Independence Movement and the First Republic
Sociedad Dramática was the name the members of La Trinitaria gave to the theatrical group they created. They had the sole intention of using the group as an instrument of dissemination for their patriotic ideas and actions.
The so-called “Trinitarians’ theater” allowed the members of the society to meet with the pretext of performance. It also provided a direct medium to communicate their liberation project to the public in order to generate a collective patriotic sentiment of dominicanidad. The group distributed pamphlets to promote their activities and the patriots turned artists resorted to foreign authors to transmit their message. Roma Libre and La Viuda de Padilla were two of the plays performed.
The patriot Juan Pablo Duarte acted as prompter. Juan Isidro Pérez, Jacinto de la Concha, Félix María del Monte, Pedro Pina and José María Serra also participated in the troupe and contributed to the theatrical society. Joaquín Balaguer proclaimed that they were “improvised actors who nationalist ardor transformed into admirable thespians”.
“The testimonies of the period clearly indicate,” states Molinaza, “that improvisation was a constant on the stages. More than dramatic works, they were shows for advancing the revolutionary struggle.”
Theater and politics also maintained a close bond during the Republic (from 1844 to 1861). The works of Javier Angulo Guridi and Manuel de Jesús Rodríguez Montaño were important for the period.
El teatro y la política mantuvieron un vínculo estrecho también durante la República (de 1844 a 1861). Se mencionan las obras de Javier Angulo Guridi y Manuel de Jesús Rodríguez Montaño.
For Molinaza, it is only important to highlight the play El general A. Duvergé o las víctimas del 11 de abril, by Félix María del Monte, which demonstrates the conflict of interests between Dominican cattlemen, represented by Santana, and Dominican loggers, led by general Antonio Duvergé.
Molinaza considers this work to be, chronologically, the first Dominican play and reduces it to a “personal tragedy” instead of a theatrical tragedy. He considers the work still-born, a drama that lent its interests to a social group and that was unable to encompass the apprehensions of the entire population.
The historian calculates that 75 plays were written during the Second Republic (from 1861 to 1916); of them, only 18 were published. At the time, theater companies were established on the foundation of a socially-minded theater: indigenismo, an ideology supporting indigenous peoples, and costumbrismo, a pro-tradition ideology, were cultivated. The works Iguaniona, Ozema and Higüemota are from this period.
“Dominican theater evolves thematically from indigenismo toward costumbrismo as a product of romantic variables that, in some cases, are a result of the search for a theater that is Dominican and that is used to propagate a dominant ideology, to justify cultural penetration or wars among playwrights, and, as a last resort, to hide the presence of the black man”, Molinaza affirms.
“El teatro dominicano evoluciona temáticamente del indigenismo hacia el costumbrismo o criollismo como un producto de las variables románticas que, en algunos casos, se acercan como resultante hacia la búsqueda de un teatro representativamente dominicano y, en otros, es utilizada para propalar la ideología dominante, o para justificar la penetración cultural o las guerras entreguistas invasoras, y en última instancia para ocultar la presencia del negro”, afirma Molinaza.
The theater companies performed from the middle of the 19th century until the third decade of the 20th, in Santo Domingo as well as in the interior of country, and even had buildings raised specifically for their plays. The Teatro La República was born in the capital as a product of this boom in theatrical activity. Operas, operettas, zarzuelas and puppet shows, among other genres, had a space in the plazas for the delight of a public that began to educate itself in these arts.
The last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century brought the permanent establishment of theatrical activity in the country, with contributions from various authors: Luís Arturo Bermúdez, Tulio Manuel Cestero, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Max Henríquez Ureña, Francisco Gregorio Billini, José Ramón López and Rafael Damirón.
In the following period, defined by the U.S. intervention of 1916, approximately 40 works were produced, though only two were published. Federico Bermúdez is one of the prominent authors of the period, with his expressions of Dominican comedy in a genre named teatro de propuesta.
During the period of the intervention, European theater companies were present, as they searched in America for the stages that the First World War (1914-1918) had taken from them. For historians, it is clear that the U.S. powers that permitted the theatrical presence were aware that a release valve was needed for the population that was, for the most part, repressed.
At the same time, politically charged plays were performed, and not without obstacles, such as Los yanquis en Santo Domingo, which became a voice for the anti-U.S. sentiment that reigned throughout many homes in the country. Rafael Damirón, author of the work, was a member of the group of artists that risked themselves on conscience to perform, on stage, their demonstration of abhorrence of the intervention.
The U.S. evacuation also produced a theatrical effect that Molinaza gauges between 1922 and 1930, the period in which the theater companies disappeared. Around 40 works were written and only seven were published.
Los Quisqueyanos, by Julio Arzeno, is identified as the first play of this historical period in which traditional productions like those of Fabio Fiallo and Fernando A. Pellerano were popular. Also, other costumbrista plays were produced by the pen of Mélida Delgado Pantaleón, Juan García and Adalberto Chapuseaux, among others. Chapuseaux earned recognition for the writing of the political comedy El Consejo de Gobierno, which satirized the Government Council headed by Horacio Vásquez.