Mapping a Nation-State's Theatrical Culture: Histories of the Theatre in Spain

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Drama

Abstract

The documentation of Spain's twentieth century theatre history has been governed by approaches that have focused on the dominance of the playwright as the primary marker of the nation's theatrical culture. This project proffers alternative configurations of Spanish theatre history that seek to interrogate more orthodox readings of both history and text (in the widest sense of the term) that have sought to stress the insularity of the nation's theatrical culture. Drawing on a range of primary materials in archives across Spain, France and Argentina, as well as interviews with practitioners across Spain and Argentina, this project will map theatrical histories that consciously comment on the ideological agendas of theatre historians and the implications of these for modes of constructing theatre history.

Building on cultural materialist methodologies employed by Golden Age performance historians like Evangelina Rodríguez Cuadros and José María Ruano de la Haza, the project will seek to disseminate its findings both in English and Spanish in the hope of reaching scholars, practitioners and students working in the areas of cultural studies, theatre studies and Hispanic studies in the UK, Spain and the Americas, and encouraging further scholarship in this area.

Crucially, while the emphasis will be on theatrical performance, intersections with operatic and cinematic culture will also feature, where appropriate, to allow for a discussion of the ways in which ideology, performance, censorship and exile shaped the theatrical discourses of the Spanish nation. The focus will be on theatre as both process and product and will examine the modes of dissemination and inquiry that produced an exportation of particular theatrical modes, practices and practitioners to the Americas and the implications of this for a transnational approach to Spanish historiography.

The findings of this project will be published in two book projects.

The first is an edited volume, concted by Cambridge University Press and curated with Professor David T. Gies, Commonwealth Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia, USA, which proposes a revisionist history of Spanish theatre from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. While we both retain overall responsibility for the shape of the volume we will also each be authoring individual sections. My own 10,000 word contribution will reassess the importance of directors in Spain, examining the evolution of the figure of the director, from actor-manager to 'metteur en scène' and then coming to embody particular bourgeois ideals of individual attainment, entrepreneurialism and capitalist enterprise that witnessed a move towards cultural management: the 'directeur' or 'intendant'. The relationship with performers and wider company arrangements will be examined as a way of considering the institutional structures through which directors have operated and the modes in which they have (re)inscribed theatre in a network of political realities and responsibilities.

The second is a study of twentieth-century Spanish theatre, to be published by Iberoamericana, that seeks to probe, through six detailed case studies, how the trajectories of performers and directors can map alternative histories of Spanish theatre that underlie the productive ties with practices elsewhere in Europe and the Americas. The focus is on displacing the theatrical text as the primary marker and in so doing exposing the colonialist agenda of previous theatre historians who have viewed Spanish theatre as a poor European relation to the better-documented histories of its North European neighbours.

This project seeks to develop models for documenting Spanish theatre history that go beyond positivist or literary paradigms and rather explore the modes of exchange and interaction that cultures of colonialism, nationalism and exile have wrought on Spain's theatrical culture.

Publications


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Buffery, Helena; Caulfield, Carlota (2014) Barcelona: Visual Culture, Space and Power
Delgado, Maria M.; Gies, David Thatcher (2012) A History of Theatre in Spain
Prof Maria Delgado (Author) (2010) Plays International in Plays International
 
Description The documentation of Spain's twentieth century theatre history has been governed by approaches that have focused on the dominance of the playwright as the primary marker of the nation's theatrical culture. This project locates alternative configurations of Spanish theatre history that interrogate more orthodox readings of both history and text (in the widest sense of the term), which have sought to stress the insularity of the nation's theatrical culture. Drawing on a range of primary materials in archives across Spain, France and Argentina, as well as interviews with practitioners across Spain and Argentina, this project maps theatrical histories that consciously comment on the ideological agendas of theatre historians and the implications of these for modes of constructing theatre history.
Exploitation Route The project's findings have also been disseminated through lectures and presentations in Istambul and Barcelona, through reports on performances seen published in 'Plays International' and 'Western European Stages', through a radio broadcast on BBC World Service's 'The Strand' and invitations to speak on Spanish-language performance on Radio 3, and through future publications (as with 'The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Actors and Acting'), as well as advisory work on the new Spanish Ministry of Culture-funded journal, 'Don Galán'.



The project has led to my advice being sought by the Globe Theatre re directors in Spain and Spanish-America for their International Globe to Globe in the summer of 2012, by Cheek by Jowl theatre company, by the Almeida theatre company and by Barcelona's Grec Theatre Festival. It has also let to invitations to host public events with general audiences at the Cine Lumiere, BAFTA and the British Film Institute and to the online streaming of the interview with Bardem. My work on directors in Spain directly fed into a Platform event on the director at the National Theatre in May 2010 - the publication of the 'Contemporary European Theatre Directors' was awarded 2000 euros from the Spanish Embassy as part of the celebration of Spain's presidency of the EU, recognising the ever more prominent role of Spanish directors in wider discourses of European theatre practice. The publication of 'A History of Theatre in Spain' has also been awarded funding by the Spanish Embassy for its scope and interest.
Sectors Creative Economy
 
Description This award also had dissemination in the form of theatre reviews for Western European Stages and Plays International. I was also invited to advise a number of Spanish theatres and practitioners on specific plays and productions.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Creative Economy
Impact Types Cultural
 
Description 'Barcelona: Theatre, Film and the City' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact I gave a public lecture on Barcelona as a site for theatrical performance at the University of Istanbul on 3 June 2011. This lecture looked at the role of Barcelona as a site for contemporary performance and film and its relationship to urban design and regeneration.

This lecture at the University of Istambul presented by the Instituto Cervantes brought together an audience of academics, students and figures from the creative industries in the city.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description A review of Calixto Bieito's 'Carmen' for BBC Radio's 'The Strand' 12 October 2010. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact This production review looked at the importance of this production within the contemporary Spain
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description I conducted an interview on stage and screen acting in England and Spain, Cine Lumiere with C. Pena, J. M. Pou, P. Ryan and N. Grace that drew on research undertaken for this project. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience
Results and Impact This interview was undertaken as part of the 2010 London Spanish Film Festival
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010