After the Civil War (1936–9), the theatre, like most other cultural manifestations, was forced to be as non-controversial as possible. There was a return to the light social dramas of, for instance, the Álvarez Quintero brothers and Carlos Arniches, and conservative contemporary playwrights such as José María Pemán, Joaquín Calvo Sotelo, José López Rubio and Víctor Ruiz Iriarte dominated the stage in Madrid with escapist comedies and psychological dramas. Some influences from the innovative period of the early 1930s, however, survived, in the shape of a few independent groups, and some imaginative directors working in the national theatres. Directors like Felipe Lluch, Luis Escobar, Hurberto Pérez de la Ossa, Claudio de la Torre and Cayetano Luca de Tena worked with some success at the Teatro María Guerrero and the Teatro Español, putting on new versions of classical texts, with a sensitive and intelligent approach to design, choreography and music. From the beginning, under Felipe Lluch's direction, artists such as Salvador Dalí, and musicians such as Ernesto Halffter and Joaquín Rodrigo worked for the national theatres. Plays such as Antonio Buero Vallejo's Historia de una escalera (Story of a Staircase) (1949) and Alfonso Sastre's Escuadra hacia la muerte (Death Squad) (1953) opened the way to political criticism and social commitment. This emphasis on the social and political function of the theatre was reinforced by the work of independent groups led by figures like Rivas Cherif, José Luis Alonso, Carmen Troitiño, Alfonso Sastre, José María de Quinto, Marta Grau and Arturo Carbonell, to mention only a few. These groups introduced audiences to plays by North American realists and French existentialists, and revived classic works in open-air performances. They also put on works by dissident writers like Joan Brossa, Buero and Sastre, and promoted techniques derived from Craig, Reinhardt and the epic theatre of Brecht: for instance, the use of a narrator's voice, the fragmentation of time, mixing past and present, cinematic methods and the introduction of the author as a character. The Franco regime could not remain immune to the gradual opening-up of Spain to cultural influences from abroad during the 1950s. In 1954 the Government created the Teatro Nacional de Cámara y Ensayo (National Studio Theatre), sponsored with public donations and directed by Modesto Higueras (who had collaborated with Federico García Lorca in the travelling theatre company La Barraca in the 1930s). José Tamayo headed the Teatro Español from 1955 to 1962, while over the same period Claudio de la Torre was in charge at the María Guerrero Theatre (1954–60). These theatres played host to a number of leading Spanish directors, notably Adolfo Marsillach and Ricard Salvat, amongst others. Experienced in working with independent studio theatre groups, and familiar with many languages and cultures, they enabled Spanish audiences to see the most important works of European and American drama within a short time of their first performance abroad. The repertoire of the National Studio Theatre included North American naturalist drama, epic theatre, theatre of cruelty, existentialist drama, German expressionism, theatre of the absurd and Living Theatre. At the Español in 1961, Tamayo produced the first performance since the Civil War of the controversial Divinas palabras (Divine Words) by Ramon María del Valle-Inclán, and in the following year Lorca's Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding). José Luis Alonso's first production on taking over the management of the María Guerrero in 1961 was Ionesco's Rhinoceros. Marsillach mounted the first performance in Spain of Marat Sade by Peter Weiss (1968). In Catalonia, Ricard Salvat, one of the main promoters of the Catalan National Theatre, together with Maria Aurèlia Capmany, founded the Escola d'Art Dramatic Adrià Gual (Adrià Gual School of Drama), one of the most important Spanish Theatres of the 1960s.
   The 1960s also saw the rise of many university and independent groups seeking to bring the theatre within reach of a wider public, but in an idiom different from that of the commercial stage. Many of these groups performed in the National Studio Theatre, and cultivated the alienation and distancing effects practised by Reinhardt, Piscator and Brecht. They also used elements of Artaud's theatre of cruelty, and drew on the improvisational approach advocated by Grotowsky's Laboratory Theatre. They favoured the anti-realistic style of Beck, in which emotional impact is achieved through a blend of political and aesthetic radicalism. The unifying characteristic of these groups is their rejection of the notion that the dramatic text is something fixed and unchangeable. They advocated the reconfiguration of non-dramatic texts for the stage, especially narrative and cinematography, and drew on the resources of parody and farce. They also devised documentary drama based on newspaper texts, and defended the value of an actor's improvisation on a concrete situation. They exploited the expressive capacity of gesture, mimic, music and tonal variations. In common with Living Theatre, they used techniques derived from vaudeville, cabaret and carnival, as well as parody, to transform themes, myths, genres and styles, which they channelled into "happenings" and street shows.
   After Franco's death (1975) the theatre, like the other arts, benefited from the repeal of the censorship laws. In 1985, the Instituto Nacional de las Artes Escénicas y de la Música (National Institute for Performing Arts and Music-INAEM) was created, with four theatrical divisions: the Centro Dramático Nacional (The National Drama Centre); the Centro Nacional de Nuevas Tendencias Escénicas (The National Centre for Experimental Theatre); the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (The Classic Theatre Company); and the Teatro Nacional Lírico de la Zarzuela (The National Zarzuela Lyric Theatre). The INAEM's main functions were to protect and promote theatrical activities in Spain and to open up possibilities for co-operation between theatre professionals and public institutions. In 1993, the INAEM created the Red Nacional de Teatros y Auditorios (National Network of Theatres and Auditoria), which represented an important effort to make public theatres available to companies. The reorganization of Spain into autonomous communities facilitated the setting up of new regional centres for drama production and study, as well as regional theatre companies and festivals. In 1995 the The National Drama Centre merged with the National Centre for Experimental Theatre.
   After the accession to power by the socialist PSOE in 1982, producers and playwrights trained in the studio companies and independent groups became managers of the expanding public theatres, among them Hermann Bonninn, Mario Gas, Guillermo Heras, Juan Margallo, Josep Montanyès, Miguel Narros, Lluís Pasqual, José Luis Gómez and José Carlos Plaza, amongst others. Their experience in the independent groups had an important influence on the dramatic idiom of the public theatre, with increasing emphasis on visual elements rather than text. In the 1990s, even the most conservative audiences came to accept some of the complex semiotic codes used by this theatrical approach. Notable examples are Calderón by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1986), directed by Guillermo Heras (a complex interpretation of the historical character of the seventeenth-century playwright expressed almost entirely through visual image) and Azaña, una pasión española (Azaña, a Spanish Passion) (1988), based on the life and writings of Manuel Azaña, President of the Spanish Republic, which was directed by José Luis Gómez on an empty stage with an effective use of lighting.
   The large public theatres gave official support to productions of works by the historic figures of the Spanish avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s: Valle-Inclán, Alberti, José Bergamín, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Azorín, and especially García Lorca, whose El público (The Audience) (1986), directed by Pasqual and designed by Fabia Puigserver, was one of the most memorable performances of the 1980s. A number of important Catalan writers also saw revivals, such as Angel Guimerà, Joan Oliver, Josep Pla, Santiago Rusiñol and Josep Maria de Sagarra. In addition, the public theatres staged some of the most significant contemporary Spanish playwrights, such as Fernando Arrabal, Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, Angel García Pintado, Agustín Gómez Arcos, Francisco Nieva, Rudolf Sirera, Alfonso Sastre, Jordi Teixidor, and Alfonso Vallejo, as well as younger figures such as Sergi Belbel, Ernesto Caballero, Rodrigo García, Sara Molina, Ignacio del Moral, Helena Pimienta, Paloma Pedrero and Etelvino Vázquez. Other contemporary playwrights, however, were neglected: Jerónimo López Mozo, José Martín Elizondo, José Martín Recuerda, Domingo Miras, Lauro Olmo, José María Rodríguez Méndez, Miguel Romero Esteo and José Ruibal.
   At this same time, plays by Buero Vallejo, including Diálogo secreto (Secret Dialogue) (1984), Lázaro en el laberinto (Lazarus in the Labyrinth) (1986) and Música cercana (Familiar Music) (1989), and by Antonio Gala, including Samarkanda (1985), Séneca o elk beneficio de la duda (Séneca or The Benefit of the Doubt) (1987) and Los bellos durientes (1994), were also staged to great acclaim. Many of the playwrights who had worked exclusively for independent groups in the 1960s and 1970s had their works produced regularly by the large companies in the succeeding decades, e.g. José Luis Alonso de Santos, Ignacio Amestoy, Fermín Cabal, Alberto Miralles and José Sanchis Sinisterra, whose ¡Ay, Carmela! (1988) was turned into a major film by Carlos Saura.
   The extension of visual culture since the 1960s has led to a growing interest in theatrical design. Projections, and the imaginative use of lighting are now employed regularly in both large and small theatres, because of their ability to suggest space, time and experience. Two examples are Comedias Bárbaras (Barbaric Plays) (1992) by Valle-Inclán, where director José Carlos Plaza used lighting very imaginatively, and Ara que els ametllers ya estan batuts (Now that the Almond Trees Have Been Picked) (1990), based on texts by Josep Pla, directed and performed by Josep Maria Flotats, using cinematic projection by Alain Poisson. Some groups have a definite predilection for nontraditional stagings, such as old factories, funeral homes, markets, subway platforms, garages, train stations and warehouses. The group Els Comediants had great success with Dimonis (Devils) (1983), performed outdoors in the Retiro park in Madrid, as did the group La Fura dels Baus, which performed Accions (1983) in the old Galileo Funeral Home in Madrid.
   The increased emphasis on stage-movement has also led many designers to opt for bare spaces in both large and small-scale productions, one prominent example being Andrea d'Odorico, an architect who has a classical and often monumental sense of space. He is fascinated by the relationship between mass and emptiness, and he often utilizes chiaroscuro. His work was shown to good advantage in his very successful design for the revival of Benavente's La Malquerida (The Unloved) (1987), directed by Miguel Narros. Designers of the 1980s and 1990s have also been paying more attention to colour, notable examples being Francisco Nieva, Pedro Moreno, Gerardo Vera and Carlos Cytrynovski, especially in productions of the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico. Nieva in particular has used fabrics for special visual and acoustic effects. Moreno played with colour spectra in costume and set designs both for classics such as Calderón's The Mayor of Zalamea (1988) and modern plays such as José Bergamín's La risa en las huesos (Laughter in the Bones) (1989). The production, a remarkable example of postmodern theatre, was framed by sound and colour, as well as accomplished choreography. Under the influence of eastern aesthetics, some designers have played with the expressive possibilities of the human body, as did Cytrynovski in his designs for Tirso de Molina's El vergonzoso en palacio (The Shy Man at Court) (1989), where human actors were used as rugs, trees and tables. Gerardo Vera transformed bodies into a fence in García Lorca's Don Perlimplín (1990) directed by José Luis Gómez.
   See also: performing arts
   Further reading
   - Fernández Torres, A. (1987) Documentos sobre el teatro independiente español, Madrid: CNNTE (an important primary source).
   - Gallèn, E. (1985) El teatre a la ciutat de Barcelona durant el règim franquista (1939-1954), Barcelona: Diputació de Barcelona (a significant local study).
   - Oliva, Cesar (1989) Teatro desde 1936, Madrid: Alhambra (a useful analysis of post-war Spanish theatre).
   - Peláez, A. (ed.) (1993) Historia de los teatros nacionales, vol. 1 (1939–62), vol. 2 (1960–75) Madrid: Centro de Documentación Teatral (a very informative source-book).
   - Ruiz Ramón, F. (1989) Historia del teatro español. Siglo XX, Madrid: Cátedra (the contemporary section of a large-scale study by a leading critic).
   - Vilches de Frutos, M.F. (1994) " Spain: Artistic Profile; Theatre for Young Audiences; Puppet Theatre; Design; Theatre Space and Architecture; Criticism, Scholarship and Publishing", in D.Rubin (ed.) The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Europe, London and New York: Routledge: pp. 790–804 (a comprehensive survey, one of the few in English).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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