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  • 2010 Siglo de Oro Drama Festival, Chamizal
  • Anna-Lisa Halling

The 2010 Siglo de Oro Spanish Drama Festival, held at the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, TX, featured theater groups from Spain, Mexico, and the United States, which performed works in both Spanish and English. These troupes, consisting of both professional actors and theater students, offered a range of spectacle, from several full-length Golden Age plays, both in the original language and in translation, to a collection of scenes from several different comedias. The festival, which ran from March 3 to March 7, intrigued and entertained theatergoers while actively promoting an appreciation of early modern Spanish drama. The five reviews that follow reflect a variety of viewpoints of the plays presented, thus mirroring, hopefully, the experience of attending a festival that presents its audiences with unique and enjoyable performances.

  • Entre clásicos anda el juego
  • Jason Yancey

The opening performance at the 2010 Siglo de Oro Drama Festival, held on March 3 and hosted by El Paso's Chamizal National Memorial, introduced the series with a tone of reverence and formality that paid homage to five of the great playwrights from the Spanish Golden Age. Hailing from Murcia, Spain, the troupe from the Escuela Superior de Arte Drámatico, under the direction of Francisco José García Vicente, presented a collection of vignettes from twelve comedias, with introductions and biographical sketches provided by an onstage narrator. The working title of the piece, Entre clásicos anda el juego, reimagined the title of a play by Francisco Rojas Zorrilla, Entre bobos anda el juego, and indeed a spirit of classic theater supplanted foolishness as the dominant theme of the evening. This shift in dramatic emphasis may have educated the audience with its anthology-like theatrical sampling, but the performance's lukewarm reception betrayed a sense of underwhelmed enjoyment of the experience.

In an effort to place language at the center of the performance, the group greatly reduced any visual component that may have distracted the audience from focusing on the text. The seven male actors (played by Ricardo Arqueros, [End Page 155] Vicen Morales, José Denia, Francisco San Martín, and Francisco José García Vicente) each wore plain black slacks, black shoes, and white dress shirts. The two women (played by Patricia Gamuz and Verónica Bermúdez) wore simple evening gowns in muted colors. Like the neutral approach to costuming, the scenery placed each actor behind a music stand, arranged in a broad semicircle, each lit by an individual spotlight from above, and included a scrim upstage. Set apart from the actors, both physically and visually, the narrator (Juan Ángel Serrano Masegoso) wore a tuxedo and directed the performance from a podium at the extreme stage right. Following the narrator's brief introduction to the featured playwright and a bit of narrative context, the actors involved moved downstage center to present their scenes.

The absence of color coupled with the simplified mise-en-scène produced a dual effect. First, as black and white spots moving about on an open stage, the actors physically resembled the printed word they hoped to accentuate. For each scene, these floating character-ciphers took turns leaving the collective of their music stand-based companions to form smaller, disenfranchised fragments. This emancipation from the whole may have facilitated the blocking and directed the audience's attention to the dialogue on stage, but the choice also highlighted one of the production's great flaws, and one inherent in any attempt to produce such a cluster of vignettes: removing a scene from its parent text leaves behind all of the markers, the complications, the character development, the plots, and subplots that aid the audience in cultivating personal, emotional connections with the work. Consequently, actors slipped in and out of moments with little or no emotional buildup for the audience, leaving the text alone to captivate and enthrall the listener the way a performance often will when the elements culminate organically.

One example of this emotional chasm occurred during a scene taken from Agustín Moreto's El lindo don Diego wherein the self-absorbed dandy of the play's title primps and prances unaware...


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