Female Empowerment in Classical Spanish Theatre

Students: Sarah Gielink and Johanna Burr
Mentor: Glenda Nieto Cuebas (OWU Department of Modern Foreign Languages)

Last spring, after reading Golden Age plays in our Early Modern Spanish Literature and Culture course, Adrian Burr and I became interested in the role women played in these stories. Within the Spanish comedia, women are relegated to two stock roles, the “dama” (lady), or the “criada” (maid), while men are able to play a much wider variation of roles. Classical Spanish works by playwrights such as Lope de Vega, Miguel de Cervantes, and Pedro Calderón de la Barca are still produced today, just as English-speakers still revive Shakespearean works. We became curious about how modern directors and theatre practitioners adapt these works and these female characters for modern audiences. What do they do to give give women more agency and create complex female characters?

To find out, we wrote a Theory-to-Practice Grant “Female Empowerment in Classical Spanish Theatre” and traveled to Spain for two weeks last summer. In Burgos, we interviewed and workshopped with two members of Morfeo Teatro, Francisco Negro and Mayte Bona, who taught us about their work with classical texts and Bona’s portrayal of masculine, androgynous, and feminine characters. We also traveled to Almagro for the International Festival of Classical Spanish Theatre, where we saw five productions of Golden Age plays. For the last part of the trip, we visited Madrid, workshopping with Sandra Arpa and Paula Rodríguez of Teatro Inverso. They taught us about their work reimagining classical plays through the performance technique called Storytelling, and how they refocused the story of La vida es sueño to portray the journey of its main female character, Rosaura.

In our presentation, we will discuss what we learned about this culture of theatrical adaptation and present modern ideas that artists are using to tell old stories in new ways.

More information about this project in Digital Commons @ OWU

Contact Info


Merrick Hall
65 S. Sandusky St.
Delaware, OH 43015
P 740-368-3075
E djalbon@owu.edu

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