Spain has only two important theatre cities, Madrid and Barcelona; the rest of the nation is more or less at the mercy of touring companies. Madrid, with over forty legitimate houses, is decidedly the more important, though Barcelona has more experimental theatre. For a long while Barcelona had no native Catalan theatre, for it was forbidden by Franco; plays had to be done in Spanish or not at all. From 1968 to 1975 Barcelona had a national theatre, named the Teatro Nacional Angel Guimera in honor of a famous Catalan playwright. The theatre was founded by José María Loprena. The theatre did much for the cultural life of Barcelona before foundering in the sea of bureaucracy and eventually sinking.
The major sickness in the Spanish theatre during the Franco era was censorship. From 1939 to the death of Francisco Franco in 1975 (and for a while after), a series of strictures was issued specifying what could not be done in the theatre. While these regulations were not imposed by the Catholic Church, the Church did profit from them. Plays were forbidden to criticize either the government or the Church, and no blaspheming or poking of fun at religion was tolerated. Moreover, even a play that was permitted could be closed by the government. In 1971, for example, the Teatro María Guerrero company staged Bertolt Brecht The Caucasian Chalk Circle, in a production translated by Pedro Lain Entralgo and staged by the prominent director José Luis Alonso. The production received excellent notices, and playgoers bought tickets in advance, a rarity in Spain. Then authorities discovered Brecht was a Communist, and the play was forced to close. Other productions that criticized the United States or even the USSR were forbidden. Not surprisingly, now that censorship has ceased, approximately one-half of Madrid's theatres devoted to drama are doing plays of a sexual nature and are often mildly pornographic.
Until recently, most Spanish companies, except state-supported ones, were built around name actors, much like the old actor/manager companies in England and the United States. Spain has a long literary tradition and an even longer one of acting. Spain has produced very few actors who are internationally known, however.