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Friday, November 17

  1. msg how far, how much, how processed? message posted how far, how much, how processed? This meaty paper is so much to my taste, Harley, that it’s hard to stop relishing it to write a res…
    how far, how much, how processed?
    This meaty paper is so much to my taste, Harley, that it’s hard to stop relishing it to write a response. This is precisely the lean, high-quality food for thought that makes translation such a productive site for research. VICTOR, VICTOR to you (as the Comtesse d’Aulnoy says Spanish people shouted in the corral “when the players said anything which pleased the audience”)!

    Here are three questions, piquing you to unpack even more food for thought from this nourishing juncture of critical analysis and performance appreciation:

     How far does this go?
     How much of it can you share?
     How processed is too processed?

    How far does this go?
    Your analysis of Carvajal as a fanfarrón judío is elegant, persuasive, and enormously suggestive. The complexity that you decode within the characterization of the play’s antagonist adds dimensionality to the whole world of the play. How deep are these dimensions? Do you see evidence that Carvajal constitutes a character who is as “trans” as Gila is? Are there places where you see the effeminizing implications of “judío” performed by Carvajal? What junctures in the antagonist-protagonist relationship are illuminated by the gap in their story – those 18 seconds of silence that happen offstage? What does the play tell you happened in those critically silenced moments, through your understanding of Carvajal’s “trans” status? Does Gila find (or come to find) Carvajal’s “trans” status a turn-on?

    How much of it can you share?
    Your commentary on condensation is eye-opening, and helpfully aligned with a fundamental fact of analysis, criticism, and translation: research requires selection. So what scenes from this wonderfully suggestive script must be part of a downsizing? Theater with a Mission has found that figuring out what has to stay is a way to get us started on condensing a script. How do you start the process of mapping out a miniaturization? Would it help to focus your refundición-in-replica on the relationship between Gila and Carvajal? Organizing a condensation around a stated (Aristotelian) defining relationship / central Action / dramatic spine / organizing theme / basic movement / desired impact has helped TWAM choose the material that we will use to link must-have moments together. What are your secrets for shrinking a play in ways that clarify it onstage? Are there defining dramatic elements (like the phrase “fanfarrón judío”) you would relocate from cut scenes to kept scenes? How can you structure a cutting of this very specifically seasoned script to deepen rather than to dilute its peculiar dramatic flavors?

    How processed is too processed?
    Clearly, trying to transmit the moment-by-moment life of the play – its variety – and the overall significance of the play – its unity – at the same time is a stretch calculated to keep any translator’s hands full. Added to that is the challenge of sharing your perceptions about what makes the play stageworthy without trapping the translation inside one production concept (helpfully well-defined but ultimately limiting). Ian Borden, a director-translator whose work I admire, tells me “suggest, don’t dictate; leave room for the director’s imagination.” In practice, I almost always find myself putting performance perceptions on paper. Since envisioning performance is indispensable for to understand the script, it feels more honest to share how I see performance choices shaping the script and then let directors take or leave the details of that perception. How do you handle this stage in the translation process, Harley? How do you envision performance and transmit the results in ways that actors can access and audiences can consume? In the case of this play, how do you see Carvajal’s Jewishness performed? How do you see his feminized Otherness countering Gila’s more-butch-than-two-boys Exceptionalism onstage? How much of that performance concept are you comfortable recording in a performance adaptation? Susan Jonas, a director-dramaturg whose adaptation strategies inspire me, compares adaptation to tourism: the value of the trip is in its adventurousness; go foreign, or go home. Where do you locate the value of Vélez de Guevara’s journey? What experience do you think a trip to these serranas is designed to produce in those who get to visit this world? Where do your instincts tell the connections between Gila and Carvajal are designed to take them and us? Is this the start of a new star vehicle for k d lang and Harvey Fierstein? I’m reminded of David Johnston’s instruction to translators, delivered in Madrid last October after sharply disagreeing with a panel of scholars who had proclaimed themselves committed to preserving Shakespeare in Spanish word for word: “Get to know the play inside out, then toss the script and write a new work. That’s translating.”
    11:12 am

Thursday, November 16

  1. msg points of contrast, points of contact, and points of loss message posted points of contrast, points of contact, and points of loss How elegantly you select, Tony, from your impressive sweep of expert knowledge about this saint, te…
    points of contrast, points of contact, and points of loss
    How elegantly you select, Tony, from your impressive sweep of expert knowledge about this saint, telling points of contrast, contact, and loss in two 17th-century comedias!

    The points of contrast that you establish between the way that Benavides puts San Cristóbal onstage and the way that Monroy structures his saint’s play becomes clearest to me as you differentiate the playwrights’ approaches to dramatizing the saint’s size, and as you detail their choices to cover different stages in the saint’s life. Does this contrast extend to differences in staging the saint’s face, too? Does Benavides’ script call for performing a more grotesque cynocephaly (literally or figuratively) than the domesticated dogfacedness that you show me is structured into Monroy’s treatment? Is there a contrast between the dogfaces that these two playwrights call for putting on their stage saints? Does this contrast parallel the playwrights’ contrasting interests in staging the saint’s stature and focusing their plot on his pre- or post-conversion years?

    The points of contact that you trace between these two comedias and the uneasy changes that were taking place in devotion to the saints post-Trent make me wonder about the somber tone that you describe at work in Benavides’ play, and about how these plays might connect with American audiences today. Do you think the somberness of Benavides’ comedia springs from a sense of Counterreformation culture undergoing decline? Are there elements of comic relief in Benavides? Are there touches of Benavides’ somber tone / sense of loss in Monroy’s play? Is most of Monroy’s humor broad and brittle (like the joke about the bag lady needing a bag over St. Christopher’s head in order to seduce him)? Are these plays overt about addressing an empire in decline? Do you see parallels between the rationalization / domestication / skepticism / trivialization / compartmentalization of saints evident in these comedias and US de/re/valuation of American heroes today?

    I find the sense of loss that you describe eloquent and provocative, as the cynocephalic patron saint of travel dwindles into a domesticated dogface. In a post-Tridentine atmosphere, couldn’t domestication help St. Christopher survive? If humanizing the characterization preps the saint for smoother integration into daily life than an egregiously monstrous appearance / behavior would allow – and embedding the saint in daily life gives him a stronger position for weathering skepticism than making him so extraordinary / monstrous / wild that only die-hard believers would devote themselves to him – does this loss have aspects of gain? How changed do you find his religious message as San Cristóbal travels from monstrous to mundane?

    (Your paper gave me new context for re-reading the Comtesse d’Aulnoy’s account of attending a performance of The Life of St. Anthony in the 1690s. As anthologized in Actors on Acting (1970), the Countess’ account dismisses the performance as “ridiculous” even as she describes its impact as devout: “For example, when St. Anthony said the confiteor, which was quite frequent, everybody kneeled, and each one gave himself such a violent mea culpa that one thought they would crush their breasts.”)
    7:34 pm
  2. msg Medieval and Popular Influences on Lope's Dramatic Innovation of the Wild Figure message posted Medieval and Popular Influences on Lope's Dramatic Innovation of the Wild Figure I enjoyed the dichotomy between the "real" and the "perceived" monsters in the …
    Medieval and Popular Influences on Lope's Dramatic Innovation of the Wild Figure
    I enjoyed the dichotomy between the "real" and the "perceived" monsters in the play and how this ties to the deceptive nature of appearances. I hope to hear more about the lingering of the monster and why its death is less significant. On a side note, could the work of J.A. Maravall serve as a point of departure of a study of Lisardo and similar characters?
    9:28 am

Wednesday, November 15

  1. msg A response to the questions posed in the final paragraph of the working paper message posted A response to the questions posed in the final paragraph of the working paper Harley: I look forward to reading the translation and seeing it stage. It seems that we are in agre…
    A response to the questions posed in the final paragraph of the working paper
    Harley: I look forward to reading the translation and seeing it stage. It seems that we are in agreement that the Jewish reference stays as it is fundamental to the play. Maybe something from Yiddish would be appropriate, recognizable, and funny; what comes to mind is "What a putz!"--or something. I can't wait to hear about your ideas for staging and casting the play.
    2:10 pm
  2. msg Celestina's extraordinary body and soul message posted Celestina's extraordinary body and soul Bridget: I enjoyed your paper quite a bit as it reminded us that every performance/adaptation has t…
    Celestina's extraordinary body and soul
    Bridget: I enjoyed your paper quite a bit as it reminded us that every performance/adaptation has the potential to open up new perspectives about a piece and its relevance in the past and present. Like the rest of the group, I am looking forward to hearing more about Gómez's portrayal of the title character. My interpretation (of the written text) of Celestina's encounters with Claudina is less homoerotic and more homosocial, so I would like to hear how this adaptation addressed their relationship. Also, your acute analysis of the scene with Areúsa and Celestina made me rethink my previous reading of this part of the work: I see/saw this scene as more clinical. This is not to imply that some sexual excitement on the part of Celestina was entirely absent, as we know that she is a "vieja verde" who lives vicariously through others' romantic encounters. This perversion is compounded by the fact that Gómez plays Celestina. Also, Harley mention of Larry Nassar (who was also the team doctor for Michigan State U's gymnastics team and various local competitive teams in my area) is especially fitting since many of Nassar's crimes parallel those particular actions of Celestina.
    2:02 pm

Tuesday, November 14

  1. msg dramatic expectations, social redefinitions, and patriotic actions message posted dramatic expectations, social redefinitions, and patriotic actions What a rich intersection of expectations, redefinitions, and actions you have mapped out for us her…
    dramatic expectations, social redefinitions, and patriotic actions
    What a rich intersection of expectations, redefinitions, and actions you have mapped out for us here, Harrison. CONGRATULATIONS!

    Your layered approach reminds me of the kind of triangulation that Susan Bennett uses to theorize how plays produce an impact on audiences in Theater Audiences: A Theory of Production and Reception (1992). As I understand her, Bennett observes that the potency of a performance is measured by the distance between the audience’s expectations about a performance and the audience’s actual experience of that performance. The wider that the performance succeeds in spreading the angle between expectation and experience, the bigger its impact. In other words, the more a performance redefines audience members’ expectations about dramatic experience, the more effective that performance will be.

    Your analysis of El hijo de los leones has the impact of theatergoing, because you persuasively practice criticism as a form of performance response. You guide me through this dramatic text by pointing out potent performance features. Thank you!

    The performance feature of surprising expectation about the monster – the disconnect that the performance text structures between the villagers’ descriptions of the local monster and Leonido’s actual behavior – reminds me of ways that Lope manipulates audience points of view / sympathy / allegiance in Nuevo mundo. In that dramatic meditation on a milestone in the formation of the state of the nation, the play introduces “savages” via a ravishing wedding ceremony, and charms the audience into seeing Spanish culture through “savage” eyes by introducing defining features of Old World culture as monstrous riddles (mounted soldiers as two-headed beasts, letters as magic speaking paper, and olives as nuts turned inside-out).

    The performance feature of redefining legitimacy – the eloquent reversal of stature that the performance text showcases between Leonido and Lisardo – reminds me of the elegant status shifts that Lope structures for Celia and Finea in La dama boba, where a “monster of stupidity” is transformed by love (and her sister remains a “monster of erudition”?). I find the memorably-crafted speech that you share for Leonido to speak to his unspeakable father is particularly resonant, because it illustrates so lambently the way that Lope makes “questions of honor” a dramatic driving force. If honor acts as an inflexible code onstage, it must function like a machine, flattening conflict and eliminating dimensionality. But if honor functions as the ongoing redefinition of a central term – a term like “monster” or “human” or “legitimate” in El hijo de los leones – then honor has the capacity to drive a dramatic arc that redefines a nation.

    The performance feature of unfolding a dramatic action that (re)defines a nation – the fact that Leonido is nurtured by lions and instinctively controls this national icon, driving a dramatic arc that carries a castoff bastard of low-caste birth to the status of heir apparent to the throne – makes me wonder what Lope is saying through Leonido about his nation, and what performing this play now could say to us about our country. Are there clues about the specific socio-political context of the play that heighten the importance of its “social message” and its concerns about “legitimacy to reign”? Did Lope see his nation as out of joint in ways that are mirrored in Leonido’s Alexandria? Is national disjointedness the source of the incestuous tinge to the relationship between Fenisa and her son (or is that just my Protestant upbringing acting up, always squeamish about expressions of the Son’s passion for the Virgin Mother)? Is Faquín’s razzle-dazzle about one particular monster undermining the common weal indicative of something rotten in the state of civilization at large?

    At a time when iconic symbols and gestures are being coopted as instant easy measures of who’s a monster and who’s not, El hijo de los leones sounds ripe for re-presentation. Besides, I’d like to find out how to stage the lions …
    7:32 pm

Monday, November 13

  1. msg magic de-possession, stage presence, and dramatic purpose message posted magic de-possession, stage presence, and dramatic purpose MIL GRACIAS, Susan, for this skillfully condensed, deftly focused introduction to a whole genre of …
    magic de-possession, stage presence, and dramatic purpose
    MIL GRACIAS, Susan, for this skillfully condensed, deftly focused introduction to a whole genre of comedia through one memorable character. You have opened a new dramatic world to me, and I stand gratefully in your debt.

    Here are some points that your paper makes me want to hear more about, urgently:

     Marta’s magic de-possession

    Your description of Marta’s seduction toward and return from hell at the end of the play held me captivated. What marks the turning point in this journey of (self-)redemption? In a morality play (or even in an allegorical lehrstuck by Sor Marcela), a heavenly voice would counter Garzón’s call. Here, it seems to be Marta’s own inner self that saves her. Is that how you read the climax? Marta’s own self-awareness achieving self-discipline – the sensuality of demon possession equipping her for self-possession?

     Garzón’s stage presence

    Your paper paints delicious dramatic possibilities for Garzón – I am reminded of the figure of Amor created by the CNTC’s inaugural production of El perro del hortelano (a potently iconic character whom the audience clearly sees, and whom the other characters can only feel). Does the canny Mr. Cañizares suggest, in dialog or stage directions, that Garzón is a figment of Marta’s imagination? Is he “hysteria” incarnate? Has he a clear existence, textually, outside of her mind? Do you see this character as the dramatic representation of a psychological state?

     Cañizares’ purpose

    Your introduction sets the play’s magical subjectivism within a suggestive, illuminating social context. During a historical period when scholars and theologians and playwrights were exploring (and taxonomizing?) magic’s natural roots, it makes sense to find a comedia that naturalizes a famous case of magical demon possession. Is that, in your view, Cañizares’ dramatic purpose in this play? Is he cashing in on cultural cachet, whipping up a visual feast for a public eye that is hungry for “deictic” thrills (even to the point of promising the public a sequel)? Do you see other dramatic purposes at work here, perhaps more long-headed concerns, connected to long through-lines in Cañizares’ career? How would you sell American actors, producers, and audiences on performing this play today? (A prequel to The Exorcist?) Are there special lessons for eager 21st-century consumers of computer graphics and special effects in Marta’s “exercises in self-reconstruction” and “attempts to define her own identity”?
    8:04 pm

Sunday, November 12

  1. msg monstrosity and social context / contagion / verbal action / age message posted monstrosity and social context / contagion / verbal action / age THANK YOU, Bridget, for taking me with you into a performance that challenges my thinking about mon…
    monstrosity and social context / contagion / verbal action / age
    THANK YOU, Bridget, for taking me with you into a performance that challenges my thinking about monstrosity, and for providing me with such an attractive range of frameworks for thinking more deeply about how this extraordinary Celestina can illuminate deep-seated questions about gender, sexuality, and performance.

    Here are some questions that sprang to mind about four points from your fine paper:

    1) Monstrosity and Social Context (Areúsa as victim)

    You struck a chord with me as you drew parallels between the Weinstein / #MeToo revelations that are making news in the USA and your reception of a male actor forcibly examining the naked Areúsa onstage. Did you find that Europeans in Almagro were experiencing something similar? Is the #MeToo movement international enough for that resonance to have been present all through the audience? Did you see evidence that the director/actor was eliciting that association?

    Your description of the actor’s initial impression – an old male body rigged out in a female dress – is vivid. How did this duo-gendered / bad drag presentation contribute to the character’s status / your reception? In the US, hag drag can offer playwrights and performers edged tools for exploring iconic cultural monsters (e.g., Charles Busch using Joan Crawford as a springboard for satirizing American fantasies of family life). Does this performance show an attempt to keep “category crisis” (Marjorie Garber’s term from Vested Interests) active by making the character visibly inhabit both genders at one time?

    One of the fascinations that keeps draws audiences/actors/directors back to La Celestina must be her status as a monster with deep cultural roots. What elements in Celestina’s time-honored recipe for monstrosity does this performance make you think could be transcultural? Does changing the gender of the actor highlight /foreground certain elements in the mix?


    2) Monstrosity as Contagious (Melibea as Maculate Inconception)

    Your description of the interaction between this Celestina and her/his Melibea is spellbinding. You make extraordinarily memorable the way that Celestina “penetrates Melibea and leaves her intact … in a moment of queer verbal sex.”

    Does this contact – like Celestina’s contact with Areúsa – infect the patient with the physician’s monstrosity? After Celestina’s treatment, is Melibea a monstrous re-mix of the BVM (a Blessed Virgin Mary morphed into a blasted virgin Melibea)? Does Areúsa’s “cure” make her, too, an extraordinary body in the image of Celestina’s? Did the production reflect / suggest / resist this mirroring /contagion?

    How did the production convey a sense of eroticism to you in the Melibea scene, where the Areúsa scene made you sense sexual oppression? Was that progression part of the dramatic arc of the production? An accident of circumstances? A triumph of embodiment?

    3) Monstrosity as Verbal Action

    Your perception that “Dialogue in performance is different than dialogue written on the page” struck me as very persuasive, and worth probing. In the anthology Dramaturgy in American Theater (Harcourt, 1997), Lee Devin has an article called “Conceiving the Forms” where he claims that for an actor/ play /audience, language is dramatic action.

    So how did the language in some sections of this adaptation become so active for you? Did other members of the audience, from different identity positions, exhibit similar responses to language at specific points in the play?

    Have you gotten to study the language that the CNTC used for this production? Was the gendering / gender-bending of the performance rooted in the diction? How did the cis-gender of the actor influence the stage adaptation of the novella?

    4) Monstrosity and Age

    I appreciate the parallel that your analysis draws between the age of Celestina and the age of José Luis Gómez. Both represent iconic figures who spring from a proto-monstrous demographic: old.

    In US culture, I think you can make a good argument that old = monster. Did you sense that assumption at issue in this production? Was the fact that biology bends gender willy-nilly as people age play a role in this performance? How would you put Celestina onstage in the USA? (Another starring part for Betty White?)
    8:31 pm
  2. msg Questions for the reader message posted Questions for the reader What a fascinating play, Susan. It seems like Cañizares wants to have it every which way, which ope…
    Questions for the reader
    What a fascinating play, Susan. It seems like Cañizares wants to have it every which way, which opens up rich possibilities for theatrical intepretation. An actor would have to decide is Marta is sincere or a hypocrite, etc. Where do you stand in all this, and is there a "locating tone" in the play which tells us how 18th century audiences would have seen this? And how much of the play is a comedy? In any case, the play seems like a series of opportunities for extraordinary stagecraft.

    My understanding is that Cañizares was familiar with the canon of the Siglo de Oro proper, and frequently wrote plays that either adapted 17th century comedias (e.g. Antona Garcia) or had an intertextual relationship to them. I see an intertextual relationship here between this play and two comedias that I know well, from having staged them: Tirso's "Marta la piadosa" (about a religious hypocrite who uses the cloak of piety to have a clandestine sexual relationship) and Ana Caro's "El conde Partinuples" (about an empress who uses magic to have a clandestine sexual relationship). In performance, both these protagonists become heroic -- we root for them against the forces arrayed against them, and we give their magic and deceit a free pass. How might plays like these impact your reading of "El asombro..."? And what, more largely, makes female sensuality on stage an extraordinary spectacle in ways that male sexuality is not -- and how are still guilty of exploiting these tropes and assumptions today?
    1:09 pm
  3. msg The humanization of the extraordinary medieval body message posted The humanization of the extraordinary medieval body Bridget's great questions mirror many of my own. Your paper provokes a lot of good ones, including …
    The humanization of the extraordinary medieval body
    Bridget's great questions mirror many of my own. Your paper provokes a lot of good ones, including historical ones: St. Christopher's transformation mirrors the changes in genre marked by Bruce Burningham's "Radical Theatricality." A St Christopher in a pre-Trent procession or late medieval religious play can be -- must be -- extraordinary. A St Christopher in a comedia. a form drawing on Aristotelian notions of mimesis, probably cannot be. The citations from the two plays suggest ways of representing St Christopher via make-up and perhaps an actor mounted on stilts. (How high is 12 cubits?!) I want to hear more about these plays: what do they tell us about the stagecraft through which these characters were represented? The urge seems to be to normalize.

    Are you familiar with Velazquez' paintings of dwarves? He also renders them proportionate, "ordinary," non-grotesque -- subjects of portraits rather than objects of ridicule. is there a relationship between the trend you see in these plays and these paintings?
    12:40 pm

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