Critical Index of Uruguayan Theater (1808-1980)

by Abril Trigo and Graciela Míguez

The Critical Index of Uruguayan Theater collects the archive produced
during four years of intense research, between 1976 and 1980, by Graciela
Míguez (1949-2000) and myself. Our objective was to write a thorough and
comprehensive social history of Uruguayan theater. Accordingly, we intended to
record every single theatrical play ever written or staged and to produce a
critical-analytical review of a representative corpus. Due in part to the magnitude
of the project, or due perhaps to its interruption when both of us left the country
and followed different routes, the project would never be finished, and the archive
would undergo innumerable vicissitudes, unending travels and interminable
neglect. The present publication recovers and makes available to scholars and
researchers a body of documents endangered by its material frailty; a corpus
which provides invaluable information to critics and historians of Uruguayan
theater, as well as to all interested in the development of Latin American
historical, literary and cultural criticism.

This archive is the outcome of exhaustive research in public libraries
and private collections, but it has also been possible thanks to the generous
collaboration of actors, directors and playwrights who allowed us to access their
personal files of scripts, programs and stage notes. The archive consists of three
interconnected parts. First, the most rigorous and exhaustive inventory of authors
and playwrights, either born or resident in Uruguay at any point in history;
second, an index of the theatrical plays, published or not, staged or not,
attributed to them; and finally, a file containing critical-analytical reviews of an
extensive and representative selection of plays. The original index, updated and
revised according to the latest publications in the field, 1 records a total of 613
playwrights and 2,941 plays, 858 of which are critically reviewed.

The last part, the corpus of critical reviews, is undoubtedly the most
significant and controvertible part of our investigation, where we invested most of
our time and our energies. The critical reviews were designed as working tools
for strictly personal use, as a historical and critical data bank for the subsequent
planning, organization and final writing of the project. Even though we studied
both canonical masterpieces and circumstantial pieces with the same
professional rigor, the reviews obviously reveal our preferences and
enthusiasms, discoveries and obsessions. Nevertheless, let me point out that the
most meticulous and incisive reviews were done by Graciela, splendid examples
of her analytical sophistication. It is undeniable that the predominantly
structuralist methodology that permeates most of the analyses has become
antiquated. It was suitable, though, to the historical approach and political
agenda of the project. We were more concerned with the social and ideological
representativeness of texts rather than with their supposed esthetic value.
Anyway, the interpretation of individual texts as part of a comprehensive socio-
cultural continuum, unquestionably influenced by contemporary trends in
theatrical semiotics, which emphasized the primacy of scenic performance
(theatrical text) over the script (literary text), already prefigured the
epistemological turn brought forth by postmodern criticism and cultural studies. In
a word, despite the inevitable passing of time, this archive continues to be a
source of valuable information and stimulating hypotheses to scholars and
researchers on theater and culture.

Abril Trigo

1Walter Rela. Teatro uruguayo, 1808-1994. Montevideo: Academia Uruguaya de Letras, 1994;
Alberto Oreggioni. Nuevo diccionario de literatura uruguaya. Montevideo: Banda Oriental, 2001;
Jorge Pignataro Calero y MarĂ­a Rosa Carvajal. Diccionario del teatro uruguayo. 1. Autores y
directores. 1940-2000. Montevideo: Cal y Canto, 2001.