- El valiente negro en Flandes: Edición para actores y directores
Given that Claramonte's play has received substantial critical attention in recent years, no doubt at least in part due to how its treatment of race invites critical engagement through the lens of postcolonial theory, the arrival of a new and accessible edition of El valiente negro en Flandes (henceforth VNF) is long overdue. As its subtitle indicates, López's edition does not explicitly target Comedia scholars and thus cannot be fairly assessed by the same standards with which one might review a more traditional critical edition of a comedia. The editor's aim is, in fact, far more ambitious, as he readily admits throughout his preface and introductory chapter: it is to present a comedia to an audience of theater practitioners in an effort to compensate for the oft-lamented lack of a formal performance tradition of classical Spanish drama commensurate with those of early modern English and French theaters. Hence, while more a "dramaturgical" than a critical edition, López's work will be of great service to teachers of the Comedia seeking support in their efforts to incorporate performance into their classrooms. Due to my own professional limits as an actor or director, I will not assess its value for the formal practice of theater.
In his preface and fifty-five-page introductory essay, López discusses the rationale behind his approach (to fill a void in existing published editions of comedias, which in his view privilege the theory over the practice of theater), basic information regarding the historical and theatrical context of the play, the performance theory informing his presentation of it, and a brief analysis of VNF and of Claramonte's biography. The scholar/reader is reminded frequently that this material does not constitute a critical study meant to advance existing scholarship on the play or playwright, but rather an approach to these subjects that will be accessible to actors and directors unfamiliar with Comedia scholarship. It is a disclaimer that is well taken, as the "vida y obras" approach does not yield a theoretically current reading of the play. It may, however, provide a solid point of departure for students whose professors can supplement López's essay with the more critically rigorous studies published in the last two decades. [End Page 145]
This innovative edition presents Claramonte's play with a facing text of commentary and analysis meant to guide a staging of the play, including a chart listing the following technical aspects of performance: Sonido, Luces, Movimiento físico, and Acción interna. The majority of the annotations focus on the latter two categories, with lighting and sound generally posited at the beginning of each cuadro. Beyond their potential usefulness for actors and directors (about which this reviewer is not qualified to speak), these interpretive and descriptive guidelines for staging can help students visualize the staged spectacle whose guión they are reading. While perhaps lacking the analytical and theoretical rigor that one might expect of a more traditional critical edition, the footnotes glossing the text of the play itself are effective aides in bridging the disciplinary, linguistic, and contextual distance between the contemporary (and nonscholarly) reader and Claramonte. The scholarship that has intensified over the last two decades promoting the reading of comedias as "playscripts" (originally written to be performed rather than read)—scholarship duly noted in his introductory essay—seems to be taken to heart by López.
The book concludes with a glossary of terms and a number of appendices directed toward theater practitioners, written in the same spirit as the introductory material preceding the Claramonte text. As with many works that attempt to break new ground, this edition and study of VNF runs the risk (disclaimers aside) of attempting to do too much at the expense of doing any single thing particularly well. In attempting to treat both theory and practice, opportunities may be missed to productively place the former at the service of the latter...