Directors and the Spanish Stage

Delgado, Maria M. (2012) Directors and the Spanish Stage. In: A History of Theatre in Spain. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 426-452. ISBN 9780521117692


In its evaluation of the performing arts scene in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the Catalan daily newspaper 'La Vangiardia' opted for the headline 'El teatro de los directores' (directors' theatre). While its list of the top fifteen theatre pieces includes a range of international directors who have revolutionised stage practice since the early 1990s - including Romeo Castellucci, Kristin Lupa, Declan Donnellan, Robert Lapage, Frank Castorf and Thomas Ostermeier - it is worth noting the appearance of four Spanish directors on this list: Sergi Belle, Calixto Bieito, Mario Gas and Àlex Rigola. In addition, La Fura dels Baus and Els Comediants were named in Roger Alier's note on the ten most important operatic stagings of the decade. The conclusions were decisive. The director, once seen to be on the peripheries of Spanish theatre-making, is now, arguably, its most powerful agent, branding the theatrical product with a signature aesthetic. Mise-en-scène can no longer be judged the mere illustration or interpretation of a play text but rather the means towards creating a theatrical experience that may dispense with dramatic text in its engagement with varied cultural forms and/or pressing political and social issues. As the international trajectories of the figures and companies names above indicate, the director has become a commodity in the exchange of cultural entrepreneur and creative artist, he - directorial practice in Spain (to a greater extent than the United Kingdom, USA or France) remains dominated by male figures - has taken on board pedagogic and ambassadorial roles and championed the state's support of the arts through contentious political and social times. The director emerged during the mid-nineteenth century as Spain was shifting towards a textually centred theatre (driven by commercial packaging of plays through both performance and lucrative print-runs, as José Luis González Subías details in Chapter 11, pp. 232-43). While the presentation of a play text may have governed the practice of early directors, mise-en-scéne has now evolved into a form of authorship, a mode of creation and interpretation rather than the mere harnessing of stage resources towards the 'service' of a text.


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