Juan Mayorga, The Playwright as Historian, Madrid, Postmetropolis Editorial, 2016, 11 pages, free download on-line publication.




Above all, historical theatre relates the desires and the fears of the era that is played out on stage. These fears and desires are what determine that a given present opened up from a particular past, and not another; that a past is seen from one perspective and not from another. It relates intrinsically the past and the present as if it were a specific past that had awaited a corresponding present —as though the past had sent it, and the present collected it.

And this is why questions to do with historical theatre go beyond the interests of just theatre lovers: historical theatre raises the question of why one historical period should feel that a particular past is of its concern. Why should one historical period feel itself questioned by another, or even referred to in that past? What images of the past get offered on the contemporary stage, and what, by extension, have been excluded? What do these images of the past tell us about our present moment? The history of historical theatre is a history of Humanity, and the historical theatre that produces our age is a dramatisation of our age.


Juan Mayorga (Madrid, 1965) is one of the most important Spanish playwrights of his generation. He has won a series of national awards, the most prominent of which is Spain’s National Theatre Prize, which he was awarded in 2007. His works, translated into many languages and performed widely throughout the world, include Women on the Ledge, Love Letters to Stalin and Way to Heaven (Himmelweg). He has also adapted versions of classical dramas for the Spanish stage, such as Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People and Shakespeare´s King Lear. Teacher of Dramaturgy, History of Thought and Sociology at the Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático in Madrid, Mayorga has written a doctoral thesis on the philosophical thought of Walter Benjamin, whose philosophy has had a huge influence on his definition, reflection and practice of “political theatre”, within which this brief, illuminating essay is framed.


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