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Reviewed by:
  • Voces Contra la Mediocridad: La Vanguardia Teatral de los Provincetown Players, 1915–1922 by Noelia Hernando-Real
  • Ramón Espejo Romero (bio)

It is difficult to think of anyone better suited to write Voces contra la mediocridad: La vanguardia teatral de los Provincetown Players, 1915–1922 than Dr. Noelia Hernando-Real. An internationally recognized scholar, Hernando-Real is the author of publications including Performing Gender Violence: Plays by Contemporary American Women Dramatists (co-edited with Barbara Ozieblo) and Self and Space in the Theater of Susan Glaspell, alongside a number of book chapters and articles, most of them concerned with gender and/or early twentieth-century American drama.1 She has published extensively on American women playwrights, Susan Glaspell most notably. Indeed, she currently serves as president of the Susan Glaspell International Society. The first Spanish-language approach to the history of the Provincetown Players has thus been entrusted to capable hands.

The history of Spanish-language scholarship on American drama is not long. It started in the 1980s, with pioneering efforts by Rodríguez Celada, Pardo Gutiérrez, and Gómez García.2 Over the years, readers in Spain with limited access to English-language studies have seen the number of monographs increase, some offering approaches to specific playwrights (Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Maxwell Anderson, Marsha Norman, Terrence McNally, Sophie Treadwell, Sam Shepard), some dealing with other aspects of drama, and at least one general overview.3 It also seems that over the years studies have become growingly specific. Some gaps will, however, be referred [End Page 174] to later, and I will build from there to offer what is my only (largely minor) objection to the volume under review.

Such body of work as has come out in Spain has mostly focused on contemporary drama. An exception was Pardo Gutiérrez's aforementioned 1984 contribution, where she covered early American drama up to O'Neill. But she referred to the Provincetown Players only in passing. Hernando-Real provides, then, a new chapter in this history of Spanish-language approaches to American drama, picking up where Gutiérrez left off several decades ago. And she does so in a collection responsible for much of the aforementioned work, the Biblioteca Javier Coy d'Estudis Nord-Americans, published by the University of Valencia, for which the tireless and dauntless Dr. Carme Manuel is responsible. Without her strenuous and dedicated work for decades, the bulk of American studies scholarship in Spain (both written in English and Spanish) would be a half of what it now is.

Voces contra la mediocridad is an excellent chance to become acquainted with the aesthetics and history of such an iconic and productive group (almost 100 plays, by 47 American playwrights) as the Provincetown Players, or the Players, as they are commonly known. Hernando-Real provides a season-by-season account of their productions; discusses general currents within the development of the group (financial, aesthetic, theatrical); and does not shy away from considering more personal matters where she feels they may be useful to better understand what happened and why.4 By the end of the first part, the reader has obtained a thorough understanding of how the group evolved over the years, as well as the factors leading to its disbanding. In the second part, Hernando-Real provides her own translation of a selection of plays performed by the group at various times, written in different styles and belonging to a multitude of genres. Everything explained in the first section is thus submitted to the reader for a closer, hands-on inspection.

As the first Spanish publication exclusively devoted to the Provincetown Players, there is little fault to find with Hernando-Real's rigorous, exhaustive, well-argued, well-documented, highly readable monograph. The plays translated constitute a representative selection, ranging from distinctly second-rate work like George Cram Cook's Change Your Style and the pompous and platitudinous Louise Bryant's The Game to surprisingly good fare like James Oppenheim's Night, and increasingly popular plays like Susan...


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