History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Spanish Post-WWII

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Alfonso Sastre[edit]

Alfonso Sastre described the unhappy love affair of a philosophy student and an aimless woman

In the Spanish post World War II period, several playwrights emerged, including Alfonso Sastre (1926-?), author of "Ana Kleiber" (Anna Kleiber, 1955). Corrigan (1962) points out that “Anna Kleiber” (1955) features a couple unable to live apart but also unable to live together. There is excitement and togetherness in initiating but not in maintaining love relations.

"Anna Kleiber"[edit]

Time: 1920-1940s. Place: Spain, Germany.

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Alfred, a philosophy student, encounters by chance Anna, an actress about to jump off a bridge. He convinces her to abandon thoughts of suicide to follow him. Although disgusted at the man, she once copulated with an impresario named Charles, in her words: "just to see how low I could sink." She warns Alfred not to concern himself with her, yet they live together for eight days until she suddenly decides to leave, a letter left behind stating only this: "I have come to love you so much that I can't keep on with you." In no way discouraged, he succeeds in finding her in Charles' acting company. As the two talk, Charles shows up and makes ambiguous comments on her personality traits. Unable to tolerate any form of ridicule concerning her, Alfred fights with him, each bearing a knife, and succeeds in stabbing him to death. A prompter arrives and proposes to take care of the matter provided Alfred join the Nazi party, Charles being a Jew and so in his view worth killing. With Alfred away to Berlin, Anna takes to abusing alcohol and as a result is fired from an acting company. Alfred finds her again by chance in a public park, but then war is declared and he must go away. To his surprise, she is glad of this, since the interlude offers her the chance to live more intensely rather than the vapid way she has carried on so far. But with Alfred away to war, Anna takes to a derelict aimless life. When he returns, she admits the waiting bored her. Even together, she still shows signs of apathy and Alfred quickly grows tired of it. She wants to be punished, but he is unable to provide even that, until, goaded, he strikes her with a poker and is arrested. They eventually write to each other, but just when they are about to live together again, she has a heart attack in a hotel and dies.

Jerónimo López Mozo[edit]

Mozo described the woes attending a young man after losing his job

Also of note in Spanish theatre is Jerónimo López Mozo (1942-?), author of "Eloides" (1996).


When Elides is fined by his boss, he strikes his delivery truck till it catches fire

Time: 1990s. Place: Madrid and provinces, Spain.

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Because his son has just obtained a license to drive a truck, Sanchez announces to his employee, Eloides, that he will no longer be needed. Incensed about losing his job, Eloides drops the bottle-filled case he was carrying. When Sanchez tells him he will deduct the cost of the broken bottles from his salary, Eloides strikes the truck with an iron bar until it catches fire. For that, he is arrested but released temporarily while the court debates the case. His wife, Lola, does not wish him back until he finds another job, so that he heads for his parents' house. Because of the likelihood of his being sent to jail, his friend, Roman, advises him to escape to Madrid and for that purpose loans him money. About to board a train, Eloides sees Sanchez' accountant sitting inside and pulls back in fear of being seen. Although suspecting that Roman plans to take his place in his wife's bed, Eloides leaves anyway. He arrives in Madrid on foot, but is unable to find a job. At an abandoned train station, he meets Luis, a vagrant who earns handouts by playing classical music on his violin and who harbors him at his lodging inside the station itself. At a handout place for vagrants, Eloides is upset on hearing a white man insult a black one and overturns a table over the former. With no place to go, he washes himself at a public fountain and scrounges for food in trash-bins even after a fellow vagrant has gone through it. Still hungry, he swallows communion wafers until a curate advances towards him with a sword taken from a statue of St Michael to hurry him out of the church. He returns to Luis' room to offer him two bottles of wine stolen from the church. While drinking with his friend, Eloides swallows too plentifully, becomes sick, and vomits. With Luis asleep, Eloides prepares to steal his coat and violin, but his friend wakes up in time and fights successfully over his possessions. However, Eloides takes away all his money, explaining that he intends to pay him back once he makes a profit of buying tickets for various events and selling them at a higher price. But when Elides lines up for soccer tickets, thugs beat him up and steal his money. He avenges himself on the ringleader by stabbing him to death. He is soon arrested and given a six-year jail sentence. Wearied at the thought of returning to a vagrant life so soon, he strangles his defense lawyer to death.

José Luis Alonso de Santos[edit]

«Bajarse al moro» (Going down to Marrakesh, more precisely Going down to the Moors, 1985) by José Luis Alonso de Santos (1942-?) features teenage drama and the drug culture.

"Going down to the Moors"[edit]

Chusa heads for Marrakesh to obtain drugs but is discovered by the police on her way back. Photo of Marrakesh, Morocco

Time: 1980. Place: Madrid, Spain.

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Chusa invites Elena to live with her temporarily in an apartment shared with Jaimito and Alberto. Chusa explains that she intends going down to Marrakesh to pick up hashish and sell it at twenty times its value. Jaimito is at first against the idea of introducing Elena in their midst, but yields to Chusa’s decision. Suddenly, Alberto, a police officer, bursts in to say how he heard rumors that the police may soon investigate their apartment for drug possession, so that all three hide incriminating evidence. But it is a false alarm. Instead, Alberto’s alcoholic mother, Dona Antonia, arrives to complain about drug usage among the young and invites them to join a meeting of Charismatic Catholics. Elena would like to travel, but is queasy at the thought of Marrakesh because she is sure to become seasick on the way and leery about hiding the drug in her vaginal and anal tracts, all the more so because she is a virgin. Chusa proposes Alberto, her sometimes boyfriend, to handle the virgin problem, which Elena accepts, but their lovemaking is interrupted by Antonia, worried about her husband’s release from prison. The next day, Jaimito hangs around Elena, hoping she will choose him as a bed partner instead of Alberto, but she is uninterested. With Alberto and Elena locked in each other’s embraces, Jaimito and Chusa are stunned at seeing two thugs enter the apartment hunting for drugs. As Alberto and Elena rush out of the bedroom, Jaimito enters inside, pretending to look for the drugs. Instead, he comes back out with Alberto’s gun to scare the thieves. However, he accidently fires it in the air. The thugs flee, but Alberto is irate at his friend because of the danger they were all in when he fired the gun. While demonstrating its use, Alberto accidently shoots Jaimito in the arm, who is rushed to the hospital but recovers with just a minor wound. While Chusa heads for Marrakesh alone, Antonia is pleasantly surprised to hear of her husband’s reformation, now a proper and refined man agreeing to go with her at a church meeting. "In jail, he met a bank director condemned for embezzling millions," she explains to Elena. "He was the man who encouraged my husband to study and who taught classes there. Now he’s out, too, directing another bank, and has given my husband a nice position." Antonia is pleased with Elena and encourages her to marry Alberto. Elena is as willing to do so as she was to enter the drug culture. After Antonia leaves, Alberto informs Jaimito and Elena that Chusa was arrested in the train on the way back for possessing 300 g of hashish. To Jaimito’s disappointment, Alberto moves back to his parents’ house and refuses to help Chusa and thereby avoids risking to lose his position as a police officer. Chusa returns to find Jaimito alone. In the final report, she is accused of carrying only 50 g of hashish, because police officers kept 250 g for themselves. Elena arrives to say she has returned to her parents’ house until her marriage with Alberto and wants Chusa to pay back the loan that financed the trip, but Chusa refuses because she was cleaned out and so, to her mind, the loan has no longer any validity. An angry Elena insists on getting her money back until distracted by the arrival of Alberto and his mother, who, after taking away his possessions from the apartment, leave with her. Chusa thinks she is pregnant as a result of her relation with Alberto. To her surprise, Jaimito offers either to accept the role of father or help her get an abortion.

Lauro Olmo[edit]

Lauro Olmo described woes betiding people from a poor neighborhood

Lauro Olmo (1921-1994) wrote the social drama, «La camisa» (The shirt, 1962), in which "the playwright explores the shantytown existence of proletarians in a Madrid slum. Alienated from the economic mainstream, they are forced to consider emigrating in order to survive. (During the 1950s some 300,000 Spaniards emigrated to Germany, Switzerland, and France to work in construction, in factories, in service industries, or as domestics.) In the play's focal speech Lola, the protagonist, laments: 'When we got married we came to live temporarily in this makeshift shelter ... do you know what it is to see a man cry? . . . the days without heat, the patches . . . always temporarily' . . . seventeen years have passed . . . too many . . . the best . . . with them our youth has vanished . . .'" ( Donahue, 1983, p 113)

The play is "set, not in a tenement of a Madrid, as is the case with many post-war plays, but in a [hovel] of a shanty town on the outskirts of the city. Although Juan is a skilled mason, he has no job. The play surpasses in social criticism, anything previously [seen] on the Spanish stage...The poverty of the men...is the direct result of the economic structure in Spain...Juan's failure to find a steady job and his wife's subsequent emigration are prefigured when the former tries on the old and torn white shirt which Lola has found in the Rastro and the stiff collar which the Grandmother has kept in her trunk ever since her husband's death...Lola is fully aware that Juan's final effort to obtain steady work will fail. The train stations are full of Spaniards who also put on their best shirt to apply for a job before deciding to leave. Afraid for her children's future, she finally determines to go to Germany herself, over the objections of her husband...For Juan, the solution- personal or collective- is not emigration. With a deep conviction of his right to work, he insists that since his employment record is good, his boss must heed his request...To Juan, moreover, emigration is both cowardly and unpatriotic...The white shirt, hung on a clothes line in full view at the beginning of the third act and torn in half by Juan in a fit of rage after the boss refuses to see him, symbolizes the former's hopes and failure. Underscoring this failure is the success of Lolo, who wins the football pools..." (Halsey, 1979 pp 71-74)

"The shirt"[edit]

Time: 1960. Place: Madrid, Spain.

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Agustinillo’s grandmother scolds the boy for wanting money to buy firecrackers when his father, Juan, does not even own a white shirt to ask his boss for temporary work as a bricklayer. To obtain money, Agustinillo distracts an attractive pedestrian by pretending to lie hurt on the ground while his friend, Nacho, lifts up her skirt so that Mr Paco, a bar owner, can get an eyeful of her undergarment. But instead of handing over the promised 5 pennies, he hands over only half a penny. The boys agree that their load of 5 firecrackers is insufficient to scare people. Nacho accosts his girlfriend, Agustinillo’s 14-year old sister, Lolita, who enters their house to avoid her brother’s teasing. Irate at being laughed at, Paco slaps Agustinillo while Nacho hides. Juan’s friend, Sebas, announces that, discouraged about work prospects, he is emmigrating to Germany. Juan is disgruntled at these news. His neighbor, Maria, tired of seeing her husband, Ricardo, arrive home in a drunken state, hits his head with a frying pan, then panics when she thinks him dead. But he recovers with the help of their neighbor, Balbina. Juan’s brother, Maravillas, a balloon merchant, has trouble selling his wares until a drinking buddy of his, Lolo, buys 4 out of pity. Juan’s wife, Lola, has bought a new shirt. Though the collar is missing, it can be tied with one they already have, and though the tail-end is missing, too, any old rag can complete the garment. Yet, doubting that her husband’s request will succeed, Lola plans to head to Germany alone to find work as a house-maid, helped out by Balbina and her mother-in-law, the latter yielding her burial money for train fare. Knowing about the family’s troubles, the libidinous Paco tries to convince Lolita to work as his wife’s help-mate, but she slaps his hand away and refuses. After several people in the neighborhood watch an American satellite pass overhead, Maravillas releases his balloons, hands them over so that others may do the same, and exclaims: "Long live Spain!" At this point, Agustinillo and Nacho seize the opportunity of exploding their firecrackers and running away, but are captured by an angry Juan. Paco seizes Agustinillo while Nacho escapes. A helpful neighbor, Luis, hands over his belt to Juan, but he refuses to punish his son. Later, in a drunken stupor, Ricardo hits Maria, and so it is her turn to need Balbina’s care. Maravillas is worse than he ever was after learning of his wife’s death. Meanwhile, Juan is turned away by his boss’ secretary. Incensed, he rips his shirt as soon as he reaches home and leaves it hanging on a line. To everyone’s surprise, Lolo wins a huge amount of money in a soccer lottery after guessing correctly the outcome of all 14 matches. Juan watches dispiritedly as Lola heads for the train station with Maria uselessly clamoring in her ears that she wants to join her.