Personajes en conflicto : análisis de personajes de escogidas obras de teatro Latinoamericano del siglo XX / Sabrina Dashefsky
In this research study, based on eight contemporary Latin American plays. I examine the characterization strategies utilized by the authors in order to reflect the crisis of the modern Hispanic man. The titles and playwrights are the following: Barranca Abajo, by Florencio Sánchez: La Carreta, by René Marqués; Invitación a la Muerte, by Xavier Villaurrutia: El Amasijo, by Osvaldo Dragún; El Gesticulador, by Rodolfo Usigli; La Noche de los Asesinos by José Triana: Los Siameses, by Griselda Gambaro and Flores de Papel, by Egon Wolff. After reading and reflecting upon these plays, I deduced that in each on of them, the characters with main roles seemed to be afflicted by the conflicts that define our era. Therefore, my thesis is divided into four chapters, each one dedicated to two plays that focus on a specific source of crisis and which share similar characterization techniques. In the introduction, I state the purpose of my research and give a brief historic background to the Latin American drama of the twentieth century. I mention the main characteristics of pre-Colombian drama, focusing on the aspect of characters. I also provide a few examples of representations witnessed by the Spanish colonizers. Following a chronological time line, I concentrate on post Colombian drama. During the colonization, theater became an invaluable tool for the propagandistic purposes of the Catholic church. In colonial drama, the characters played a key role as allegoric icons of religious concepts that needed to be represented in order to be understood by the indigenous audience. As an example, I reference to Desposorio Espiritual by Juan Pérez Ramírez. Once the evangelization was achieved, allegoric characters fell into disuse and were replaced by type characters in "comedias de carácter" or morality plays. In La Verdad Sospechosa, by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Don García is a typical figure resulting from the social characterology of his times. He portrays a young bachelor who tries to conquer his love by means of lies and pretense, although in the end, he falls into his own trap. The moral message of the play can be traced back to the propagandistic function of theater in colonial times. However, the religious theme and characters have obviously been replaced by secular ones. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Latin America drama takes on two different avenues. One goes towards the exotic and foreign, the other towards the native (or national) and traditional. In Baltazar, by Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, the main character is a far away king who realizes about his lonely and pitiful existence. In Juan Moreira , by Gutiérrez y Podestá, the protagonist is a "gaucho" who despite innumerable adversities, fights and dies a hero in order to defend his honor and his freedom. The romantic plays of the nineteenth century constitute the antecedents of the realistic drama that characterized the first decades of the following era. The first chapter is dedicated to the conflict between the native Latin American individual and the new values imposed; on one hand, by the wave of immigrants at the turn of the century; and on the other hand, by the later economic and political influence of the United States in Latin America. Florencio Sáchez and René Marqués are two authors that intended to denounce the injustices and loss of identity suffered by the Criollos as a consequence of the invasion of foreign cultures. Both playwrights join the movement called Naturalism or Costumbrismo which intends to show man and his habitat in an honest and realistic manner, but always from a negative perspective. Other famous European authors such as Ibsen and Chekhov had paved the way for this tendency to develop in the new world. However, neither Sánchez nor Marqués are imitators. Their characters in Barranca Abjo and La Carreta are the faithful representation of the "gaucho" and the "jíbaro" living in their land, speaking their native languages and living a life completely attached to or dependent on the changes that take place in their environment. I analyze those characters as products of their national traditions and customs, as well as individuals reacting to the challenges of modern times. I devote the second chapter to a different type of crisis that contributed to a new figural configuration in drama. The conflicts that afflict modern man, are not only exterior to him but also lie in the interior of the individual himself. Existentialism is the philosophical trend that reflects the sense of loss and isolation left to human kind as a result of the various events that marked century. Jean Paul Sartre embraced this theory and took it to the peak of its popularity not only in Europe but also in the Americas. It is of crucial importance to comprehend the essentials of the existentialist movement in order to understand the tendencies developed in modern theater. At this point, all the elements that formed part of the traditional theatrical production, plot, stage directions, costumes, etc.; became subordinate to character development. In this thesis I briefly analyze the vision of Sartre and the methods of Bertold Brecht in order to provide a basis for the new Latin American theater. The two authors I concentrate on are Xavier Villaurrutia and Osvaldo Dragún and their respective plays; Invitación a la Muerte and El Amasijo. In both works, the characters are dispossessed of any cultural or ethnic affiliation and their conflicts stem from their human condition rather than their interactions with the environment. Alberto, María and José, the main figures of the plays, share a purposeless life, a sense of abandonment and loneliness and difficulty to communicate their feelings. These universal concerns further developed in the search of the artists for the true nature of human kind. Dramatists, both European and Latin American, tool an active role in the quest for the principles that synthesize the human condition. The third chapter of this thesis concentrates on those characters that reflect the conflict between man and his own truth. Supported by contemporary scientific ideas and findings, artists departed from the premises that man is the result of the evolution of the species and that his actions are controlled by irrational forces contained in the subconscious. In order to live in a society, man needs to suppress his instinct, hide his true nature, and follow the rules imposed by civilization. Theater constitutes the perfect artistic metaphor to convey the mechanisms involved in the adoption of the masks that allow us to "act" different social roles. Consequently, the characters of the new theater no longer are defined by a clear identity. In many cases, they unfold in different unexpected "others". The Italian playwright Pirandello, created the most plays based on this concept and inspired Latin American authors to do similarly. El Gesticulador, by Rodolfo Usigli and La Noche de Los Asesinos, by José Triana are the two plays analyzed in this thesis through which we can have a clear picture of "unfolding" characters or characters that have multiple identities. However unusual, this technique was not the only one used by the writers in their search for the true human nature. As I have said previously, man is now considered to be a creature better defined by his irrationality than by his rational features. This new conception of man, gave origin to bizarre theatrical performances, where the sacred and the profane, love and violence, intermingled in the obscure forms of the so called "Theater of Cruelty". In the fourth chapter I examine the fundamentals of the "Theater of Cruelty", and I relate them to the plays Los Siameses and Flores de Papel by Griselda Gambaro and Egon Wolff respectively. Cruelty, as conceived and practiced by the French authors Antonin Artaud and Jean Genet, should not be equated with sadism. Instead, cruelty is the force that gives nature a true meaning and makes us part of a universe in which there is constant destruction and regeneration. But in Latin America, the term had a more concrete application. Political violence and brutality was exercised as a form of oppression and as a persuasive method for the perpetuation of the totalitarian governments. In the two aforementioned plays, the characters are developed in order to represent the intricate relationships between the oppressors and the oppressed. The protagonists are developed as a result of the authors' analysis of the forces that clash, yet attract or need each other in a violent society. In conclusion I restate the purpose of my study and summarize the findings and concepts developed in each chapter. I also reflect upon the impact of my research in my personal growth and education. I conclude the thesis with the pertinent bibliography.
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