Mexican puppeteer. Called Maestro Lago by his colleagues and Señor Guiñol by village children, who enthusiastically greeted the travelling puppet troupe in which he played the role of master of ceremonies. Roberto Lago became interested in puppetry at the age of thirty in the early 1930s. It was around this time that he returned to Mexico after several years in Paris when a friend suggested he create a theatre group for children with sculptor Germán Cueto and his wife, Lola (see Cueto (family)). These artists, later joined by the painter Julio Castellanos, began with string puppets before finally adopting the glove puppet (guiñol). Their first show was El gigante Melchor (Melchor the Giant), written by Elena Huerta with puppets made by Enrique Asad. Roberto Lago carved his first puppet heads for a play called La invernada de los animales (The Animal’s Winter Pasture).
Attracted by the relationship that could be forged with other arts, such as painting, dance, theatre and literature, Roberto Lago decided to pursue puppetry as his chosen art form. Lago, with fellow puppeteers, played a small part in what was called the Mexican art “renaissance”, building relationships with choreographers, composers, as well as with the mural painters Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, whose wives (respectively Angelina Beloff, painter, illustrator and author of a book on the “teatro guiñol”, and Graciela Amador) were also members of the first core group of artists. It was on the occasion of the performance of a show at Germán Cueto’s residence, attended by the Minister of Education, that two small puppet companies were formed.
Roberto Lago partnered with the company conducted by the Cueto spouses that also included Graciela Amador, Ramón Albas and Angelina Beloff. These two founding troupes received support from the Departamento de Bellas Artes (Department of Fine Arts), which then integrated these two groups into its official troupe, the Teatro Guiñol of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Institute of Fine Arts). Working as an agency of the Ministry of Education, Teatro Guiñol transformed the genre from an entertainment to an educational vehicle. During the 1940s and 1950s, the troupe toured much of the country and then made several international tours to Venezuela and the United States.
Roberto Lago also took part in major literacy campaigns launched by the government and, with the company El Nahual, produced works that have become classics, such as: Ya viene Gorgonio Esparza! (Here Comes Gorgonio Esparza!, 1941); Don Juan Tenorio (1943) by José Zorilla and adapted for puppets by Roberto Lago; La Guerra con Ventripond (The War with Ventripond), three “historical” shows with the collaboration of artist, Gabriel Fernández Ledesma. The company’s Mexican puppetry repertoire also included the plays based on the character of Comino (the majority of these were written by Germán List Azurbide) as well as choreographed shows such as: Las gallinitas (The Little Chickens) by Graciela Amador; El baile de las lagarteranas (The Lagarteranas Dance), with Lola Cueto’s puppets based on the design concept of Roberto Lago; Los marineros (The Sailors), with puppets by Lago and choreography by the Contreras brothers.
With his magazine, La Hoja del titiritero independiente (The Independent Puppeteer Newspaper), distributed in Latin America, Europe, and the United States, Lago also encouraged exchanges between artists from different countries.
In addition to the forty plays he wrote for contemporary puppet theatre, Roberto Lago led a research project on Pre-Hispanic traditions as well as the history of puppet theatre during and after the Colonial period – Títeres populares mexicanos (Popular Mexican Puppets, 1947), with illustrations by Lola Cueto, and Teatro guignol mexicano (Mexican Puppet Theatre, 1956).
- Cueto, Dolores de, Jean Charlot, and Roberto Lago. Text by Roberto Lago, introduction by Jean Charlot, illustrated by Lola Cueto. Títeres populares mexicanos [Popular Mexican Puppets]. México, 1947.
- Lago, Roberto. Teatro guignol mexicano [Mexican Puppet Theatre]. 3rd. ed. Mexico City: Federación Editorial Mexicana, 1987.