Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2004


The last twenty-five years have witnessed a relative explosion in the number of staged productions of Spanish comedias. Whether the performances take place in Madrid, Almagro, New York, or El Paso, the experience has changed forever the way those who have attended performances view plays previously known only by reaing [sic] the text. One cannot fail to have been affected by the interaction between literature and theater, between professors and directors, between text and performance. A debate that has arisen as a result of this spectator's experience, especially after the production of a particularly well-known comedia, is that between authorial intention and directorial vision. The differences between the two perspectives on any given play have led to a great deal of polemical criticism, usually focusing on the authority of the text versus the rights of the director, or the relative meaning of a text for audiences in different cultures and eras. Unfortunately, advocates of neither side seem capable to win over converts, at least not quickly or easily, but the ongoing process of engaging this question year after year has definitely altered the way comediantes speak of both the text and the performance. Perhaps two notions put forth by Jonathan Miller in The Afterlife of Plays might be of use. First, works of art always change, whether by intentional reworking or the incidental wear and tear that inevitably occurs over time. For Miller, "the history of art is partly, not altogether, but quite significantly, the history of damage and injury and plagiarism and theft and robbery and violence of one sort or another" (41). Second, theatrical works of art are allographic rather than autographic in nature. Unlike the singular work that has a physical existence, such as a painting or a work of sculpture, theatrical art is always a representation subject to change even from one performance to the next. Miller is unconcerned by radical changes introduced by a director's vision; after all, "the text continues to live to be performed another day" (41).


Pennsylvania State University Press

Publication Information

Comedia Performance