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UBC Theses and Dissertations. I further griseldw that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. While she was a controversial figure of Argentina’s avant garde movement of thel’s, her dramatic work has since gained the respect of her contemporaries, the admiration of audiences and the interest of critics both at home and abroad.

Her theatre, originally associated with the Theatre of the Absurd, tends to be anti-mimetic and experimental in style, while in thematic content Gambaro remains acutely aware of the changes in her dr recent socio-political climate. The aim of this thesis is firstly to highlight the important contribution Gambaro has made to the Argentinean stage through her attempts to offer alternative forms of theatrical gambari to realism; and, secondly, to analyse the evolution of her theatre from the dual perspective of dramatic style and thematic content.

In order to better understand Gambaro and her theatre, in chapter one we will situate her in a clearly Argentinean context.

In chapter two we will focus in more detail on Gambaro’s particular dramatic style, the possible influences that have brought about its genesis and the changes it has undergone in the last three decades. These changes we will see are based upon continued experimentation and a heightening politicization of the playwright herself. The final section of the thesis will illustrate the ideas put forth in chapter two through an analysis of four of her plays.

The four plays chosen, El desatino. El campo, Information para extranjeros and Del sol naciente, span the period toand can be regarded as representative teagro for showing the evolution of both stylistic and political concerns within Gambaro’s theatre.

Absurdists Beyond the Polemic: Isaac Rubio for introducing me to Argentinean theatre and finding the time to work with me, his words of wisdom, patience and support proved invaluable to the end; Dr. Maria Tomsich for her assistance, enthusiasm, and help in overcoming the great fear of getting started; Douglas Moody, my friend and partner, for lending a critical ear as well as typing, proof-reading, endless hours of encouragement and bottomless pots of tea.

Finally, to all my friends and colleagues who helped put theory into practice and mount a production of El campo at the Secret Space Theatre in Vancouver. Sincewhen her second play El desatino was performed at the experimental studios of Grisselda Instituto Torcuato di Telia in Buenos Aires, she has gained increasing renown as well as rebuke for her experimental, controversial and highly original style of play writing.

Always at the forefront of dramatic innovation at home, and aware of avant garde developments abroad, Gambaro’s dramatic work has, for three decades, continued to evolve within the realms of non-realistic, anti-mimetic theatre. As a result, she has consistently exposed Teagro audiences to the many varied alternatives of reproducing reality. When she first began writing theatre, Gambaro was accused among her contemporaries of using dramatic styles alien to the Argentinean stage. As a result, she was quickly labelled an “Absurdist” and branded for being anti-Argentinean and apolitical.

Controversy, however, only served to foment interest in her work. By the late ’60’s, a growing socio-political crisis in Argentina served as an impetus to bridge the gap between dissenting members of the theatre world. All of a sudden, the anti-realistic techniques established by playwrights such as Gambaro became useful tools for combating censorship. Likewise, growing concern with the increased human rights violations perpetrated by the State forced Gambaro, while still anti-realistic in tenet, to take a more overtly political standpoint in her work.

While Gambaro, as a playwright, can be seen to be continually searching for new stage languages and dramatic structures as a means of transforming reality, certain general characteristics can be noted to describe her work.

The world Gambaro chooses to convey in her theatre is violent, strange, disturbing and often in itself highly theatrical. Irony, ambiguity and paradox are the outstanding features of her dramatic style, while 1 black humour is the tone she most favours for capturing the horrors of contemporary Argentinean reality. The use and abuse of power, and the dangers of passivity, denial and naivety are the dominant themes that span all her work.

The aim of this thesis is to, firstly, highlight the important contribution Gambaro has made to the Argentinean stage through her attempts to offer alternative forms of theatrical expression to realism; and, secondly, to analyse the evolution of her theatre from the dual perspective of dramatic style and thematic content. In order to approach the theatre of Griselda Gambaro and understand her work as more than just an adaptation of avant garde theatrical trends established in Europe, in chapter one we will begin by situating her quite clearly in an Argentinean context.

We will trace the stages in the development of Argentinean theatre this century, from its formative years, through maturity with the independent theatre movement, to the great explosion that took place at the beginning of the ‘s and the dark years of repression that were to follow. Innovation from abroad will be seen as no stranger to the Argentinean stage and socio-political turmoil a common catalyst for the creation of new and ever-changing dramatic texts. In this first chapter, as Gambaro is to be as just a small part of a vast and varied whole, only brief mention will be made of her and only when particularly pertinent.


In chapter two, Griselda Gambaro will be brought into the foreground and her life and work will be studied in greater detail.

Mention will be made of the various dramatic styles upon which her work is founded, namely the Theatre of the Absurd, Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and Armando Discepolo’s grotesco criollo.

Griselda Gambaro

Her dramatic oeuvre will be divided into three distinct periods —the plays of the ’60’s, the plays of the 70’s and the plays of the ’80’s. The stylistic differences to be highlighted between each period will show Gambaro’s continued emphasis on experimentation, whereas her varied treatment of original themes will provide ample evidence for tracing an evolution of Gambaro’s concern with Argentina’s changing socio-political climate. El desatinoEl campoInformacion para extranjeros and Del sol naciente are the plays to be studied and have each been found to be representative works in Gambaro’s political as well as dramatic evolution.

It was a period marked by innovation and change, providing the impetus for the modernization and transformation of the Argentinean stage. The reasons for this are numerous. A short interval of unrestricted democracy allowed for the development of a counter-culture youth movement, which was highly-politicized and desperate to find ways of acting against the status quo.

Theatrical traditions established at the beginning of the century were being re-evaluated and modernized. The ideas of Konstantin Stanislavski were being readily circulated, the result of which was the formation of new type of realistic stage-acting. This, in turn, served as a stimulus for a new style of realistic play writing. The socially committed independent theatre movement begun in had reached maturity and was now in decline.

Smaller, more experimental theatre companies were being formed and the idea of the workshop became popular, with local actors and authors working together in mutual search for a truly national theatre. Improved communications meant that ground-breaking new plays from Europe and North America were reaching Argentina almost as quickly as they appeared on domestic stages, providing a variety of rich new stage languages to be experimented with.

What is more, the highly equipped experimental studios of El Instituto Torcuato di Telia were opened on Calle Florida indesigned specifically for providing a space for talented new artists specializing in the visual arts. As it had been in the ‘s, the Calle Florida was again to become the centre of Argentina’s second artistic vanguard movement, known as the neovanguardia and an area of hot debate.

Yet before we attempt to analyse her work in more detail, it is important to situate her and the new avant garde 4 movement she came to represent in an Argentinean context. Only in this way, will we be able to understand the theatrical explosion that took place during the ‘s as an integral part of a theatrical tradition present in Argentina since the ‘s. A tradition that, since its inception, has been no stranger to polemic and one that has always been closely associated with artistic innovations abroad as well as inextricably linked to socio-political conditions at home.

Stages in the Development of Argentinean Theatre Argentina has perhaps the strongest theatrical tradition in Latin America. This is partly due to the fact that Argentina, more than any other Latin American country, has for nearly one hundred and fifty years been open to immigration from abroad.

As a result, the new arrivals often brought with them not only a taste for theatre, but also the ideas and innovations of the contemporary stage in their respective countries. By the ‘s the number of theatres in Buenos Aires had doubled and the Calle Corrientes, where most of the commercial theatres are located, was comparable to Madrid’s Gran Via or London’s West End.

Pellettieri, Cien anos, 38 Commercial theatres were becoming a lucrative business and theatre-going had become a popular national pastime. Perez, Florencio Sanchez is often hailed as the father of Argentinean theatre. This is primarily because he was the first playwright to attempt a total synthesis of Argentinean reality on the stage —its language, its customs, its people and their unique socio-political struggles rooted in immigration and repressive bouts of legislation.

Written at the turn of the century, his dramas tend to show a unique blend of realistic and naturalistic theatre. He combined the photographic eye for detail and verisimilitude favoured by the realists, with the deterministic view of life more characteristic of the naturalists, while never failing to add local colour and credibility by including carefully studied customs and linguistic nuances.

Aristotelian in form, the structure of his plots is based on causality, with each step taken by the protagonist leading to irrevocable results and eventual tragedy. Pellettieri, Obra dramatica, 33 Yet it was in his ability to marry topical social criticism with an audience’s love of melodrama where Sanchez’s genius and continued popularity lay.

It will become apparent that this tradition, although periodically transformed or modernized by theories from abroad and made to serve different functions, remains very much alive in Argentinean theatre to this day and was one of the reasons, as we shall see, why the anti-realist work put out by the Instituto Torcuato di Telia met with such reaction and accusations of being anti-Argentinean, Parallel to the melodramas enjoyed by the cultural elite, there also developed in Argentina a strong tradition of popular theatre or genero chico, enjoyed by the lower classes —sainete, vodevil, revista and zarzuela.

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Perez, Of the above forms of dramatic entertainment, the sainete was the most popular. The sainete was a theatrical genre of popular origins imported to Argentina from Spain towards the end of the nineteenth century. It was a short, one-act, comedic piece structured around a sentimental and neatly resolved plot. The action took place in an open space, where characters from all walks of life were likely to cross paths —a patio, a park or a plaza.

The characters of the sainete were invariably types, whose linguistic expression localised their origins and revealed them to be from lower classes, some of whom were caricatured for humorous 6 effect.

Beyond words : the theatre of Griselda Gambaro – UBC Library Open Collections

Gambao their customs were lightly criticised but rarely were they condemned. Pellettieri, Cien afios, 28 Osvaldo Pellettieri, professor of Theatre at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, divides the development of Argentinean theatre after its initial inception into three phases: Cien afios, We will make use of these divisions for the purpose of this gabaro study. The first transition point in Argentinean theatre came about in the ‘s when the two dramatic styles mentioned above entered into a period of crisis.

This was partly due to the fact that with commercial theatre becoming a profitable business, theatre owners were putting playwrights and theatre companies under increasing pressure to produce new works. As a consequence, the quality of the productions began to decline. Cien afios, Cinema and radio were also beginning to attract audiences away from the theatre.

Irene Perez points grsielda that “las publicaciones especializadas y las criticas teatrales de este perfodo repiten con distintas palabras la misma idea: The failure of Argentina’s first experiment in democracy Yrigoyen – brought with it worsening social conditions, economic crisis, resistance from the workers and ultimately brutal repression. The light-hearted entertainment provided by ovras sainete suddenly seemed an inappropriate medium for addressing the growing working class dilemmas.

A sainetero by trade, the young playwright Armando Discepolo believed that theatre, the most social of art forms, could and should address social issues. There was no reason why the 7 sainete, which was in crisis anyway and in need of rejuvenation, should not be adapted to address gamabro serious social issues of topical interest to its working class public.

Discepolo, along with a number of other saineteros, therefore, started to search for a new theatrical form that would appeal to the changing reality of their audiences. These playwrights all felt that a more critical and committed approach was required. Financial hardship, hunger and defeat could no longer be blamed on the intransigence of the individual. Argentina had beckoned its immigrant class from far and wide obgas dreams of a wealthy new life, but instead had abandoned them to the barrios obrws left them geographically, economically and even linguistically isolated.

Muchos de ellos se ubicaron en los alrededores de la ciudad, amontonados en viejas casonas dee se convirtieron en “conventillos.

Despues de algunos aiios de permanencia en la Argentina, comenzaron a sentir la gravedad de su fracaso, un fracaso que invadio a grandes sectores de la poblacion. By studying Sanchez’s ability to combine d serious social discourse with audience-pleasing elements, Armando Discepolo and other saineteros saw the possibilities of combining the more successful elements of the sainete —visual comedy, caricature, recognizable types and linguistic confusion—with a more socially committed discourse.

Griselda Gambaro | LibraryThing

The crowd-pleasing components of the sainete were thus maintained to provide a light-hearted and palatable veneer to what was a very real and distressing subject matter. It was the beginning of tragicomedy on the Argentinean stage and it culminated in the birth of the grotesco criollo, a new teateo highly prided Argentinean theatrical genre still present in Argentinean theatre today.

Pellettieri, Teatro argentino, 80 – 81 8 The grotesco criollo, in its simplest form, is a short theatrical piece modelled on the Italian teatro del grottesco made famous by Luigi Pirandello.

The teatro del grottesco, as defined by Pellettieri, is a play of tragicomic appeal, structured around a sentimental plot but with special interest focused on the problems of one principal character. The protagonist, in order to avoid communicating his problem to others and thus confronting it himself, chooses instead to hide his true feelings behind a “voluntary” social mask. In Italian theatre this idea is transferred to people and is used to define the unhappy and often pathetic other self that lies hidden behind the social mask.

When a playwright chooses to reveal this side of a character, devoid of social graces and polite pretense, that character appears painfully awkward and ridiculously incongruous with his surroundings. Such treatment gives rise to il teatro del grottesco. The result is ridiculous or grotesque precisely because of the discrepancy between how the protagonist thinks he appears to others and how the other characters and the audience actually see him. The aim is for the audience to laugh at the incongruities between appearances and reality, while still empathizing with the underlying tragedy of the protagonist.

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