to touch the emotional, but also the rational chords of the Chilean audience. However, it did not work out the way he wanted. The play was written originally in English, and published in this language in 1991, a few months after its first reading in London, England. It opened its first run in Santiago, Chile, in March 1991, before its opening night in London s West End in July, and it was published in While in England it was almost an instant hit (and it went on to become a successful Broadway play, a Hollywood movie, and the most staged Latin American text in Germany), in Chile both the critics and the audience reacted harshly to it. In my dissertation I not only pay attention to the relevance of the music chosen by Dorfman to name the play and define Paulina s identity (as I will later on explain), I also researched why the reaction of the Chilean audience was so different to the reaction of other audiences worldwide. Research revealed that during Pinochet s dictatorship, actors, playwrights and directors faced great hardship in order to stage their plays. The government taxed cultural activities and gave little subsidies, and the military regime kept a close watch on all texts that were produced. Many brave artists dared to openly criticize the regime, and they paid with their lives. Pinochet, however, pretended to give certain liberties to the theatre and its people, because he considered a theatrical audience for a non-commercial play was never too big (and therefore not dangerous to the nation s stability, either). Doing so allowed him to pretend that his people enjoyed a certain degree of freedom that could be proven and which made him look good in the eyes of international critics. In the end, the
9 ix situation came to a critical point, when a public threat was made against the lives of almost one hundred actors in Chile, unless they left the country by a set date (end of November 1989). Dorfman, as an exiled Chilean writer and chair of PEN International, asked Christopher Reeve, who worked on behalf of Amnesty International, to fly to Santiago to protect them. Other well-known Hollywood actors faxed Pinochet stating their disapproval of this death threat. Ultimately, Reeve not only lead a protest march, but stayed until after the date set by the threat, to make sure that all the people in the list were alive. This, of course, was done in a very discreet way at the time, and there are no local newspaper accounts of it in Chile. I learned of this through Dorfman s leading actress, Maria Elena Duvauchelle, for whom he wrote Death and the Maiden. She had been actively taking part in plays that denounced the dictatorship s brutality. In a personal interview, she told me Superman had saved her life. Understandably, after such stress, once the dictatorship was over, people wanted a fresh start. Dorfman s play, with its linear almost dated structure and realistic approach, and what they perceived as a privileged foreigner s vision, did not appeal to them. Just like Paulina, for having survived, had no right for reparation or justice according to the new democratic regime, Dorfman was seen as having no right to talk about what had transpired in Chile during the Pinochet regime. He was seen as an outsider; locals criticized him because he had been in exile, living in comfort and safety in the United States. A critical feature of this play is the use that Dorfman gives to Schubert s quartet. It links the characters in many ways: they have the same socio-economic background. Music lovers know, as David Schroeder explains, that Schubert lived in what amounted to a police state in Emperor Franz s Vienna of the first few decades of the 19 th Century,
10 x and he reacted against that in both his behaviour and his works (2). In my dissertation I highlight the fact that Schubert s chamber music becomes, in Dorfman s play, torture chamber music, hence music is undone, in the way Elaine Scarry refers to in The Body in Pain. It is no longer a beautiful form of art, but a weapon that is used against Paulina to inflict pain. After this traumatic experience, and because Death and the Maiden had been Paulina s favourite piece of music, she withdrew into a Schubertless world. Such a world demanded silence, so she didn t speak out about what had happened to her either. When she faced the doctor who had tortured her, however, she decided to recover Schubert and with him, her own voice and her own identity by denouncing what she had endured. At the end of the play, Dorfman makes use of a powerful Brechtian element a huge mirror that descends on stage so that the people in the audience can look at themselves and realize they are a part of the conflict and must do something about it. These Brechtian elements are popular among Latin American playwrights when they wish to denounce a particularly difficult political situation, because Brecht strove to bring attention to such matters in a way that forced the audience not only to feel pity and sorrow for the characters, but also to rationalize what they were seeing on stage. Brecht strove to educate his audience. Indeed, in each of the Latin American plays analyzed in my dissertation, there is constant evidence of Brechtian elements and theories to communicate a political message and create a more educated, politically engaged and responsible audience. As a counterpoint to Dorfman s Death and the Maiden, I analyze El alcalde de Zalamea (The Mayor of Zalamea), by Calderón de la Barca. This play was written ca.
11 xi 1640 (Kamen 405), the same year that Portugal ceased to politically belong to Spain. The play is linked to the war against Portugal, and this violence is in turn transported to the intimate, familiar sphere of the people of Zalamea, particularly Pedro Crespo s family. Zalamea is a small village to which a group of soldiers arrive on their way to the front, where they will fight against Portugal. The Captain hears that Crespo s daughter, Isabel, is very pretty, but since she hides in her room in order not to be seen, he has to concoct a plan to meet her. Lying, he forces his way into her home. The physical violation of her domestic space anticipates the physical violation of her body. Both violations are announced by music. The action of the play opens with a song that the soldiers are singing Calderón uses popular songs throughout the play, a jácara. Louise Stein explains: Through a poetic language derived from street slang, 17 th Century poets such as Cervantes, Quevedo and Calderón invented an imaginary world of jácara lowlife that had a roughly verisimilar mode of expression and called for a similarly rough, untamed and realistic mode of musical performance, dominated without a doubt by the improvised strumming of guitars and other such instruments (662). The jácara the soldiers sing at the beginning of the play warns Zalamea that violence is coming its way, and a serenade played later on by Isabel s window announces she will be the victim of violence (the Captain later kidnaps and rapes her). Music pollutes the silence that had permeated the village before the arrival of the troops; when its threat comes true, as stated by James Burke, it is clear that music is capable of producing a real effect upon people and upon things (84).
12 xii Music accompanies the action in both in The Mayor of Zalamea and Death and the Maiden. It becomes an agent of pain for Paulina, and a warning of imminent danger for Isabel. In the beginning, none of them can defend themselves. For both, music is dangerous when it is under the control of male figures (the doctor in the torture chamber; the Captain). While Paulina manages to set herself free from the past and reclaim her identity, Isabel s only exit is to rebuild herself within the walls of a convent, and let her father avenge her honour. In the end, order is restored in both plays, but the main female characters have suffered through a deep transformation that has been accompanied by musical moments as well as by other stimuli, which touch the spectator/reader to make his/her experience emotionally and rationally engaging. What both playwrights attempted in these plays, from very different epochs and places, was to portray on stage those situations which preoccupied them and which they wanted to address in a critical way, in order to have the audience understand the political and social challenges of their time. José Antonio Maravall has said that the comedias sought to keep the established order a stagnant medieval society supportive of the Catholic monarchy and its members. There was a need to prevent people from trying to rebel against their rulers and enjoy the newly found social mobility that the Renaissance offered. While I believe he is right and this might have been the case, I contend that playwrights, knowing that their work was going to be seen by citizens from all social strata, seized the opportunity to address the issue of abuse of power. That way, while those members of the lower classes might receive a message of passivity, those in power could see the negative effect that their abuse could have on their people, and choose to heed the lesson portrayed onstage, too. Calderón was particularly sensitive regarding the
13 xiii situation of women s powerlessness. His compassionate portrayal of Isabel is in line with this concern. As for Paulina, she is a metaphor for Chile, and what Dorfman believed to be its need to achieve reconciliation and forgiveness. Throughout this first chapter of my dissertation, I focus on the powerful symbolisms attached to these two female characters, linking them to the fact that their fate is sealed by music. CHAPTER TWO In this chapter I analyzed Information for Foreigners, by Griselda Gambaro, and Fuenteovejuna, by Lope de Vega. Gambaro s play is problematic to describe because, as Diana Taylor states, it has no plot, no logical conflict in dramatic terminology, no climax, no resolutions, no characters in any psychological sense simply fragmented scenes and a series of roles (170). It consists of twenty scenes which she wrote in 1971, five years before the most brutal military regime began its ruling in Argentina. The play depicts the atmosphere of oppression, violence and danger that people were facing already (Argentina was under three different dictatorships in a short period of time: Onganía s from , Levingston s from , and Lanusse s from ). Gambaro s characters are divided into two categories: oppressors and oppressed. The action takes place in a (dark or badly illuminated) house, not a standard theatre. The audience is divided into groups, supervised by guides, and taken for a tour of the house. Gambaro s premise is that Argentinean people did not know or did not want to acknowledge that Argentina was going through a phase of horror. Therefore, she had to walk them along like tourists in their own country, to show them what was transpiring. In every room the audience visits, they witness different degrees of abuse or brutality. They are even invited to participate, although it s the company s actors who
14 xiv always volunteer to take part pretending they belong to the audience, so that nobody is forced to do anything against their will (which Gambaro states is an indispensable requirement of the play). The audience is never anonymous everyone can be seen and it s impossible to hide from what is being shown. During the dictatorship of , people were held, tortured and sometimes killed in illegal detention centres that were hidden in private house settings. Horror took place behind the façade of normality. Gambaro foresaw it in Information for Foreigners, although it was never staged in Argentina until many years later, first because it couldn t be it was way too dangerous, and Gambaro was in exile herself from 1977 until 1982, and later because she thought the text was too sad, too depressing and too difficult to digest to be staged in her own country. The play actually opened its first run in Mexico City in 1992, and was only staged in Argentina fifteen years later, in the province of Buenos Aires, but not in the city of Buenos Aires. It has been read out loud in Europe and the United States. In a personal interview, Gambaro informed me that prior to the play s publication in Spanish, she tried to perk it up with more songs and rhymes, to make it more accessible, because she thought the play would be too close to the (Argentine) readers, and she wanted them to take some distance. This distance is nothing but the socalled Verfremdungseffekt, a Brechtian resource used in order to facilitate the educating process the further away from the action the audience is emotionally, the better they can analyze what the actors are showing, understand it and do something about it, rationally. This play is very akin to Brecht s Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, in that it foresees what is coming for an entire people to suffer, and tries to give a warning. Like Gambaro s play, Brecht s was never staged in Germany before the Second World War began; from
15 xv exile, both authours sought to bring attention to their fears, and condemnation for the regimes that threatened their countries. Institutions originally created to protect humanity were transformed into agents of pain (like music in Death and the Maiden) and made into weapons, or unsafe resources: Gambaro s characters show police, lawyers, doctors and even teachers are not to be trusted anymore. As Selena Burns states, the play reads more like a tour through a haunted house than a stage play (38). Music and poetry are present throughout the tour, but other stimuli are also a very important part of the performance: screaming, yelling, beatings, even the kidnapping and disappearing of (supposed) members of the audience. The rooms are suddenly in complete darkness, and the audience must continue the tour up or down the house and its corridors with the sole help of the guide s nightlight. The only character the audience encounters more than once is a young girl who is being tortured by drowning. She is offered a gun to kill herself and end her misery, but she desperately wants to live. In the end, when the audience is startled by a gunshot, they are left with the doubt of whether she has committed suicide or finally been murdered. The play is conceived as an assault on the audience s senses, in too complex a way for me to summarize here. It is a text that denounces what was going on in Argentina at the time it was written, and which makes no effort in covering it up, even though a poem by Juan Gelman (whose son and daughter-in-love disappeared during the dictatorship, and whose grandchild was given up illegally for adoption to a military couple, something all to frequent in those days), which Gambaro later inserted in the play, provides a nostalgic and sad impasse to the unrelenting violence happening everywhere in the house.
16 xvi The counterpoint to Gambaro s play is Lope de Vega s Fuenteovejuna, because like the people in Argentina, the people in this small village in Early Modern Spain were brutalized and abused by their government. Fuenteovejuna is probably Lope s best known play, written at the beginning of the 17 th Century (ca ). It depicts the abuse suffered by the entire village under the Comendador, who does not recognize the peasants as honourable people, and likes to pursue their young girls and dishonour them. The plot was inspired by actual events that took place in 1476 and were narrated in the so-called Crónica de Rades, published in Catherine Larson explains: In the case of both Rades y Andrada s Chronica and Lope s Fuenteovejuna, history is filtered through the controlling hand of a writer, who adds, deletes, and generally amends elements of pre-existing interpretations (113). The three acts of the play feature a relevant song each, which accompanies the action. In the first act, the peasants welcome back the Comendador from his battle against the Moors (which in reality is a battle against Christians, because he is a traitor to the Catholic Monarch s rule) with offerings of their crops and animals. He neglects to show any gratitude for these gifts, and does not share them in a banquet, as was customary. The peasants song s objective is peace, and the establishing of a harmonic relationship between them and their feudal Lord but, ironically, the lyrics show contempt and lack of respect towards the Comendador comparing him to a bad poet, for example. In the second act, a song takes place around the main female character, Laurencia, on her wedding day. The people of Fuenteovejuna are celebrating the newlyweds when the Comendador comes back into town and, because he had been turned down by Laurencia before, and gotten into a fight with her then fiancé and now husband, he has him arrested
17 xvii and her taken into his house. There is nothing the villagers can do to protect them, and thus the marriage ceremony is not only interrupted but ends up on a very sad note. Songs in Fuenteovejuna play a very important role because they unite the peasants and, at the same time, they increase the suspense of what is going to happen next or rather, how events will evolve later on. The songs are accompanied by dance, and at that point both visual and lyrical aspects blend their forces to build a spectacle that pleases both eyes and ears. Each one of the three main musical moments are relevant at the symbolic, lyrical and visual levels; they complement the plot and make the action go forward. In the third act, the people get together to pass judgement on the Comendador and make justice by their own hands. The girl he has kidnapped on her wedding day, Laurencia, a local prominent man s daughter. Much is the same way as in Calderón s play, where Pedro Crespo is humiliated by his daughter s rape and must avenge his wounded honour, in Lope s play the entire village s honour has been wounded. When Laurencia is kidnapped and her newly-wedded husband incarcerated, the villagers decide they must take action. Laurencia escapes the Comendador s house and goes to the house where the men are meeting. Because of what was done to her (it is never specified whether the Comendador raped her, but he has certainly tried), not even her father recognizes her as she walks in. In the end, she convinces them to finally break the feudal vow of loyalty and fight against their Lord. Since he has not been loyal to them, they stop being loyal to him. The language chosen by Lope de Vega is particularly symbolic throughout the play. Female characters are referred to in terms of meat that ought to be enjoyed, or prized prey that ought to be haunted.
18 xviii In response to the verbal and physical violence the villagers have suffered, Mercedes Camino explains that they literally butcher him and, in a reciprocal move, they break him into pieces of meat ready to be eaten: tajadas. With his blood they feed their appetite for revenge in a scene that is, in the original chronicle, gory enough to repel most audiences (390). After partaking in the metaphoric banquet in which the Comendador is the main dish, the village is again united in song, praising the Catholic Monarchs who come to restore order to the town. In spite of having been tortured by the pesquisidor, who arrived shortly before King Fernando and Queen Isabel, in order to try and find out who the real killer was, they have all stayed true to their unity and answered the same thing: it was Fuenteovejuna who murdered the Comendador. In the end, the monarchs are forced to grant them their pardon, and harmony is restored. I affirm in my dissertation that this ending is the only logical one after an entire village has behaved like a perfect choir, singing together and even killing together. Both Information for Foreigners and Fuenteovejuna portray very open and clear discourses against violence, specifically against oppression and abuse of power. Both plays rely on the strength of language, together with the images it creates, to move the spectators and to denounce an urgent situation. Lope s play has been, since its first staging, representative of protests against politically oppressive and abusive regimes. In Pinochet s Chile, for example, it was staged only once, under the excuse that it was a historically relevant play that students needed to see. In Argentina, during the last period of the dictatorship ( ) it was never staged. Both plays analyzed in this chapter were written as a response and as a way of criticizing the historical and political moment in which they were written, and both rely
19 xix deeply on music and sounds to convey their message and show the horrific consequences of oppression, abuse of power and violence. CHAPTER THREE The two plays analyzed in this chapter are El extensionista (The extentionist) by Felipe Santander, and La crueldad por el honor (Cruelty for Honour), by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón. Santander was an agronomical engineer who started writing plays in order to bring attention to the situation of the Mexican peasants in the late 1970s. While the government s rhetoric was one of progress, actively promoting the growth of infrastructure and resources in the cities, the needs of the people in the farming fields were being neglected; the peasants themselves abused and exploited. The leading character of the play, called Cruz López, is the extentionist: a newly graduated agronomical engineer whose job is to extend his technical and scientific knowledge to the farmers, in order to help them improve their crops. Because he comes from an urban setting, Cruz is not familiar with the farmers ways and customs, and is not welcomed. Very naively he tries to fulfill his obligations, but is frustrated by the peasants lack of cooperation, and the authorities constant abuse and illegal ways. He eventually falls in love with the daughter of the peasants leader, Manuela, the only literate woman in town, and together they try to start a revolt to overthrow the cacique and the mayor. These petty tyrants, however, are much more experienced in political matters and have the police under their orders. That s how Cruz and his new father-in-law are arrested during the wedding celebrations (pretty much like in Lope s Fuenteovejuna), and are shot in the back on their way to jail (that way it can be said they were killed while trying to escape).
20 xx If the other two Latin American plays analyzed in my dissertation have a clear use of Brechtian elements and techniques, El extensionista is the one that makes use of them from beginning to end, blending them with Augusto Boal s teachings. The result was a powerful mis-en-scène which stayed on stage in Mexico City for ten years after it opened up its run in The play begins with a scene where the peasants are discussing what steps they should take after Cruz and Benito, Manuela s father, have been arrested. Manuela is insisting that they stand up in arms and fight to set them free, but all action is stopped when they are informed that the two prisoners have been killed. There is a narrator who interrupts the play right then, and the actors freeze in their positions. The narrator explains to the audience that the story will go back to its beginning, so that everyone can find out how they came to this critical point in the story. They are required, however, when they reach this point of the story again, to suggest new and different endings, which will be discussed with the actors and director of the play. The performers and the audience are to engage in an active dialogue. Boal s Theatre of the Oppressed was used with the same purpose in Brazil (and elsewhere): the company portrayed a certain problem on stage and then asked the audience for solutions that could be tried out. Boal s theory was that, if the changes worked on stage, they could work in real life, too. This is how he created Legislative Theatre, through which he managed to change laws in Brazil, in order to favour the poorest people. In Mexico, The extentionist did not have the success that Boal s theatre had in Brazil, but it was the first play that attempted to produce real social change stemming from the staging of a play. The character of the narrator is an absolute Brechtian element, because his appearance breaks the illusion of fiction and forces the audience to reflect upon what is
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