Spanish playwright and poet. Federico García Lorca is, after Cervantes, the best known of all Spanish writers. In spite of the general opinion which considers his pieces for puppets as only a minor component, close study reveals that puppetry was a strong backbone of nearly all his theatre work. From childhood he was attracted by puppets, shown from time to time by travelling artists passing through his native village. He built his own small theatres at a very young age and made the puppets with help from his mother and nurse. To family and friends he presented shows of sparkling ingenuity.
From 1921 up to his shameful assassination by a fascist militia in 1936, he wrote several versions of his best-loved plays, such as the Tragicomedia de don Cristóbal y la señá Rosita (The Tragicomedy of Don Cristóbal and the Señorita Rosita), the final title of a play which for a long time he called Los Títeres de Cachiporra (The Billy-Club Puppets). He drew on the traditions of the Andalusian puppet shows (termed cristobicas or cristobalitas in Andalusia, from the name of the main puppet character, Don Cristóbal), to create a new genre enriched with his knowledge of the literary avant-garde. In reality the word “cachiporra” describes the glove-puppet, “slapstick” technique employed, and also it was the name for the puppet company he always hoped to found: “The Billyclub Puppets” or the “Andalusian Billyclub Theatre”. His initial intention, to present the best-known commedia stories with puppets, was usually converted into plays (farsas guiñolescas) for actors or ballet dancers who would perform like puppets. An example of this was El Maleficio de la Mariposa (The Curse of the Butterfly or The Butterfly’s Evil Spell, 1922), conceived by García Lorca for puppets but played without success by actors and the famous dancer La Argentinita in a leading role. Two others were La Zapatera Prodigiosa (The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife, 1930) performed in the Teatro Español de Madrid by a well-known actress Margarita Xirgú, and Amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su Jardín (Love of Don Perlimplín for Belisa in His Garden, 1933) performed in the Teatro Español by the Anfistora Theatre Club.
García Lorca’s passion for puppets resulted in the playlet La Niña que Riega la Albahaca y el Príncipe Preguntón (The Girl Who Waters the Basil and the Inquisitive Prince, 1923), the only piece he wrote for children, based on an Andalusian folk tale, which he performed himself with various puppets made by the designer Hermenegildo Lanz González with music composed and played by Manuel de Falla. This was a private show for young family members and friends, presented by García Lorca animating and speaking for Don Cristóbal as master of ceremonies. He rescued this popular puppet character from oblivion: Don Cristóbal is a cousin of Pulcinella and Punch, well known since the 17th century.
García Lorca founded the travelling theatre group, La Barraca, with the goal of presenting the plays of the Spanish Golden Age, usually accompanied by his guiñol shows, in remote villages all over Spain. An unfulfilled dream was to take a puppet company on tour in partnership with Falla. In fact, García Lorca and Falla maintained a close friendship until the tragic death of the former.
The puppet is the source of many of Federico García Lorca’s stage characters and of most of his theatrical oeuvre. Today, his fame is worldwide and many of his plays form an integral part of the classic repertoire of many Spanish and Latin American puppeteers.
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- Edwards, Gwynne. Lorca: The Theatre Beneath the Sand. London and New York: Marion Boyars, 1980.
- García Lorca, Federico. LORCA. Plays Two. (Shoemaker’s Wife, Don Perlimplín, Don Cristóbal, Butterfly’s Evil Spell, When Five Years Pass.) Trans. G. Edwards. London: Methuen 1990.
- García Lorca, Federico. Obras para Títeres [Works for Puppets]. Ed.Titirilibros. Zaragoza: Teatro Arbolé y Cultural Caracola, 1998.
- García Lorca, Federico. Once Five Years Pass and Other Dramatic Works. Eds. Logan and Orríos. New York: Station Hill. (Bilingual edition)
- García Lorca, Federico. Retablillo de Don Cristóbal y Doña Rosita [The Little Puppet Play of Don Cristóbal and Doña Rosita]. Ed. Mario Hernández. Granada: Patronato Federico García Lorca, Diputación de Granada, 1992.
- García Lorca, Federico. Teatro, Obras completas I y II [Theatre, Complete Works I and II]. Ed. Miguel García-Posada. Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 1996.
- García Lorca, Federico. The Billy-Club Puppets. In Five Plays: Comedies and Tragi-Comedies. Trans. James Graham-Lujan and Richard L. O’Connell. London: Penguin, 1970.
- García Lorca, Federico. Tragicomedia de don Cristóbal y la señá Rosita. Títeres de Cachiporra [Tragicomedy of Don Cristóbal and Miss Rosita. Cachiporra Puppets]. García Lorca, Francisco. . Introduction to Five Plays: Comedies and Tragi-Comedies by Federico García Lorca. Trans. James Graham-Lujan and Richard L. O’Connell. London: Penguin, 1970.
- Gibson, Ian. Federico García Lorca. London: Faber & Faber, 1989.[S]
- Medina, Pablo. Lorca. Un Andaluz en Buenos Aires 1933-1934 [Lorca. An Andalusian in Buenos Aires 1933-1934]. Buenos Aires: M. Zago/L. Goldstein, 1999.[S]
- Menarini, Piero. “Federico y los títeres: cronología y dos documentos” [Federico and Puppets: Chronology and Two Documents]. Boletín de la Fundación Federico García Lorca. III, 5. Madrid: Fundación Federico García Lorca, 1989, pp. 103-128.
- Oppenheimer, Helen. LORCA. The Drawings. New York: Franklin Watts. 1987.[S]