Remaking the Comedia: Spanish Classical Theater in Adaptation

By McGrath, Michael J. | Bulletin of the Comediantes, July 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Remaking the Comedia: Spanish Classical Theater in Adaptation


McGrath, Michael J., Bulletin of the Comediantes


Harley Erdman and Susan Paun de García, eds. Remaking the Comedia; Spanish Classical Theater in Adaptation. London: Tamesis, 2015. 303 pp.

It is not uncommon to hear the following words in a comedia class: "The comedia was meant to be performed, not read." Until the second half of the twentieth century, however, a discussion of the performative aspects of the comedia required knowledge of staging and performance space, as well as a vivid imagination. The innovative research of Charles Davis, J. E. Varey, N. D. Shergold, John J. Allen, José María Díez Borque, and José María Ruano de la Haza, among other scholars, including the authors who contributed to the Tamesis series Fuentes para la historia del teatro en España, has elucidated our understanding of comedia performances by addressing such issues as the physical disposition of the playhouse, the autor de comedias, acting companies, and the socio-economic aspects of professional theater. Three defining moments that forever shaped the state of comedia studies, however, transpired within a ten-year period: the inauguration of Chamizal National Memorial's annual Siglo de Oro Drama Festival in 1976; the establishment of the Almagro festival in 1978; and the organization of the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico in 1985. Contemporary adaptations of Golden Age drama not only provided entertainment but also engendered performative studies never before possible and revealed the comedia as an entity that transcended time, space, genre, and ideology. The book Remaking the Comedia: Spanish Classical Theater in Adaptation, edited by Harley Erdman and Susan Paun de García, provides the most comprehensive study of theatrical adaptations of Golden Age drama to date. Academics, directors, translators, and actors share insightful and thought-provoking analysis throughout the twenty-six essays in this volume, which is divided into four parts: Theorizing, Surveying, Spotlighting, and Shifting.

The first part of the book, "Theorizing," consists of four essays that address the theoretical and practical considerations of staging a comedia. Catherine Larson's "Terms and Concepts: The Adaptation of Classical Texts for the Stage" and Susan Fischer's "'Los senderos que se bifurcan:' Adaptation, Appropriation, and the Proliferation of Possibilities" focus, in large part, on theoretical considerations. Larson elucidates the role of translators and theatrical practitioners, the terminology associated with adaptation, including André Lefevere's term "refraction," fidelity discourse, and audience reception, in addition to other issues and concerns that she feels are most relevant to the field of adaptation studies and to the people who appreciate adaptations of Golden Age drama (creators, critics, audience). Fischer discusses the genre of adaptation, expounding on questions such as how to define an adaptation based on naming, or its intention, and the difference between "adaptation" and "appropriation." She weaves into her discussion the scholarship of several critics, including Edward Said, Jacques Derrida, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Roland Barthes.

Colombian director Alejandro González-Puche, who is the author of "Interpretive Directing Games for the Golden Age Repertory," and Laurence Boswell, whose essay is titled "Re-Make, Re-Mix, Re-Model," address the practical considerations of staging an adaptation. González-Puche believes the director's objective is to discover the multiple interpretative possibilities of an adaptation, or "rules of the game," emphasizing that this quest is not an anarchic activity. He depends on a "version" that emanates from the "games" that take place between the actors and the director during rehearsals. Boswell's approach is more introspective. He endeavors to "give the play a soul" (34), with the expectation that the spectators will re-make the production for themselves. Boswell shares his experiences as the director of Golden Age plays in Britain and the challenges of staging Spanish plays to an English-speaking audience. …

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