Theater

Dominican Theater

The most ancient forms of performing arts in the Dominican Republic can be traced back to the Taínos whose Areítos have similarities with the ancient Greek theater of dances and choral songs that was staged in honor of Dionysus, the god of nature and wine. 

With their dances and songs — called Areítos — the Taínos also honored Yucahú, an animist god, the giver of the cassava and the creator of the universe. Like the Greek dithyramb, a choir of 50 voices led by a coryphaeus, the indigenous peoples of the island of Hispaniola created large choirs under the direction of a “tequina,” who introduced the performance, the same way the coryphaeus did. 

From remote locations, both cultures exhibited artistic expressions that have proven to be universal: group singing with music, poetry, pantomime and dance performances. Both the Taínos and the Greeks of the original ancient theater ended in states of motionless trances. Performances took place in open circular spaces, which the Greeks termed a theatron and the Taínos called a batey, where the public and actors congregated. 

However, while the first expressive forms of Greek dramas evolved into a structured theater of a less religious and more ordinary nature, the Areítos disappeared from Hispaniola in the 16th century, just a few years after the Spanish conquest.

 

Theater during colonial times

Settlers used theater to spread the Christian faith among natives, although not all plays seem to have been religious representations. In Volume II of his History of the Dominican Culture, Mariano Lebrón Saviñón notes that “starting in colonial times, theater was viewed as a popular source of entertainment among the residents of the city of Santo Domingo” where plays imported from Spain and interludes and comedies written by locals, were staged. 

Cultural activities in colonial times are fragmented and have been reconstructed from bits and pieces due to the lack of documented information. Nevertheless, there are indications of the existence of theater, as Pedro Henríquez Ureña indicates in several essays that appear in his Obra Dominicana, which was published by the Bibliophiles Society in 1988. Some of these indications are:

  • The interlude of a comedy by P. Cristóbal de Llerena, a local, which was preserved for posterity due to legal proceedings. Staged in 1588, it provoked a great scandal for its criticism of the authorities and of the economic policies that were destroying the island. Llerena wrote “comedies to turn the celebration solemn and to delight the people,” as Archbishop Alonso López de Ávila wrote to King Philip II on July 16, 1588.
  • A 1588 statement by student actors that irreverent performances would be staged in atriums and not inside churches.
  • A denunciation in 1663 by Archbishop Francisco de la Cueva Maldonado of the students who wasted substantial time organizing theatrical performances.
  • Another denunciation issued in 1680 by Francisco Segura Sandoval which banned the staging of comedies in the evening.
  • In 1771, plays were staged in Governor José Solano’s palace.
  • Américo Lugo said that he had seen in Spain the manuscript of a comedy written in Santo Domingo in 18th century script.
  • Pedro Henríquez Ureña himself saw in his childhood another similar manuscript from the 18th century among his grandfather’s papers, the magistrate and poet Nicolás Ureña de Mendoza.
  • In 1803, during the French period, the Regina Angelorum church was converted into a theater.
  • In 1806 the French government of General Jean Louis Ferrand offered a place to stage comedies. Sixteen officers and five ladies, all amateurs who sought to “take advantage of leisure time,” played all the characters, not always to great results, according to M. Lemonier-Delafosse’s memoirs, which were published in 1846. 

The group’s early theater performances ended with Ferrand’s defeat in 1808 at the hands of Dominican soldier Juan Sánchez Ramírez, who restored Spanish dominance to the eastern side of the island. 

Until 1843 there are no additional records of theater performances. In the span of those thirty-five years, Dominicans experienced traumatic events: economic misery, which intensified during the España Boba (Foolish Spain) period, José Núñez de Cáceres’ short-lived independence, and the invasion of the Haitian army that imposed its dominance for 22 years.

 

Pro-Independence Theater 

Theater bolstered efforts for national independence. Its purpose was transformational, and although it was the work of novices that improvised theatrical productions, its promoters served, above all, as agents of change; architects of a world until then unthinkable. 

In the words of philosopher José Ortega y Gasset: theater, however humble, is always “a Mount Tabor where transformations are achieved.” Juan Pablo Duarte, an independence ideologue, used it as a visionary genre. He envisioned a future essentially free of chains. 

According to Joaquín Balaguer, these “improvised” actors, “who under the passion of nationalism became admirable interpreters,” revitalized theater as an instrument of the revolutionary political struggle, through the Dramatic Society, an extension of La Filantrópica, established in 1840 under the slogan of peace, unity and friendship, and the secret purpose of spreading the ideals of independence. 

Both organizations were preceded by La Trinitaria, an 1838 clandestine movement in which Duarte brought together young people from his surroundings and generation to forge the Dominican nation. 

Trinitarians served as actors, directors and propagandists. With very scarce resources, they staged foreign pieces such as Bruto o Roma LibreLa viuda de Padilla and Un día del año 23 en Cádiz. They promoted their performances through leaflets that they distributed among their neighbors. Juan Pablo Duarte was a prompter who read, in a low voice and from behind the curtain, lines that the actors forgot. The following Trinitarians stood out as actors: Félix María del Monte, Pedro Pina, Juan Isidro Pérez, Jacinto de la Concha, José María Serra and Pedro Pina. The young revolutionaries’ girlfriends, friends and sisters played the feminine roles. 

Stealthily, the “boys’ revolution,” as it was called, stoked Dominicans’ nationalistic sentiment. Regardless, the Haitian Governor looked at the theatrical performances from a distance and considered them to be harmless entertainment. 

The energy used in this effort would influence local playwrights whose future works continued to have socio-political undertones that reflected the turmoil of the times. 

According to Mariano Lebrón Saviñón, the Trinitarian Félix María del Monte was the first Dominican to embark on an independent theatrical production, as he points out in his book History of the Dominican CultureVolume II. Lebrón Saviñón considers him to be the father of Dominican theater. 

In turn, Joaquín Balaguer considers him the first literary figure of the generation of independence (History of Dominican Literature, 1956). 

Twelve years after the Republic was established, Del Monte wrote the historical drama Antonio Duvergé o Las Víctimas de Abril (1856), based on Duvergé’s execution by order of General Pedro Santana. He is also the author of the dramatic legend El Artista Antonio Brito, as well as El Ultimo AbencerrajeEl Mendigo de la Catedral de LeónEl vals de Strauss, and the operetta Ozema o la Virgen Indiana. 

Another advocate of historical theatrical drama during the Restoration period (1865) was Javier Angulo Guridi. Inspired by his experiences during the Dominican Restoration War, in 1867 he wrote Cachorros y Manigüeros, a short comedy. Master of the Romantic Movement, his famous tragedy Iguaniona has been described as his best work, and it is one of the first to address the issues of indigenous peoples. 

The rise of nationalism, with its contempt for anything colonial, helped popularize the indigenous and folk themes in Dominican theater, particularly during two historical periods: The Restoration or Second Republic, and the United States military intervention of 1916. 

According to the vision of theater anthologist José Molinaza: “Dominican theater evolves from indigenous to folk or Creole themes, as a product of romantic variables that in some cases come close… to the search of a theater that represents what is to be Dominican.” In other instances, he adds, it is used “to hide the presence of the descendants of former slaves.”

 

Famous playwrights of the 19th century

In addition to Del Monte and Angulo Guridi, more than a dozen Dominican intellectuals contributed to theatrical productions in the 19th century. Two prolific playwrights were Manuel de Jesús Rodríguez and José Francisco Pellerano. 

Rodríguez was the author of TilemaLa Promesa CumplidaLos cálculos de un Tutor, and La Hija del Hebreo, a verse drama. Francisco Pellerano was the author of the hit comedy El que menos corre vuela, released in 1811. 

Arturo Pellerano Castro was the author of the box office successes Fuerzas Contrarias (1892), Antonia (1895), and De Mala Entraña (1902). 

Other intellectuals who ventured into theater were Francisco Gregorio Billini, César Nicolás Penson, Américo Lugo, José Audilio Santana, Federico Henríquez y Carvajal, and Cristóbal Díaz. 

Among the countless playwrights of the early 20th century, one of the most recognized for his skills was Ulises Heureaux Jr. In 1909 he opened to great success the drama Consuelo at the La Republicana Theater. About the son of Dictator Ulises Heureaux, Lebrón Saviñón wrote: 

“The whole point of the theater of ideas, from Ibsen to the contemporary French authors, was known to him, and Heureaux displayed a special mastery in preparing his storylines and finishing them with a fitting ending.” 

Some of his greatest successes were GenovevaLos InmutablesEl artículo 291, and Alfonso XII. 

Others who contributed to the dramatic form in the early 20th century are Pedro Henríquez Ureña with El nacimiento de Dionysos in 1906, the only drama that he wrote; Américo Lugo with his Dramatic Essays of 1906, which include Los Avaros, and the monologues Víspera de Bodas and En la peña pobre. 

The José Narcizo Solá Theater Group, which staged its own works, was created in 1915. That same year, Mélida Delgado Pantaleón wrote the first part of La Criolla, a folk comedy in five acts. She completed the fifth act some years later. The first four acts were published in 1930 in Rafael Brito’s Diccionario de Criollismos, and in Cítara Cibaeña, edited by Monsignor Hugo Polanco Brito in 1989. This timeless comedy was staged in 2006 at the Columbus Theater in Providence, Rhode Island. 

Another classic of the folk genre was the operetta Alma Criolla, by Rafael Damirón, which was released for the first time in 1916. The following year, Damirón staged La trova del recuerdo and Mientras otros ríen. 

With U.S. Marines on Dominican soil, Damirón produced Los Yanquis en Santo Domingo, which expressed anti-American sentiment, as did the play Independencia o Muerte, by Ana J. Jiménez Yépez. 

While Dominican artists voiced their criticism of the intervention through theater, the military government welcomed European theater companies that had lost their theater houses during World War I. 

In the post-intervention period, according to data collected by author Molinaza, creole dramatic production reached 40 plays, but only seven were published. The following date back to this period: Los Quisqueyanos, by Julio Arzeno; La Cita, by Fabio Fiallo (1924), and Un Proceso Célebre, by Mélida Delgado and Juan García, which addressed injustices against women. 

During the controversial government of Horacio Vásquez, which gave way to the Trujillo dictatorship, the political comedy El Consejo de Gobierno, a satire of the Vásquez administration, was brought to the stage. 

Also, Urania Montás Cohén created the theater group of the Salomé Ureña Institute for Young Ladies. And poet Delia Weber, who had metaphysical training, wrote the dramas Salvador y Altamira and Lo Eterno, as well as the dramatic poem Los Viajeros 

 

Theater during the Trujillo era

Although during the first decade of the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship theater-related activities appear to have been restricted, performing arts-centered education began to be formally promoted like never before with the arrival in the country of Spanish theater director, writer and draftsman Emilio Aparicio Martínez in 1940. Aparicio Martínez had been exiled during the Spanish Civil War. 

Aparicio began creating plays for radio and the stage. He brought these to the stage and directed them at the Olimpia Theater and rehearsed in a private house, located on calle Hostos, in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial. He introduced radio transmitted novels at La Voz del Yuna radio station, in Bonao, which later became the official La Voz Dominicana radio station. 

After he had been living six years in the country, the government asked him to create a school of theater.

 

Theater School of National Art

Emilio Aparicio created the school of performing arts in 1946, and began specialized artistic training of actors, playwrights and set designers. The man who fled the Francisco Franco regime did not find other means to ensure his family’s livelihood, and had to work with the limitations inherent to another dictatorship. 

Restrictions on creative freedom, however, did not prevent the education of a generation of high caliber Dominican actors and playwrights. 

Among his students were Rafael Gil, Jesús Lizán, Franklin Domínguez Freddy Nanita, Marino Hoepelman, Ana Gómez, Mary Sánchez, Lucía Castillo, Monina Solá, Juan Llibre, Oscar Iglesias, Zulema Atala, Francisco Grullón Cordero, Liliano Angulo, Julio César Félix, Thelma Nury, Fermás Ariza, Rosa de la Rosa and Antonia Blanco Montes; his wife. 

Aparicio introduced quality standards for his performances. He brought to the stage some of the works by Arthur Miller, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, José Calvo Sotelo, Miguel Miura, Jacinto Benavente and Miguel de Cervantes, among others. 

Some of the works for which he is remembered are: Prohibido Suicidarse en PrimaveraEl hombre que yo MatéDrácula, el VampiroPapá GutiérrezLa Muerte Envía su TarjetaAmores Famosos, and Por la Buena o por la Mala. 

Aparicio’s era was short, but intense: he died from cancer at the age of 41. The school had other directors who lasted longer, including Luis González Chamorro. 

One of Aparicio’s best pupils, Rafael González Tirado, wrote at his death in 1949: “Master! Through your phenomenal intelligence you made us understand art and moved our hearts with the magnificence of yours” (Angela Peña, in her article dated August 12, 2007, Hoy Newspaper). 

Other notable graduates in subsequent years were Salvador Pérez Martínez, Rafael Vásquez, Mario Heredia, Miguel Alfonseca, Santiago Lamela Geler,  Iván García, Niní Germán, Rubén Echavarría, Servio Uribe, Danilo Taveras, Esperanza de Álvarez, Flor de Bethania Abreu, Aurea Juliao, Josefina Gallart, Camilo Carrau, Pepito Guerra, Víctor Vidal, and Margarita Baquero. 

Some outstanding playwrights are Máximo Avilés Blonda, Manuel Rueda, Franklin Domínguez, Bienvenido Gimbernard, Mario Morel, Carmen Natalia, Franlin Mieses Burgos, Mario Lebrón Saviñon, Manuel Marino Miniño, Delia Marrero, Pedro René Contín Aybar, and Héctor Incháustegui. 

Four classic plays of the Dominican theater of the 1950’s are: La Trinitaria Blanca, by Manuel Rueda; Espigas Maduras, by Franklin Domínguez; Las Manos Vacías, by Máximo Avilés Blonda, and the trilogy Prometeo, Filoctetes and Hipólito, by Héctor Incháustegui. 

As it happened worldwide, radio transmitted theater plays based on dialogue, music and sound effects became a popular entertainment phenomenon in the Dominican Republic. Actress Divina Gómez, a pioneering Mocana, directed comedies that were transmitted through La Voz del Yuna, in Bonao, until 1944. 

The young School of Art students came up with the María Martínez Experimental Roster of Comedies, with the idea of ​​creating a homegrown theater. The group was led by Rafael Montás, and it gave rise to the Actors Guild, under the direction of Santiago Lamela Geler. 

Actress Toña Colón was the director of the Romance Campesino program that has captivated the national audience since it began airing in 1952 on La Voz Dominicana. Toña Colón played Felipa, Macario’s wife, who was played by actor Luis Mercedes Miches. Actresses Nubia Ulloa, Thelma Nurys Espinosa, Teresita Basilis, María Fabián, Flérida Espinal, Rosita Saladín, María Rosa Almánzar, Mary Sánchez, and Ernedina Cruz, among many others, were also from that period.

 

Contemporary Theater

After the dictatorship, Dominican theater entered a new period of unparalleled growth, encouraged by freedom-related activities and the winds of change that subsequent decades brought. The world broadened for Dominicans. Perhaps like no other time, actors began to offer the gifts of their talents to a variety of audiences, and theater, as a communal event, began to be a mirror through which the nation discovered itself. 

Plays that portrayed social issues, such as Se Busca un Hombre Honesto and Tribunal de Confiscaciones, brought to the stage in 1964 by actor and playwright Franklin Domínguez, filled the country’s theaters. 

Iván García, Máximo Avilés Blonda and Rafael Gil Castro contributed other quality works which embodied the reality of the times. 

During the civil uprising in April 1965, which led to the United States’ second military intervention, a group of artists began to create theatrical productions for revolutionary commandos fighting for the return of the constitutional government of Juan Bosch, who had been overthrown by a military coup in 1963. Among them were well-known playwrights and actors Delta Soto, Iván García, Franklin Domínguez and Miguel Alfonseca. 

In 1966, under the leadership of Máximo Avilés Blonda, followed by Rafael Villalona, the Theater of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) was created. 

With Villalona’s return from the former Soviet Union (USSR), where he studied, contemporary Dominican theater underwent another period of important changes to its content, structure and methodology. 

In 1969 Villalona and his wife, Delta Soto, created the New Theater Group, the first to formally establish itself as an independent organization. It followed Konstantin Stanislavsky’s acting system with a manifesto of performing arts that was read at La Atarazana square. Among its members were Ángel Haché, Víctor Checo, Miguel Ángel Bucarelli, Augusto Feria and Félix Germán. 

Street theater, musical theater and folk theater began their rise in the mid-1970s with the group “Proyecciones,” under the leadership of playwright Jimmy Sierra. He produced theatrical performances in the streets, while Jaime Lucero entered the scene with his Popular Dominican Folkloric Theater. 

The 1980s marked the beginning of the institutionalization of theater-related activities, such as festivals, and theater and drama competitions. Officially, March 27 was declared the National Day of Theater. Since then, with the celebration of March as the Month of Theater, the Emilio Aparicio awards began to be presented to leading theater groups. In 1977, Iván García had already created the Emilio Aparicio National Theater Festival in memory of the maestro. 

In the mid-1970s, the First Theater Congress was celebrated, and the first Association of Independent Theater Groups (AGRUTESA) emerged from these efforts. 

New organizations were created to promote the performing arts, and to attract the cooperation of foreigners, such as Spanish director Ramón Pareja, Uruguayan pantomime performer Alberto Rowinski, and Eduardo Di Mauro, Argentinean puppeteer, who broadened the vision and enriched the works of Dominicans in those fields, as actor Robinson Aybar points out in an essay for the Latin American Theater Review. 

Since then, independent theater groups, as well as those of official, private, and educational institutions, have flourished. Today, there is theater for all ages and audiences. A significant fact is that even some hotels and clubs have their own theater groups. 

With the arrival of the new millennium, theater activities continued to grow in a steady manner. There are some thirty theater companies that operate throughout the Dominican Republic, staging hundreds of plays a year as well as organized festivals and theater seasons. At the official level, there is a Directorate of Theater Festivals, which organizes national and international events. 

Once a year, Dominican and foreign theater companies organize performances in the National Theater, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Casa de Teatro, Santiago’s Cultural Center, and several other venues in Santo Domingo’s most humble neighborhoods. 

The most recent national festival organized by the Ministry of Culture brought together 24 theater groups, 14 directors, and staged a total of 23 plays. 

Incentives to the performing arts have been established, such as the National Theater Award, which is considered the most important of them all. During March, Month of Theater, many theater activities are held, such as the Emilio Aparicio International Amateur Festival, which celebrated its 16th edition on March 22, 2016, under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Culture. 

Likewise, during the last nine years, the Santo Domingo International Theater Festival (FITE) has been organized by the Ministry of Culture and the Directorate of Fine Arts Theater Festivals. Latin American, North American and European companies participate in this event. 

The National Theater has been the main entertainment and theater venue in Santo Domingo since 1973. It accommodates 1,800 people. Twenty-two years after its creation, its facilities were reproduced in the city of Santiago and the new construction was named the Gran Teatro del Cibao. 

Other official entities are: The National Theater Company, an extension of the Directorate of Fine Arts; the Manuel Rueda Hall; the Rodante (Itinerant) Theater; the Popular Theater of the Plaza de la Cultura; the Theater Group of the School of Fine Arts of Santiago; the La Vega Theater, and the Hall of Plaza de la Cultura in Bonao. 

In addition, there are other theaters, such as the theater at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo; the theater at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra; the Proyección theater of the Santo Domingo Technological Institute (INTEC); the Dominican-American Cultural Center, and the theater hall of the Technological University of Santiago (UTESA). 

Some renowned independent entities are:

  • Casa de Teatro, created in 1974 by Dominican writer Freddy Ginebra.
  • The Las Mascaras Theater, created in 1995 by actresses Germana Quintana and Lidia Ariza. Five years earlier they had established the Pro- Dramatic Art Foundation. Its presence in the Zona Colonial has contributed to the expansion of theatrical productions for a diverse range of audiences. One of its objectives is to awaken in young people a passion for theater.
  • Guloya Theater, created in 1991 by director and actor Claudio Rivera and actress and producer Vienna González, who teaches and directs the theater group of the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra.
  • Cúcara-Mácara Theater Foundation, established on March 21, 1981. Its main focus is on providing opportunities for children and young people to attend theater and dance courses and workshops.
  • Gayumba Theater, under the leadership of Manuel Chapuseaux, was created in 1976 and has represented the country at international festivals. Its members, having studied under Venezuelan director and actor Rómulo Rivas, consolidated the street theater of the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Teatro Popular of Santiago, developed from several workshops that Rafael Villalona offered in the province of Santiago.
  • Luna Theater, was led by Fausto Grullón, who also graduated in the former Soviet Union. It operates in the Mejoramiento Social neighborhood.
  • La Cuarta, another theater led by another graduate from the old USSR.
  • Escuela Divergente Theater combines elements of popular and clown theater for the purpose of entertaining people and conveying a message of divergent hope. It was created by actress and playwright Ingrid Luciano Sánchez and by Tomás Rubio, poet-clown who taught theater, creative writing and storytelling.
  • Therapeutic Theater of the Comprehensive Care Center for the Disabled.
  • Lorena Oliva’s Alternative Theater.
  • Naboria Theater, created by a group of actors that seek to offer distinctive works to the national Dominican theater.
  • Huella Latina Theater.
  • Alta Escena Theater.
  • Ícaro Theater.
  • La Fiesta Teatre, Hotel Jaragua.
  • Club de Arroyo Theater, which has operated for 35 years.
  • Los Prados Theater Group.
  • Los Leones Theater Group, from Hato Mayor.
  • Bethania Abreu Theater Company.
  • Amarilis Rodríguez Theater Company.  

 

New generation of playwrights and actors

The contemporary period of Dominican theater has produced a group of talented new playwrights, directors, actors, and actresses. Among the most recognized are Manuel Chapuseaux, Marcio Veloz Maggiolo, Carlos Esteban Deive, Efraín Castillo, Haffe Serulle, Arturo Rodríguez Fernández, Añez Bergés, Rafael Villalona, Giovanni Cruz, and Chiqui Vicioso. 

Among a long list of the most renowned directors and actors are: María Castillo, Bienvenido Miranda, Ángel Haché, Germana Quintana, Karina Noble, Federico Pellerano, Elvira Taveras, Amarilis Rodríguez, Félix Germán, Carlos Espinal, Arturo López, Ángela Herrera, Lilyana Díaz, Carlota Carretero, Nives Santana, Niurka Mota, Lidia Ariza, César Olmos, Enrique Chao, Basilio Nova, Juan María Almonte, Víctor Pinales, Osvaldo Añez, Yamilé Scheker, Enrique Chao, Olga Bucarelly, Aidita Selman, Leonardo Grassals, Niurka Mota, Josué Guerrero, and Mario Lebrón. 

Other young talents who are mentioned in cultural chronicles are: Orestes Amador, Waddys Jáquez, Karina Guerra, Laura Guzmán, Laurine Ferrand, Henry Mercedes, Tomás Rubio, Ivanova Veras, Ingrid Luciano Sánchez, María Bosch, Frank Perozo, José Manuel Rodríguez, and Jhonnie Mercedes. Other actors recognized for their work are: Estela Cuesta, César Olmos, Augusto Feria, Lincoln López, Bienvenido Miranda, Manuel López, Mario Heredia, and Víctor Checo.    

 

Short Bios

Franklin Domínguez: Playwright, actor and theater director, born on June 5, 1931, in Santo Domingo. Domínguez graduated as an actor from the National School of Fine Arts and earned degrees in Philosophy and Law from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. He has been director of the Theater of Fine Arts on two occasions. He has also represented the Dominican Republic as a playwright at international theater events and festivals. His works have been translated into English, French, Chinese and Russian and have been staged at the Garnier Theater in Monaco; the Royal du Gymnase in Belgium; Madison Square Garden in New York; Roberto Clemente stadium in Puerto Rico; the Repertorio Español Theater in New York, and in national theaters in Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. He has written more than 80 plays. He received the Cristóbal de Llerena national theater prize nine times, and the New York ACE award three times. In 2003, he received Spain’s National Literature Award. In 1979, he won the Grand Dorado award, and in 1983 he received first prize at the Diego Fabbri International Playwrights Competition. 

Rafael Villalona: A graduate of the Fine Arts Theater School, of the Lunacharsky Theater Institute, and of the Government Institute of Art in Moscow, where he studied acting and directing. In 1969 he created the Nuevo Teatro group, the first and most important of its time. Along with his wife, Delta Soto, he introduced Russian Konstantin Stanislavsky acting techniques to the Dominican Republic. For this purpose, he opened a theater academy where Dominican actors and playwrights were trained and re-trained. Following the new guidelines, they staged La ópera de tres centavosLas SillasPirámide 149Los invasores, and Proceso por la sombra de un burro, among others. Villalona created the University Cultural Movement (MCU) and the Antón Chekhov theater group. Officially declared Gloria Nacional del Teatro, he was born in 1942 and died in 2012.  

María Castillo: A hall in the National Theater bears the name of this renowned actress, director, and producer who began her career 40 years ago. During the 1970s, she studied in the Escuela de Arte Escénico at the National School of Fine Arts and graduated Summa Cum Laude from GUITIS Lunacharsky in Moscow where she studied under teachers Tumanov and Efros. She was awarded the Internazionale Lumiere 2002 Award by Italy’s National Union of Theater and Film Professionals. From the French government she received the title of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic, and from the Dominican government, the Medal of Merit for Women. She also received the ACE Award from New York’s Writers Association in the category of actress, as well as the Best Cast of a Visiting Company from HOLA, New York, in 2008. Some of her most important plays are: Tres mujeres altasLas ManosLes Misérables, in Chicago; Dream GirlsRentMan of La ManchaLa GaviotaBanco del ParqueEl Decamerón and Muller Machine.   

Iván García: Playwright, theater director, teacher, storyteller and journalist, who was born in 1938 in San Pedro de Macorís. In 2015 he was distinguished with the Gran Soberano award. He began his acting career in 1955 and has been active ever since. He has played more than 200 characters in countless plays. The first play he directed was William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, and the first play he wrote was Más allá de la búsqueda, which premiered at the first Dominican theater festival held in the Palace of Fine Arts in 1963. He served as director of the School of Performing Arts during its reform, and as a teacher of theater, acting, directing, staging, drama, oral expression and what it means to be Dominican. He was director of the Theater of Fine Arts four times and held the position of National Drama Director in the Ministry of Culture. 

Flor de Bethania Abreu: Declared Glory of the National Theater in 2007. With more than 60 years on stage, the third version of the Santo Domingo National Theater Festival held in 2013 was dedicated to her. In 2010 she won a Casandra Award for Best Direction, with Bodas de Sangre. She is the director of a series of staged readings at the Cultural Center of Spain. Her first performance was at the age 14 in La dama de Alba. She won the award for best actress from La Nación newspaper in 1953 for her work in Laura en el zoológico de cristal. After studying at the National Theater School, she received a scholarship from the Art Institute of Chicago, where she graduated with a degree in Drama. In 1963-64 she earned another degree in Film from Complutense University of Madrid. In Spain she was part of the María Guerrero National Theater Company and of the Adolfo Marsillach Company. She was deputy director of the National Theater Company in 1979-81, and again during 2006-07. In 2003, the Dominican Government awarded her the Medal of Merit for Women. That same year, she won the Lumiere Prize from Italy’s Film Institute. In 1979, she created the Flor de Bethania Theater Company. 

Divina Gómez: Artistic name of Mocana Altagracia Diluvina Burgos. She was born in 1893 and died in 1984 after a long career in both Dominican and international venues. One of the halls at the Gran Teatro del Cibao bears her name. The Santiago School of Fine Arts celebrates the Divina Gómez festival in her honor, because in 1955 the actress succeeded in bringing theater instruction to that educational center. Some of the roles for which she is most remembered are: La enemiga, by Darío Nicodemi; Mi hijo el doctor, an adaptation from the play by Uruguayan Florencio Sánchez, and La Casa de Bernarda, by Spaniard Federico García Lorca. The actress directed comedies transmitted through La Voz del Yuna radio station, which soon was turned into the official La Voz Dominicana radio. 

Delta Soto: A native of Santo Domingo, she studied at the School of Fine Arts and at the Government Institute of Art in Moscow (GITIS). Upon her return to the country and together with her husband, Rafael Villalona, she created the Nuevo Teatro group. She was co-creator of Santiago’s Culture Center and taught theater for children and young people as well as acting at the UASD. As an actress she has played more than 60 characters and participated in numerous plays. 

Ángel Haché: Actor and theater director, he graduated from Spain’s official school of cinema. He revealed his creative talent through the Dominican theater and the plastic arts. He was born in 1943 in San Pedro de Macorís, and died in April 2016. That year, he was nominated for the Soberano Award for his work as theater director in Oleanna. He worked as an actor in Spain, returned to the country in the early 1970s, and joined the independent theater together with Rafael Villalona. Known for being a multifaceted actor, for many years he taught at the Escuela de Arte Dramático de Bellas Artes, conveying the view that theater “is not only script or aesthetics, it is also conflict, dramatic action… condensed in a time and space.”  

Carlota Carretero: Born in 1963 in the city of La Vega, at the age of 14 she was admitted to the National School of Dramatic Arts, and in 1981 she received her degree as an actress from the National Board of Education. In almost all of the numerous plays in which she has participated she played leading roles. Dos viejos pánicos was the first play in which she participated as a professional. Among her most remembered performances, critics laud La Dama de las CameliasDilca, en baño de damasLa MuerteLa GaviotaOrinoco, and El Guerrero. She has received Casandra and Talía de Plata awards. She has also worked in film and television in Puerto Rico. 

Augusto Feria: An experienced theater actor for 40 years, Feria was part of the Nuevo Teatro group. Among the plays in which he has participated are La secreta obscenidad de cada díaDe locos y duendes, and Aquí no paga nadie. His participation in national and foreign films includes Azúcar AmargaLa cárcel de La Victoria, and Affaires Étrangères. 

Olga Bucarelli: Her theater experience dates back more than four decades. She was the founder of the Actores Unidos and the Teatro Estudiantil de La Salle and Gratey theater groups. She taught theater at the School of Fine Arts for 25 years and was assistant Director and Actress at the National Theater Company. In the 1980s, she became the first actress to perform in the nude in Dominican theaters, in Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, after having performed in countless of other productions. She was the winner of a Casandra award in 2009 for the play Divorciadas, evangélicas y vegetarianas and has been nominated on numerous occasions to the highest national awards.  

Manuel Chapuseaux: Together with Nives Santana, he created the Gayumba Theater Group, which consolidated popular theater in the mid-1970s and in the 1980s, and was a revolutionary way for young peoples’ artistic expression. His repertoire includes adaptations of classic and modern works, as well as children’s plays. This actor, director and driving theatrical force has directed more than 50 plays and acted in dozens of pieces. His book Manual del Teatrero received the 1987 Premio de Literatura Didáctica. He won a Soberano award in 2013 and the Talía de Plata award in 1980 and in 1983. He was director of the UASD Theater. His teaching work includes theater workshops and guidance to amateur and popular theater groups. With the Gayumba Theater he has represented the country at festivals held in Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, the United States and Spain. After forty years of theater work, he staged the played Don Quijote no existe, considered one of his greatest challenges because it offered a non-traditional approach to humor, the present, and employed instantaneous changes of characters in full public view. It was the first monologue of his career. 

Giovanni Cruz: Playwright, actor, screenwriter and director, he graduated from the Escuela Nacional de Arte Escénico at the School of Fine Arts. Born in 1953 in Santo Domingo, his first interests were scientific, which led him to study chemistry at the Pedro Henríquez Ureña University. He trained in the arts and culture in several Latin American countries. In Colombia he studied cultural animation. He has taught theater at the School of Performing Arts of the Central del Este University and the O&M University, as well as at the Quisqueya, and the Yody and Fernando Arturo Meriño schools. He was Director and founder of the Experimental Travelling Theater and Director of the National Theater Company. His works have been staged in almost every province of the Dominican Republic, as well as in France, Russia, New York, Miami and in several Latin American countries. 

Cecilia García: Considered one of the most versatile actresses of Dominican theater, she is famous for her musical successes that combine acting, music, drama, humor and dance. Among them are Evitactor Victoria and El beso de la mujer araña. She was made famous by her work in María Callas, in which she interpreted the life of the 19th century famous opera singer. Her interpretation of Evita gathered an unprecedented number of attending public at the National Theater, which earned her the Cassandra award in 1988. She has received numerous awards as an actress, singer and producer.  

Amarilis Rodríguez: Renowned theater Director and Actress, winner of the Casandra, Dorado and Talía de Plata awards. She appears prominently in the Gallery of the Dominican Theater at the National Theater. The Central Bank of the Republic recognizes her as one of the most important Dominican artists of present times. She is Director of the theater group of the University for the Elderly (UTE). Her theater company, Producciones Amarilis, conducts its own plays.  

Germana Quintana: Founder of the Las Mascaras Theater, of the Arroyo Hondo theater group, Quintana is, in addition, the playwright behind eight productions. She conducts workshops in Santo Domingo and in other cities throughout the country. Venezuelan by birth, she started working in television and became the first female director at Televisora Nacional de Venezuela, directing the program Perfiles al aire. She also worked at Radio Televisión Española. In Madrid, she created the Hispanic-American theater group. The daughter of a diplomat, she has lived in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Denmark and France. In 1979-80, together with Nancy Álvarez, she created Compañía Producciones Teatrales, as well as various theater groups in several clubs: the Arroyo Hondo Club Theater Company, the Los Prados Club Theater Group, and the Hato Mayor Lions Club Theater Group. Also, she established the APEC University Theater Group and the Altos de Chavón School of Arts. As a playwright she has written, among others, the following plays: La hierba no da frutosDolly’s barTa to nítidoNo quiero ser fuerteEllas también son la historiaVolvió Juanita, and Mea Culpa. On several occasions she has been the winner of the Talía, El Dorado, Casandra and Soberano awards. 

Lidia Ariza: Graduated in 1973 from Escuela de Teatro in the School of Fine Arts, Ariza has performed on numerous occasions under the direction of Iván García, Franklin Domínguez, Bienvenido Miranda, Enrique Chao, Flor de Bethania Abréu and Germana Quintana. She co-created the Las Máscaras Theater, has performed at foreign festivals, and has won Best Actress at the Classical Theater Festival in El Paso, Texas. Winner of the Casandra Award, she began her career with the Calíope group and belonged to the Fine Arts Theater Company. 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • Balaguer, Joaquín, Historia de la literatura dominicana, 1956.
  • Francisco, Ramón, Literatura dominicana 60, Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, June, 1969. 
  • Henríquez Ureña, Pedro, Obra Dominicana, Sociedad de los Bibliófilos, 1988. 
  • Incháustegui Cabral, Héctor, Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, Santiago, 1978.
  • Miller, Jeannette, Textos sobre arte, literatura e identidad. Collection of the Central Bank of the Republic, volume 114, series art and literature No. 48.
  • Molinaza, José, Historia crítica del teatro dominicano (two volumes), UASD Editorial, 1984, Santo Domingo.
  • Lebrón Saviñon, Mariano, Historia de la cultura dominicana, volume ll, 1994.  

Internet sources:

  • Aybar, Robinson, Ensayo sobre el Teatro dominicano de los años 80, Latin American Review, Spring, 1992.
  • Dominicanaonline.org El teatro en República Dominicana.
  • Peña, Ángela, Emilio Aparicio Martínez, Hoy digital, August 12, 2007. 

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