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CHAMIZAL '87 CHARLES GANELIN Purdue University One of the joys of being a comediante today is the Siglo de Oro Theatre Festival held annually in El Paso, Texas, at El Chamizal National Memorial. Every March we see unfold before us interpretations, controversial or otherwise, of comedias whose study is too often left to strictly "textual" interpretation, or even of worthy plays that have seen little critical appraisal past or present (for instance, Lope's La vengadora de las mujeres) . I review the 1987 festival from the privileged position of having led the post-production Mesa Redonda (an honor shared with Maritza Wilde, director of the Taller de Teatro del Instituto Boliviano de Teatro). My experiences this year in particular have taught me that I have much to learn about the practice of the comedia. Two last-minute cancellations from Spain, Zampano and Teatro Lara, point to the general problems suffered by the arts these days. The travel funds for the Spanish acting companies depend upon funding from the Comité Conjunto (a joint American-Spanish committee that promotes, among other programs, cultural exchanges); at present, the subventions depend on the renewal of a treaty between the United States and Spain regarding American military bases in Spanish territory. A speedy resolution to these problems will allow these and other excellent companies to resume their American tours. Without the two professional Spanish troupes, the quality of the festival was less even, but two professional groups (from Mexico City and Caracas) and hard-working non-professional ones made up the deficit. Though the number of com281 282BCom, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Winter 1 987) panies in attendance was down, the overall attendance increased because of performances given in Ciudad Juárez the night after each performance at El Chamizal. La vengadora de las mujeres The Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Ciudad de Chihuahua, opened the festival March 6 with La vengadora de las mujeres, one of Lope's many fine but unheralded plays. The group had spent less than a year together, and none of the members are actors by profession, two facts that mitigate the weak performance. Evelia Bertha Baldemar Bencomo , who portrayed Laura, a self-proclaimed avenger of women, at first was uncomfortable on stage but slowly found a rhythm . Until she did so, her vendetta against men proved unconvincing. She was hampered by her (mis)handling of a halberd ever by her side and which, one is led to believe, both stood for her desire to right the wrongs committed by men against women and warded off any potential suitors. The actors seemed uncomfortable with the unusual props on the sparse stage; at times neither audience nor actor could discern a purpose for them. A couple of lively portrayals did communicate hints of Lope's humor . In his effort to win Laura's hand, Julio (Pedro Hugo Codina) becomes the target of fellow suitor Alejandro, whose use of an "hechizo" backfires and results in Julio's falling madly in love with Alejandro. Codina carried out his part with grace and assumed just the necessary touch of effeminate behavior to be convincing. The strongest point of the performance, however, was not to be found in the principals, but in the silent background play of the servants, including "requiebros" between man and woman, the man's wandering to a second object of affection , a battle between the two servant women over him, and finally reconciliation . Good timing and excellent mime provided an appropriate counterbalance to the play's main theme. El examen de maridos The following night's superb performance of Ruiz de Alarcón's El examen de maridos by the professionals of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, under the direction of Germán Castillo, surprised and delighted the audience with its entirely female cast. Lilia Ganelin283 Aragón, the well-known Mexican actress, rendered a gallant and believable Conde Carlos, as did Marta Aura as Marqués Don Fadrique; at times, though, Evelyn Solares as the confidant Beltrán stole the show with her/his eloquence and comic timing. From the start this production remained faithful to the text at the same time that the troupe revealed the...


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