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Chapter Two

Feminist Theatre in Twentieth-Century Spain

The study of feminist monologue plays in Spain depends greatly upon their
situation within the scope of Peninsular feminist drama as a whole, since their
development of theme and technique often mirrors or incorporates those of the multipersonal works of the same period. While a detailed exploration of womens contribution
to Spanish drama in the twentieth century is beyond the scope of this project, this chapter
will outline some of the majors trends and movements which have influenced the
contributions by women to the development of Peninsular theatre as a whole and to a
feminist theatrical tradition in particular.
The relative absence of female dramatists in the history of Spanish theatre is a
condition frequently noted by those Peninsular theatre scholars who focus predominantly
on feminine or feminist production. Critical literature regarding women dramatists in
Spain repeatedly returns to the question posed by Patricia OConnor in 1984: Por qu
no estrenan las mujeres en Espaa?1 Historically, the blame rested with womens
presumed incapacity for the more technical requirements of dramatic production.
OConnor, in the introduction to her groundbreaking 1988 book Dramaturgas espaolas
de hoy, notes:
En cuanto a la creacin literaria, existe la creencia ampliamente difundida
de que la narracin, menos estructurada, menos limitada y ms espontnea
que el drama [] es un gnero compatible con los talentos femininos.
Por el contrario, el teatro, al requirir disciplina, sntesis, brillantez verbal,


conocimientos sociales, y accin, se ha considerado un gnero apropiado

a los talentos y experiencias masculinos. (13)
In the same essay, O Connor delves into the many latent social and cultural
norms which continue to hold sway in the Spain of the twentieth century with regard to
female participation in that most masculine of genres, the theatre. She cites an ingrained
resistance to female participation in the public arena of the stage, stemming from
centuries of patriarchal culture on the Peninsula. From the Greco-Roman scorn for the
female sex apparent in the canonized philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, to the Muslim
prohibitions on womens appearance outside the home and the traditional purdah, to Fray
Luis de Lens Renaissance model of femininity in La perfecta casada (1583), which
continued to determine womens behavior well into the twentieth century as a tool of the
Franco dictatorship, women were discouraged from active participation in public life, and
particularly in the theatre, which carried with it the added connotation of la mujer
pblica.2 Many who responded to OConnors question for Estreno regarding the lack
of debuts by women playwrights described the act of writing theatre as a break with the
intimacy of narrative or poetry, as desnudarse en pblico (Serrano Hacia una
dramaturgia femenina 343), and also noted the additional economic commitment that a
theatrical production implies, difficult to overcome for any unknown dramatist but
doubly so if that dramatist is female. (Estreno X.2, 13-25) Yet, despite the forces arrayed
against them, women have over the course of Spanish history, and particularly in the
twentieth century, written, produced, directed and performed dramas for the theatre-going


Emilia Pardo Bazn is best known for her novelistic work, but she was also a
dramatist and saw four of her seven plays reach production at the beginning of the
twentieth century, including her first play, the monologue El vestido de boda, which was
written for the actress Balbina Valverde and first performed in 1898. Pardo Bazns
plays use a realistic style to present social issues and philosophical questions regarding
the human condition, often placing women at the center of the conflicts. Mary Bretz notes
that Pardo Bazns feminist views are perceptible in all of her plays, and that they are
particularly clear in her last play Cuesta Abajo, staged in 1906, in which the women take
leadership roles to promote change in Spains disintegrating aristocratic society (44).
Pilar Nieva de la Paz shed some much needed light on Pardo Bazns successors
in her comprehensive 1993 study, Autoras dramticas espaolas entre 1918 y 1936.4 She
introduces her work with the observation that, despite a large number of successful
productions of plays by women dramatists in the 20 years immediately preceding the
Spanish Civil War, there has been little if any mention of their contributions in general
theatre histories of the twentieth century and proposes to rectify that oversight with a
study of the themes and techniques of these unrecognized pioneers of womens theatre in
Spain.5 Nieva de la Paz carefully outlines the connections between the nascent feminist
movements in Spain during the first three decades of the twentieth century and the female
playwrights at the time. In fact, several women dramatists were instrumental in the
formation of feminist groups that advocated equal opportunities for women in education,
politics, law and matrimony. Among the most prominent were Mara de la O Lejrraga6
who in 1919 founded the Unin de Mujeres de Espaa which later became the
Asociacin Feminina de Educacin Cvica, and Mara Francisca Clar Margarit, who


wrote under the pseudonym Halma Anglica and in 1935 was the vice-president of the
Asociacin Nacional de Mujeres Espaolas. She later directed the Juventud de
Lyceum Club in 1936. Nieva de la Paz also mentions a number of smaller feminist
associations which functioned alongside the two major ones, the U.M.E. and the
A.N.M.E., many of which contaban incluso con grupos de aficionados que
representaron numerosas obras durante el perodo (66).
In her article Teatro espaol y feminismo, Margarita Borja observes:
En esa lcida poca, centralizada en la II Repblica, [] las feministas
espaolas, y aquellas que sin explicitar su feminismo, tambin configuran
el movimiento de mujeres, conquistaban posiciones de ciudadana y
encontraban en las iniciativas teatrales una forma de agruparse, tomar la
propia palabra y mantener vivos estmulos recprocos encaminados a
lograr la utopa. (14)
However, these different womens groups did not necessarily agree on many of
the issues addressed by feminist agendas during the Second Republic, since the title
feminist encompassed a wide range of beliefs and attitudes with regard to womens
rights. Nieva notes that, though the perception of las feministas was often that they
represented a danger to the social structure of the family and encouraged frivolity and
vice among women, the movement included many groups with drastically different
perspectives, from conservative Catholic organizations sponsored by the Church to
radical feminist associations which espoused a break from the dominant social structures.
Nevertheless, the majority of organizations dedicated to womens issues promoted a
moderate feminism which advocated equal rights for women under the law but continued


to reinforce the maternal role as a womans most important contribution to society,

attempting to reassure the nervous patriarchy which saw its autonomy threatened by the
increasing demands of the female population (Nieva 73). Naturally, the range of opinions
expressed by women in the political arena, from conservative Catholicism to radical
feminism, was reflected in the theatre produced by those same women.
Nievas study includes an analysis of the themes and techniques employed by
female dramatists in the period prior to the Spanish Civil War, which reveals that
[e]s posible afirmar [] que el centenar aproximado de textos de autora
femenina analizados giran en su mayor parte en torno a la familia, el amor,
el matrimonio y la maternidad, constelaciones temticas que [] se
desarrollan en diversas direcciones y bajo distintas perspectivas
ideolgicas o morales. (93)
Yet, despite the commonality of themes among the dramatists, the playwrights treatment
of these various yet interrelated topics reveals a wide range of perspectives regarding the
female role within the social structures treated in their plays. Some dramatists such as
Pilar Milln Astray, Mara Pilar Contreras and Elena Miniet wrote relatively conservative
plays, which supported the dominant social norms, and presented heroines which
embodied the accepted definitions of femininity and morality. Others such as Halma
Anglica, Mara Teresa Borragn, and Anglica del Diablo put forth a more progressive
view and presented situations that revealed or criticized the difficulties imposed upon
women of their era. Still, regardless of perspectives, Nieva notes the common focus on
womens experiences among all of the playwrights, destacando su inters por la


psicologa femenina y dejando a un lado la caracterizacin ntima de los personajes

varones (93).
The female characters presented by women dramatists in the two decades
preceding the Civil War clearly reflect the ideologies of their creators, whether in their
conformation to social expectations and traditional morality or in their break from them.
Nieva observes that most of the playwrights she studied tended toward the conservative,
presenting women who reinforced the cultural constructs of the period and rarely violated
social taboos. Those conservative writers who rejected the feminist ideals of the
womens movement tended to present the modern (feminist) woman as rich, frivolous,
and unconcerned with motherhood or social responsibility, in direct contrast with the
traditional woman, who was moral, self-sacrificing and domestic. Nieva notes that al
asociar la ligereza de conducta de la mujer de clase alta con la imagen ms extendida de
la mujer moderna, se pretende en el fondo desprestigiar las nuevas doctrinas igualitarias
que empiezan a ser populares en ciertos ambientes (89). In fact, many times the blame
for an upper middle class familys economic decline fell on daughters or wives painted as
spendthrifts. However, those efforts to discredit the feminist movement were
counteracted to some extent with the works of certain women, such as Halma Anglica
and Mara Teresa Borragn, who attempted to reveal the unjust conditions suffered by
women in Spanish society and to defend their rights and abilities.
The presentation of love and marriage, whether positive or negative, is of primary
importance in much of the female dramatists theatrical production of the period and
provides a great deal of insight into the conditions affecting women prior to the Civil
War. Since most women playwrights tended toward conservatism in their portrayals of


love, they frequently emphasized the redemptive power of el amor total and rejected
unbounded passion or destructive sensuality. Nevertheless, some women playwrights
did challenge accepted social norms, presenting an active female sexuality, questioning
the standard of feminine passivity and acceptance of male desire, or examining the
connection between love and pain with existential overtones. Halma Anglica, in her
play Al margen de la ciudad, presents la enorme e insospechada potencia del deseo
femenino (Nieva 97) in the form of the main character, Elena, abandoned by her
husband and in love with her brother-in-law. In the same play, Anglica questions the
morality of maintaining a loveless marriage through Alidra, the character who embodies
the mujer moderna. In Anglica del Diablos play, Una romntica, the rebellious main
character Mara openly questions the expectation that a woman accept whichever man
decides to court her, saying Es decir que tengo que quererles a ustedes a la fuerza?
Vamos, eso es la ley de embudo. (quoted in Nieva 98). In El tercer mundo, Pilar de
Valderrama, la Guiomar machadiana (Nieva 105), presents the relationship between a
woman suffering in a loveless marriage and her lover, with whom she intends to run
away. When their plans are frustrated, the only possibility for their love is the creation of
a third plane of existence that they will occupy in their minds, el tercer mundo which
gives the play its title. All of these portrayals of love reveal alternatives to traditional
roles for women and dan prueba [..] de que empezaba a cundir una nueva conciencia
entre ciertos sectores de mujeres, disconforme con la realidad y consciente de la urgencia
de cambiar los cdigos sociales y morales que subyugaban a la mujer en el amor (Nieva


While for most female playwrights of the period marriage was the only acceptable
option for an enamoured couple, their plays often presented the problems associated with
marriage for reasons other than love. Many plays treat the difficulties encountered by
women who are faced with pressure to marry in order to gain social status for the family
or relieve parental debt. Some characters acquiesce to their families wishes while others
resist these marriages of convenience to men who are frequently cast as scoundrels or
frauds by the female playwrights in order to emphasize [e]l prejuico que de un
exagerado intervencionismo familiar puede derivarse (Nieva 109).
Nevertheless, when treating the theme of marriage, whether conservative or
liberal in their orientation, many women dramatists targeted for criticism the blatant
double standard regarding male and female sexual experience and this critical stance,
common among playwrights of varying degrees of feminism, Nieva sees to reveal la
necesidad de una reforma de las pautas que rigen las relaciones entre los dos sexos
(106). Thus, Pilar Milln Astray, one of the most prolific and conservative of the female
playwrights working during the Second Republic, harshly criticized the general
acceptance of male sexual promiscuity and advocated a standard of morality for both men
and women which condemned sexual adventurillas. At the other end of the spectrum,
Mara Teresa Borragn, in her play La voz de las sombras, highlights the negative
consequences of womens complete sexual ignorance when entering into marriage with
men who are sexually promiscuous. Borragns character contracts a venereal disease
from her spouse which prevents her from having children, perhaps one of the worst fates
a married woman could suffer at the hands of her husband, given the honored status
accorded motherhood in Spanish society at the time.


Indeed, the sanctity of motherhood in Spanish society is another of the themes

upon which the majority of women writers of the period seem to agree. While the
manner with which individual writers portray motherhood and the types of mothers
presented vary according to their particular views, these dramatists treat the maternal
instinct as the rasgo definitorio del ser femenino (Nieva 117). Women characters in
their plays will sacrifice all else in order to preserve their role as mother and in many
instances maternity is presented as the answer for a woman seeking happiness and
meaning in her life. Pilar Milln presented numerosos ejemplos de madres modlicas y
una continua exaltacin de la maternidad como algo esencialmente noble y sagrado
(Nieva 118), often describing brave, powerful and intelligent women who must find a
way to save their families, as with her play La Galana. Some of the more progressive
playwrights, like Halma Anglica in her play La nieta de Fedra, defended the rights of
single mothers and denounced the social ostracism that almost invariably accompanied
the birth of a child out of wedlock. Equally problematic for women, whether married or
single, was the nightmare of childlessness and several women playwrights of the era
wrote about female characters faced with the inability to have children and their struggles
to find a sense of motherhood through adoption of abandoned children, such as Pilar
Millns Las ilusiones de la Patro or Adelina Aparicio y Ossorios La voz de la sangre.
Apart from the three major themes of love, marriage and maternity which occupy
the large majority of plays written by women during the Second Republic, Nieva notes a
limited number of plays which deal with social or political issues of the time. In her
study she found that, in general, most of these womens plays are politically and
ideologically conservative and deal only minimally, if at all, with national politics; even


the pivotal issue of womens suffrage is almost entirely ignored (135). In fact, many
playwrights were decidedly anti-feminist in their portrayals of modern women, as noted
above, and militantemente contrarias a las nuevas ideas emancipistas(138). However,
there were exceptions to the rule and some female dramatists no dud[aron] en incluir
ideas francamente feministas en sus obras (138). Examples of such dissonant voices can
be found in Elena Arcedianos play Mujeres solas, Mara Teresa Borragns A la luz de la
luna, and the radically feminist writings of Anglica del Diablo, who presents the
suffering of women with tremendista techniques which Nieva classifies as a destructiva
crtica social que [] conduce as hacia el nihilismo desesperanzado (138).
Although Nieva notes the relative absence of plays which directly discuss another
of the political issues of the era, the idea of education for women and their incorporation
into the job market, which rarely appears unless they must do so in order to save their
families, she carefully describes the didactic purpose of much of the female theatrical
production, particularly in Catholic and childrens theatre works. Presenting traditional
models of Christian virtue, modesty, resignation, purity, patience, abnegation and charity
and often associating working women with the economic and social decline of the family,
most playwrights revealed and reinforced the patriarchal value system imposed on
women in Spain. Though there are examples of exceptions in which women took a more
proactive role and questioned the social norms which controlled their behavior and
limited their freedom, Nieva states that se puede afirmar la falta en muchas autoras de
una conciencia clara de la necesidad urgente de mejorar el nivel educativo y profesional
de las mujeres (134).


Nevertheless, Nievas study clearly demonstrates a feminist presence among the

female playwrights of the second Republic. Even those women who resisted the
profoundly feminist stance of more progressive dramatists revealed an overriding concern
for the portrayal of womens issues in their works, giving voice to experiences of abuse
and discrimination which were rarely addressed in the dramatic works produced by their
male counterparts.7 Margarita Borja optimistically notes that [c]omo ha sido el caso en
otros momentos histricos de efervescente proceso, el teatro era vehculo de ideas de
participacin poltica during the first nearly forty years of the twentieth century in Spain.
It included the participation by women such as Mara de la O Lejrraga and Mara Teresa
Len, wife of Rafael Alberti, in the Guerrillas Teatrales during the Civil War and only
saw its momentum truncated with the defeat of Republican forces in 1939 (14).
With the advent of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, which marked the end of
the Spanish Civil War, and the concomitant censorship of nearly every form of
communication, the style and themes of theatre produced by both male and female
dramatists changed drastically. Ideologically conservative propaganda plays and
evasionist comedies that reinforced the traditional morality of the Spanish middle classes
replaced the edgy, critical dramas written and produced in the Second Republic. Women
dramatists of the middle decades of the twentieth century whose plays were commercially
produced8 were notably conservative in their dramatic production, writing plays which
frequently satirized the independent or intellectual woman and reinforced the cultural
norms advocated by the Franco dictatorship with regard to womens roles as wife and
mother in Spanish society. The three best-known of the women playwrights working
during the Franco regime were Dora Sedano, who wrote primarily comedias burguesas


during the forties and fifties, Julia Maura, the most represented of the post-War female
dramatists with sixteen debuted dramas, mostly sentimental comedies or thesis dramas,
and Ana Diosdado, who came onto the scene later than the other two and continued to
write and present dramas during the transition from dictatorship to democracy. It is
interesting to note that, contrary to many of their predecessors from the early years of the
twentieth century, none of these women considers herself a feminist9 and all except
Diosdado escribieron en los modos evasionistas, poticos, melodramticos, folklricos y
humorsticos en boga en aquel entonces (OConnor Otra censura 111).
In fact, in some ways Diosdado may be considered a bridge between the staunchly
traditional plays of the post-War era and the beginnings of a more deliberately feminist
theatre with the advent of democracy in Spain. Her play are serious, often naturalistic,
treatments of social situations and, particularly at the start of her career, often dealt with
issues that would later take center stage in the works of more blatantly feminist
dramatists. Perhaps her most important work from both a social and feminist standpoint
is her 1973 drama Usted tambin podr disfrutar de ella, which won the Fastenrath Prize
from the Real Academia de la Lengua. The play is a biting criticism of both the
consumer society which had begun to take hold in Spain in the late sixties and early
seventies and the large companies who, with the help of the press, contrived to victimize
the innocent in order to protect their own bottom line. Diosdado also calls into question
the inherent dehumanization of women in a consumer society where the objectified
female body is one of the major tools of advertising. Unfortunately, the playwrights later
works seem to retreat from this early feminist stance, and several of her later plays fall
back on the stereotypes so frequent in post-War womens dramas.10 Nevertheless, she is


the only female playwright to be included in the Sainz de Robles collection Teatro
espaol for the years 1949-1973, and her broad-based commercial success serves as a
reminder to other women that, though difficult, it is possible for female dramatists to
achieve success writing for the stage.
Most overviews of feminist theatre in Spain begin with the decline of censorship
and the fall of the Franco dictatorship in 1975. However, Patricia OConnor notes a
significant decline in female authorship of plays in the years immediately prior to and
immediately following the arrival of democracy, which she attributes to the precipitous
increase in erotic themes and the accompanying destape that marked one of the least
admirable periods of Spanish commercial theatre and with which few female dramatists
were comfortable (Dramaturgas 32). A notable exception to this retreat from the stage is
the work of Carmen Resino, whose plays continued to find an audience in alternative
theatre during the transition period and whose absurdist monologue La sed (1974)
approached the eroticism of the time with a critical eye. Though Resino has repeatedly
rejected the feminist label, her works show a marked interest in the portrayal of female
experience within the realm of general social criticism, as with her 1974 drama Ulises no
vuelve, which won the Premio Lope de Vega, and her 1992 historical drama Los erticos
sueos de Isabel Tudor, among others. Another important figure in feminist theatre
during the transition was Lidia Falcn, who was more widely known for her work as a
lawyer, essayist, author and editor of the periodical Vindicacin feminista, which was
published between 1975 and 1979. Her dramatic production shared the same vehement
defense of womens rights and acid, ironic criticism of dominant social structures which
characterized her prose works, elements which clearly define plays such as Calle, pague


y no moleste, Seora (1983), the triptych of monologues Tres idiotas espaolas (1987)
and Siempre he buscado amor aunque no me crean (1994).
One of the first official moves toward the inclusion of women in the arena of the
Spanish stage came with the institution of the Premio Lisistrata in 1980, un premio
feminista destinado a fomentar la escasa participacin de la mujer en el teatro como
directora y autora (Hijar 48). The prize was sponsored by the Partido Feminista under
the influence of Catalan playwright and critic Mara Jos Ragu Aras and rewarded the
best feminist script and best feminist production presented by a woman at the
International Theatre Festival in Sitges. The prize met with great enthusiasm and each
year brought more entries for both text and production, but economic problems with the
festival forced the suspension of the Lisistrata in 1983. Marisa Hijar comments in her
article on the award that [l]as razones aducidas, puramente econmicas, dejaban
entrever, sin embargo, que quiz el Patronato del Festival (formado mayoritariamente por
hombres) no vea con demasiados buenos ojos esta manifestacin teatral feminista (49).
Nevertheless, it was the first step toward the fomentation of a feminist theatre in Spain.
Although 1983 marks the end of the Premio Lisistrata, in many ways it is a
pivotal year in the development of a feminist theatre tradition in Spain. Concha Romero
published Un olor a mbar, the first of several historical dramas in which she focused on
the female experience, and the collage of feminist theatre Dones i Catalunya appeared in
Catalonia on a semi-commercial basis before appearing at the International Theatre
Festival in Athens, Greece later that year (Quienes son las dramaturgas espaolas
10). In addition, Mara Manuela Reina became the first woman to win the theatre prize
for the Sociedad General de Autores for her play El navegante. The momentum


continued with the publication of the Autumn issue of Estreno in 1984, which focused
entirely on the contributions of women playwrights in Spain, the commercial and
controversial production of Paloma Pedreros one-act drama La llamada de Lauren, and
the award of the prestigious Premio Caldern de la Barca to Maribel Lzaros Humo de
beleo in 1985. The formation of the Asociacin de Dramaturgas11 followed in 1986 and
the subsequent publication of Patricia OConnors landmark study Dramaturgas
espaolas de hoy in 1988 demonstrated that critical interest and recognition of female
dramatists had increased significantly during the eighties and early nineties. In 1993 the
Comunidad de Madrid sponsored a Muestra de teatro de mujeres (Borja 13), and in 1994,
in Cincinnati, another symposium entitled Un escenario propio, gathered Peninsular,
North American and Latin American scholars and artists interested in feminist theatrical
production for four days of dramatic presentations and theoretical debate, an
accomplishment which has yet to be repeated on an international scale. That same year
also saw the inception of the Premio Mara Teresa Len,12 sponsored by the Asociacin
de Directores de Escena de Espaa and the Instituto de la Mujer, which serves to
propiciar y favorecer la escritura de obras literario-dramticas por parte de mujeres
(Premio 1). Of course, all of this recognition for female dramatists resulted from (and
in) the increased activity and visibility of women playwrights in Spain.
Virtudes Serrano delineates three basic stages of female theatrical production
production in the latter part of the twentieth century: la dcada de los setenta con sus
implicaciones polticas (final de la dictadura y comienzos de la democracia), la escritura
en libertad y la vuelta a las formas del realismo de los aos ochenta, y los aos noventa
con la revolucin esttica de signo neovanguardista llevada a cabo por los ms jvenes


(1). In her 1994 article Hacia una dramaturgia femenina, Serrano traced some of the
general tendencies of female dramatists in the decades following the transition to
democracy. She noted the predominance of realistic dramas, particularly in the eighties,
an interest in historical theatre, which perhaps finds its roots in the influence of Buero
Vallejo, a tendency to invert the established canon, and a prediliction for one-act drama.
Thematically, women playwrights of the late twentieth century differ little from their
male counterparts, frequently focusing on questions of personal liberty or individual
identity, the machinations of power, individual or collective frustration, solitude, and
social criticism. However, they also include issues specific to women and approach all of
these themes from a uniquely feminine and often feminist perspective, searching for a
language adequate to express their different experiences on stage (Serrrano 356-359).
In all of the periods of womens theatre articulated by Serrano, the monologue
play is an important tool for feminist dramatic production and reflects the themes and
techniques treated in the playwrights works as a whole. In the years just before and just
following the fall of the Franco dictatorship, women like Carmen Resino, Mara Jos
Ragu Aras and Lidia Falcn were using drama and theatrical monologue to reveal the
untenable situation of women in Spain; many of their works from this period are
testimonial in nature and use realist techniques to convey their frustration, isolation, and
lack of agency. With the added social and literary freedom of the mid- to late-eighties
and early nineties, these same playwrights were joined by other women, such as Pilar
Pombo, Julia Garca Verdugo, Charo Solanas, and Itziar Pascual, who added their voices
to the protest against social inequality for women.13 Their works, and particularly their
monologues, tend to remain realistic dramas where womens experiences in the home and


on the job are the primary focus. Their characters range from young working class
women who rebel against the social conventions enforced by the previous generation to
members of that older generation who are starting to rebel against those same cultural
norms. Sexual liberation, the search for a personal identity, and a criticism of social
constructs which limit womens choices and curtail their ability to pursue their dreams
take their place in womens drama alongside more general social criticism of Spains
increasingly consumer-oriented society and the dehumanization which accompanies it.
The last decade of the twentieth century saw little change in the thematic content
of womens drama, although some of the dramatists who were writing during the period
of the transition to democracy, such as Lidia Falcn, have noted a lessening of the social
conscience in plays produced by the younger generation (Personal interview, 5 May
2002). Nevertheless, female dramatists continued to place center stage the experiences of
women in Spanish society and still frequently employed a realistic frame for their works,
although some began to experiment with other dramatic styles, including multimedia
elements in their productions and employing absurdist or Brechtian techniques. The
nineties also saw the increased use of a satirized male voice among the monologue plays
which created an ironic distance often absent from earlier dramas.
Yet, perhaps most interesting is that the issues presented by the feminist
playwrights of the last decades of the twentieth century are those same issues which held
a primary place in the writing of women dramatists before the war. While their
perspective is different, their main concern continues to be womens rights within the
confines of Spanish social structures, exploring the themes of marriage, maternity, love,
and professional and personal freedom. Clearly feminist theatre will continue to occupy


a place on the Spanish stage as long as women continue to be marginalized and restricted
in Spains social and professional arenas.



See Por qu no estrenan las mujeres en Espaa? The question was posed to 14 different women involved with
the theatre and/or feminist causes in Spain, and elicited a wide variety of responses. Some noted womens reluctance to
engage in the business of theatre production, others felt there were significant barriers to womens participation constructed
by the male-dominated world of producers, directors and other dramaturgs, while still others saw the lack of female
participation as a result of a personal choice to avoid theatrical production, un supremo pudor lleno de orgullo (25).

See OConnors introduction, entitled La difcil dramaturgia femenina espaola pp 9-28 in Dramaturgas

espaolas de hoy.

Teresa Soufas has done extensive work on the contributions of female dramatists of Spains Golden Age. See her

books Dramas of Distinction and Womens Acts. In the nineteenth century, Getrudis Gmez de Avellaneda was one of the
most productive and popular of the Romantic dramatists and saw thirteen of her plays reach production to critical and
popular acclaim.

It is notable that even OConnors landmark book, which includes an Indice bio-bibliogrfico of female

playwrights from the whole of the twentieth century, makes few critical references to the female playwrights working prior
to the Franco era.

Given the relative lack of information regarding these dramatists in sources other than Nieva de la Pazs study, the

descriptions of the playwrights work found here are based on Nievas research unless otherwise noted.

Mara de la O Lejrraga is better known by her married name, Mara Martnez Sierra. Patricia OConnor is the

author of several studies on the Martnez Sierra which demonstrate her to be the primary author of many of the plays signed
by Gregorio. See Gregorio and Mara Martnez Sierra, particularly Chapter Two.

The notable exception to this tendency is the work of Federico Garca Lorca, whose tragedias rurales focused

specifically on the plight of women in the repressive hierarchies of traditional Spanish culture, though often as a metaphor
for more generalized oppression.

Much of Patricia OConnors work on female dramatists notes the distinct lack of women playwrights during the

period in Spanish literary history when other genres were experiencing a veritable boom in women writers. For more
information on the causes of this absence, see OConnors Las dramaturgas espaolas y la otra censura.

See O Connors Por qu no estrenan las mujeres en Espaa? and Quines son las dramaturgas espaolas

contemporneas y qu han escrito?


See OConnors Women Playwrights in Contemporary Spain and the Male-Dominated Canon.


For a detailed description of the aims and methods of this Association, see Virtudes Serranos article Hacia una

dramaturgia femenina.

The ADE website, at, offers a complete list of winners and honorable mentions for the prize

since its inception and a description of the prize itself.


Several critics, including Virtudes Serrano in her article Dramaturgas espaolas de fin de siglo, note the

concucrrence of two generations of women dramatists in Spain: those who experienced as adults the Franco dictatorship,
such as Falcn, Ragu-Aras, Pombo and Resino, and those who reached maturity during and after the transition to
democracry, like Pedrero, Pascual, Palln, and Solanas.