“Para Tiempos De Veras / Se Ejercitan En Las Burlas”

Some Uses of Rehearsal on the Golden Age Stage

Authored by: Jonathan Thacker

The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415722834
eBook ISBN: 9781315709895
Adobe ISBN:


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Studying a part and rehearsing it within the compañía was an established element of the actor’s daily life from the late sixteenth century in Spain. The practices of rehearsal must have developed as the troupes became more professional in a period which saw the establishment and rapid growth in popularity of the permanent theatres in Madrid and other towns and cities. The nature of play rehearsals – what went on in the autor de comedias’s house every morning from nine o’clock – may be difficult to establish with confidence and would not have accorded at all closely with today’s rehearsal-room norms, but the importance of practice to enhance performance was recognised generally. 1 Thus, the labrador in Calderón’s auto sacramental, El gran teatro del mundo (mid-1630s), plaintively echoes his fellow characters in objecting to the autor’s denial of rehearsal time to them as they take to the stage of life: Aun una comedia vieja harta de representar si no se vuelve a ensayar se yerra cuando se prueba. Si no se ensaya esta nueva, ¿cómo se podrá acertar? (Calderón de la Barca 1985, lines 453–58) If even an old play from the repertoire requires practice, a new one will certainly fall flat without study and rehearsal time. 2 However, the autor (or God) who “directs” the play of life within this Corpus Christi play, advises His creations that the prompt-book, or apunto (line 478), will be His law which is to provide guidance in the extempore role-playing of life. Though the central allegory is somewhat strained by the lack of a chance to practise before performance, the autor’s point is overtly didactic and within Catholic theological norms: one’s audience is God, the title of the play is unchanging and one’s role is simple and uniform.

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