Enjoy Cervantes' version of "The Emperor's new clothes": "The Stage of Wonders". "The Barrack" produced this show in May, 2019 in our course "SPA260 Cervantes: Page and Stage" and we performed it at Hanover College and also at Lanier Mansion, Madison, in front of a Spanish-speaking audience from the community.
We had a lot of fun preparing it, and we hope you will also enjoy watching it!
The period encompassing the 16th and 17th centuries of Spain is traditionally known as the Golden Age due to the vast quantity and quality of Spanish cultural items from this period. Theater was not an exception. With the first society of the masses, and urban audiences demanding entertainment, theater in Spain turns into a large industry in which actors and actresses, and also playwrights, become stars. The period gives us more than 1,000 playwrights and more than 10,000 dramatic texts.
From a young age, Cervantes fell in love with theater and dreamed of being part of it, but unfortunately, his long dramas still show a traditional style that became old-fashioned for the audiences thirsty for more exciting shows. Hence, his career as playwright hardly took off. Lope de Vega will be the playwright setting up the rules for the new type of theater, "la comedia nueva", in Spain. Lope revolutionizes the art of drama during his time, and all playwrights will follow his new formula. In fact, people will start saying that something is "by Lope", when they want to praise the quality of it. Cervantes, between admiration and jealousy, will call Lope a "monster of nature", because of Lope's brilliance and prolific pace, and he will make a veiled comment about his ubiquity in "The Stage of Wonders". Fortunately, Cervantes's talent will not go unnoticed, as in 1605, he publishes the first part of El Quixote, and in 1615, the second part, fathering the modern novel for the Western world, and the masterpiece of humor that it is. Also in 1615, one year before passing away, he will publish eight long plays as well as these delightful eight interludes "that were never performed".
In his eight interludes, or entremeses, through playfulness, Cervantes will express all the traits that shine throughout his work: his humanist spirit, his defense of freedom, his questioning about reality, and about true values... And since their publication, they have become classics on our stages.
The Stage of Wonders is Cervantes's own version of the old story known as "The Emperor's New Clothes". While Cervantes is writing, Spain is undergoing a process of national construction that demands a homogenous population. Cervantes recreates this demand around an ethnic and religious homogenization, which in this production appears under the idea of "purity of blood", and also under the idea of being legitimate children, closely related to the idea of "honor".
Cervantes uses his eight interludes to present a farcical, witty, and hilarious commentary on the times in which he lived. The Stage of Wonders remains not only as an extremely fun play that never loses its charm but also as a discourse that has not aged and can be applied to our current times over and over: the attempt to appear what we are not, social pressure, social exclusion, the difficulty to distinguish reality from fiction when messages come with a stamp of authority.
WHAT OUR STUDENTS SAY ABOUT THIS EXPERIENCE
Performing "The stage of wonders" by Miguel de Cervantes (El retablo de las maravillas), under the expert guidance of Dr. Alejandra Rodriguez-Villar, was a wonderful window into the era of Golden Age Spanish theater. While learning the roles that my classmates were to play, we were able to get a glimpse into the mindset of the Spaniards during the era in which this play was written. You could better understand their mindset, better understand their humor, their livelihood, and even take a peek into the socio-economic problems of the country. However, even if you did not want to dive that deep into the play, it was still an interesting experience to see how a play, even written so long ago, is still entertaining today. It can show us that we are not so different in different parts of the world. We all have, roughly, the same humor, we can understand personally the same problems and we can share the same experiences as those who have come before us in a different period, and possibly for some, another part of the world. The stage of wonders was a hilarious show to watch, and even more, to participate in. Wonderful and cherished memories were made while rehearsing and performing the play. I could strongly recommend taking in such plays as they are great fun and insightful; and if you're presented with the opportunity to participate in such a thing, I'm am sure that you are not likely to regret it. - Brian Hayes, class of 2020.