Beyond the Cherry Orchard | 8 Greats of Classic Latin American Theatre You’ll Want to Know More About

By July 26, 2019News

At Out of the Wings we love the classic European writers like Chekhov, Ibsen or Lorca, but Latin America has been producing playwriting giants for centuries. So put away your samovar, close up your doll’s house, and discover some of the world’s finest classic plays from across the Atlantic.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Mexico, 1648-1695

Celebrated worldwide as the Phoenix of America, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a 17th century nun, self-taught scholar, poet, essayist and dramaturg. She was also one of the first feminist thinkers of the Americas. In 2004, the Royal Shakespeare Company staged her play House of Desires, translated by Out of the Wings director Catherine Boyle. The translation was published by Oberon Books.

Rodolfo Usigli

Mexico, 1905-1979

Considered the father of Mexican Theatre, Usigli was a poet, dramaturg, writer, translator and Mexican diplomat. His most famous piece, The Impostor, a play for demagogues in three acts (El Gesticulador, una pieza para demagogos en tres actos, 1938) is considered one of the first Latin American tragedies for the stage. The play is an acerbic critique of the corruption and hypocrisy engrained in Mexico’s political institutions. After a very short run in Mexico City, The Imposter was banned and labelled, ‘anti-revolutionary’.

Elena Garró

Mexico, 1916-1998

Recipient of the prestigious Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz award during her lifetime, Elena Garró’s novels, short stories and plays deal with the marginality of women in Mexican society, and their plight for political freedom and recognition in their daily lives.

Mauricio Kartun

Argentina, 1946

Kartun is without a doubt one of Argentina’s most prolific dramaturgs and directors. His latest piece, Terranal, pequeño misterio ácrata, (Wasteland, a brief anarchist mystery, 2014) continues to be in repertoire at the Teatro del Pueblo to huge public and critical acclaim.

Griselda Gambaro

Argentina, 1928

One of Latin America’s most prolific and translated playwrights, Griselda Gambaro’s body of work explores the extremity to which Argentine socio-political reality forces human beings into repeated acts of violence. The 2016 Out of the Wings Festival featured one of Gambaro’s plays, translated by Gwen MacKeith, and Oberon Books published her play Siamese Twins in English translation in 2011.

Juan Radrigán

Chile, 1937-2016

Radrigán made his name as one of the dramatists who established a voice of protest during the Pinochet regime. While he would say later in his life that his theatre was not political, it dramatised the reality of the poor and marginalised, forced to extremes of existence in a harsh and brutalising environment. Above all, his writing creates a poetics for the voice that is deemed inarticulate, incapable of feeling and intelligence. He returns once and again to characters making life and death decisions based on the importance of maintaining human dignity. Out of the Wings has played a key role in the development of the translations by Catherine Boyle of Las brutas/Beasts (Theatre 503, 2011) and El loco y la triste/Mad Man Sad Woman (The Space, 2017), both by Head for Heights Theatre Company. With Language Acts and Worldmaking, we also workshopped one of Radrigán’s late plays, El príncipe desolado/The Desolate Prince, 1998) translated by William Gregory.

Carlos Maggi

Uruguay, 1922-2015

A member of the famous Generación del 45 in Uruguay, Carlos Maggi was an intellectual, a lawyer and an award-winning author who produced an extensive body of work including drama, essays and articles. La biblioteca/The Library, like many of his plays, uses satire to examine and critique contemporary Uruguayan society. In 2014 he received a special award for his contribution to arts and culture in Uruguay and contributed to a weekly radio programme until his death, aged 92.

Nelson Rodrigues

Brazil, 1912-1980

Controversial Brazilian playwright, journalist and novelist. In 1943, he helped usher in a new era in Brazilian theatre with his play Vestido de Noiva (Wedding Dress (2019), trans. by Daniel Hahn), considered revolutionary for the complex exploration of its characters; psychology and its use of colloquial dialogue on stage, which at the time was deemed revolutionary. He went on to write many other seminal plays and today is widely regarded as Brazil’s greatest playwright.

Most recently, Oberon Books has published Nelson Rodrigues: Selected Plays, showcasing translations by D. Hahn, and OOTW members Susannah Finzi and
Almiro Andrade.

Want to know more? The Out of the Wings database has details of hundreds of plays and playwrights from the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world, from the 1500’s to the present day. Visit it here→

OUT OF THE WINGS FESTIVAL runs from 30 July – 3 August – get your tickets HERE→

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