Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Segismundo in Life is a Dream/La vida es sueño (Calderón de la Barca) – in 4 languages!!!

Howdy! This week’s monologue takes us to the Golden Age of Spanish Drama. We’ve covered this era before in Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna. Now, time for Calderón de la Barca‘s seminal allegory Life Is a Dream. The following plot description is taken from a drama book from the 1930s.

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The 1640 edition.

THE horoscope of the infant Prince, Segismund, convinces the Polish King, Basilio, that Segismund is destined to bring dishonor on Poland and downfall to his father, Basilio. He therefore announces that Segismund has died with his mother in birth. Confined in a tower, deep in the rocky fastnesses of the frontier, Segismund grows to manhood chained like an animal to a ring in the floor, guarded under direction of Basilio’s confidential general, Clotaldo.

[I’m not really liking the king and I’m pretty sure Clotaldo didn’t plan on guarding one dude for decades when he made general]

As the play opens two strangers whose storm-frighted horses have bolted, stumble on Segismund’s prison. One of them confesses in a voice all too gentle for her masculine attire that she has come from Muscovy on a matter of vengeance and Segismund, for the moment unguarded, confesses that he too, thinks often on revenge. Clotaldo’s appearance is about to result in death for the newcomers when the general recognizes the stranger’s sword as one he had left years before in Muscovy as pledge for favor owed. The stranger identifies herself as Rosaura, daughter of Clotaldo’s quondam benefactor, and is proffered safe conduct to Warsaw.

[That’s convenient]

Meanwhile the King has Segismund brought to court while in a drugged sleep, to wake to all the appearances of royal splendor. His tragic story is related to him, he meets his cousins, Astolfo and Estrella, and falls promptly in love with the latter. When, however, his father, the King, appears, his desire for revenge on an unnatural father is too strong and he would have attacked the King had not the guards prevented. For this action he is returned in a drugged sleep to his prison and the King prepares to carry out his plans to marry his nephew, Duke Astolfo of Muscovy, to his niece, Estrella, and turn over his kingdom to them.

[Nobody: How much incest do you want? This play: YASSS]

Meanwhile, back in the prison, Segismund is convinced by Clotaldo that the entire day’s happenings are but a dream. Clotaldo nevertheless chides him for his unprincelike lack of self-control so effectively that when later in the day he is rescued by revolting Polish troops directed to his prison by Rosaura, he treats the vanquished King with great nobility and returns to him his forfeit crown. When he discovers that Astolfo has broken his engagement to Rosaura in hopes of gaining the Polish crown through marriage to Estrella, he dissolves the new bond, returning Astolfo to Rosaura and claims Estrella for himself.

[Unprincelike lack of self-control? You try being brought up chained to a castle with some creepy old general watching you your entire life and see how much self-control you have. And of course what happy ending doesn’t include cousin marriage?]

If you want the plot explained by Lego characters in German, look no further than here.

All joking aside, Life is a Dream is often considered the greatest Golden Age play. The themes of fate and free will are relevant today and so are the related themes of uncertainty vs. certainty.

I couldn’t find an English video of what is generally called “Segismundo’s first monologue.” So, let’s focus on Segismundo’s 2nd monologue.

Segismundo: I must control this savagery.

The English version of the monologue is indeed savage.

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Translation by Gwynne Edwards.

Now in the original Spanish:

Es verdad. Pues reprimamos
esta fiera condicion,
esta furia, esta ambicion,
por si alguna ve soñamos:
Y sí haremos, pues estamos
en mundo tan singular,
que el vivir sólo es soñar;
y la experiencia me enseña
que el hombre que vive, sueña
lo que es, hasta dispertar.
Sueña el Rey que es rey

Sueña el rey que es rey, y vive
con este engaño mandando,
disponiendo y gobernando;
y este aplauso, que recibe
prestado, en el viento escribe,
y en cenizas le convierte
la muerte, ¡desdicha fuerte!
¿Que hay quien intente reinar,
viendo que ha de despertar
en el sueño de la muerte?

Sueña el rico en su riqueza,
que más cuidados le ofrece;
sueña el pobre que padece
su miseria y su pobreza;
sueña el que á medrar empieza,
sueña el que afana y pretende,
sueña el que agravia y ofende,
y en el mundo, en conclusión,
todos sueñan lo que son,
aunque ninguno lo entiende.

Yo sueño que estoy aquí
destas prisiones cargado,
y soñé que en otro estado
más lisonjero me ví.
¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.

Dream vs. reality. Lovely. Let’s see what these monologues look like. We were lucky enough to find them in several languages. The first one is in English.

Even though the monologue is listed as a “male” monologue, please note several women performing it.



Spanish A


Spanish B


Spanish C


Spanish D


Spanish E


Spanish F


German (!)


Here it is in Portuguese:

É certo; então reprimamos
esta fera condição,
esta fúria, esta ambição,
pois pode ser que sonhemos;
e o faremos, pois estamos
em mundo tão singular
que o viver é só sonhar
e a vida ao fim nos imponha
que o homem que vive, sonha
o que é, até despertar.
Sonha o rei que é rei, e segue
com esse engano mandando,
resolvendo e governando.
E os aplausos que recebe,
Vazios, no vento escreve;
e em cinzas a sua sorte
a morte talha de um corte.
E há quem queira reinar
vendo que há de despertar
no negro sonho da morte?
Sonha o rico sua riqueza
que trabalhos lhe oferece;
sonha o pobre que padece
sua miséria e pobreza;
sonha o que o triunfo preza,
sonha o que luta e pretende,
sonha o que agrava e ofende
e no mundo, em conclusão,
todos sonham o que são,
no entanto ninguém entende.
Eu sonho que estou aqui
de correntes carregado
e sonhei que em outro estado
mais lisonjeiro me vi.
Que é a vida? Um frenesi.
Que é a vida? Uma ilusão,
uma sombra, uma ficção;
o maior bem é tristonho,
porque toda a vida é sonho
e os sonhos, sonhos são.

Portuguese A


Portuguese B


This play may be worth mining for other monologues in the future.

Don’t forget to check out more monologues and our new theatre horror stories.

Have a good one!


Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Yolanda Mendiveles

Our bilingual playwriting hero, Yolanda Mendiveles!!!

This week brings us to Yolanda Mendiveles, a playwright from southern California who has fashioned a wonderful play, Blanca Nieves – which is the protagonist’s name and means “Snow White” in Spanish.

Wrong Snow White.
The REAL Blanca Nieves.

Blanca Nieves takes us back to Los Angeles in 1955. Blanca Nieves‘ world has come undone after losing her spouse Jesús and trying to make ends meet as a widowed mother with children, several of whom aren’t interested in the “old” ways – and Christmas is right around the corner — and all of this is imbued with Aztec mythology.

With a synopsis like that, why isn’t this on Broadway? Or Off-Broadway? Or even Off-Off Broadway?

And before you think “Oh no, not another Christmas play” this IS another Christmas play – but it’s actually one I would pay money to see.

Blanca is struggling and we know this because Jimmy the Landlord shows up:

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In this context, “cabron” basically means “jerk” and that’s kinda what he is here. Especially when you find out…

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Blanca’s so nice she’s making Yerba Buena for him. If you don’t know about Yerba Buena, let the US Forest Service explain it for ya:

“The leaves of this wildflower may be used to make a tea. It also figures prominently in local folk medicine: Mexican, Native, and European Americans have and continue to use it medicinally.”

That’s like the whitest explanation of anything anywhere.

Pretty happenin’ poster.  Courtesy Diana Burbano.

Like all mothers in 1955, Blanca is very understanding:

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Blanca makes Yerba Buena for the landlord…and have you noticed the English mixed with Spanish? That is called code-switching and it’s a real thing among bilingual or multilingual people. The play is full of code-switching, as is real-life for the author.

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I really like Natividad – the clutch is shot and she’s loaning Blanca a ten AND she’s charging 2 bucks a burrito to the gringos- which in 1955

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If your gringo friends are paying 19 bucks for a burrito, they certainly got more dollars than sense…maybe Blanca can hit them up for rent money.

Esther is Blanca’s niece and god-daughter and Luz is Blanca’s daughter.

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huevona = idiot

Wow, Luz REALLY is Americanized…(sigh)

Marta is Blanca’s other daughter. And she’s quick with the insults…

Loco Joe really isn’t as crazy as his name implies.

Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble working hard on Blanca Nieves. Our hero playwright Yolanda Mendiveles is in there, too. Thanks to playwright Diana Burbano.

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The cast of Blanca Nieves, courtesy of Diana Burbano.

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The first time I read this script, I was eating oatmeal, so it was funny when I saw avena mentioned, because if there’s something better than regular oatmeal, it’s avena, a Mexican variation on oatmeal. Learn how to make it below:


What is Esther’s problem? Ham and eggs vs. avena??? Avena wins, every time.

Just don’t tell Esther about Eggs Benedict.

And again, see what a service Blanca is to the community?

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You may notice some red every now and again – that’s the joy of reading a working draft. Marta acts up —

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Marta wasn’t acting up, she was defending herself and her honor. Because in LA, 1955 was a hard time to be Chicana – America has a long history with discrimination against folks like Blanca and Raquel…

Things from that era would’ve included:

Chicana women were forcibly sterilized by the state of California, as early as 1909 and not really ending until 1979.

The people who made this map of LA in 1939 were complete jerks. This was a way for LA to remain unoffically segregated.


The red equalled “4th Class” AKA not white.

Makers of said map had this to say about the inhabitants:

For example, one neighborhood in the L.A. suburb of Claremont (C55, C56) received a C rather than D rating since it contained a “few better class Mexicans.” The San Gabriel Valley Wash community, more heavily Mexican-American, received no such consideration as one assessor described it as populated by “goats, rabbits, and dark skinned babies.” Most might have been native-born, but too many were still “’peon Mexicans” and constitut[ed] a distinctly subversive racial influence.”In her own research, L.A. historian Laura Redford of Scripps College, notes that while Japanese and African-Americans were singled out, too, the language describing Mexican-Americans in the Los Angeles area proved particularly “painful” and “awful”.

Then there was the massive deportation of both Mexicans and Mexican-Americans during The Depression. The numbers deported range from 400,000-2,000,000.

The Zoot Suit Riots and Sleepy Lagoon Murder case are relatively well-known.

Not all these things were happening right in 1955, but they woud’ve been in living memory for the adults in the play, thus influencing their choices and actions.

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I’m not crying. You’re We’re Okay, fine I might be thinking about crying. Not only does Blanca have to raise a family on her own, she and her children face a society that would rather they not exist. Not your average Christmas play.

And the “dirty Mexican” thing? Has not changed one bit.

What’s a mom to do when her children endure white racism at school?

Tell them Aztec legends.

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Suddenly I’m angry at my 4th grade teacher for making me do a mythology project on Perseus. Why not Queztalcoatl????
Tezcatlipoca, AKA God of the Month.

You can learn more about Aztlán here.

But the story isn’t just two badass gods doing badass things…

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This image of the lovers comes ironically from a high school production of the story.

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And thus begins the tale of star-crossed lovers – and like most of these tales it tends to end tragically . However in Blanca Nieves’ telling, there is a happy ending…

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Let’s dissect the above.

  1. Happy ending? Check.
  2. Lovers with volcanoes named after them? Check.
Our mythological lovers, in volcano form.

3. Empanadas? Check.

Chorizo and cheese empanadas.

4. Champurrado? Check.

Make your own champurrado.

In the final scene, everything comes together –

Loco Joe has helped unload Christmas trees that day and brought an extra one for the family.

He also asks Luz to the Winter Ball and she says “yes.”

This whole time, one more stressor for Blanca has been Mrs. Tanaka, a social worker who has observed the family – she has some news for Blanca.

Ricky invites Raquel to the Winter Ball and she accepts.

But Raquel doesn’t have high heels for the dance – but that’s OK because Esther bought her some.

And Marta and Lupito have been running errands for Mrs. Peterson, who will lend Raquel her jewelry as payment.

And Jimmy the Landlord…sigh.

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Jimmy the Landlord is like the only bigoted white person to ever learn the error of his or her ways. Must be something in that Yerba Buena.

He will fix their toilet for free and lower their rent. Meanwhile, Natividad has some news…

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This helps…

And the baby…via the LA Times.

And at the end everyone is treated to champurrado and empanadas – truly the best ending to any Christmas Eve ever –

[note to future producers of the show: please share champurrado and empanadas with audience, too]

The play ends with the singing of Christmas carols including that favorite…Feliz Navidad.

And here are the cast of a reading singing it!!!



A rcent staged reading of the play got a stellar review in the LA Times.

In addition to Blanca Nieves, Mendiveles has written several short plays including The Twelfth of Never and Consulting Spirit. This is her reading from Consulting Spirit and talking about her bilingual writing –

And she has given interviews to other theatre enthusiasts…


Earlier I rhetorically asked why isn’t this even on Off-Off Broadway??? Well, American theatre has a dirty little secret – it’s not really a secret to those who work in theatre in the US, but could be to other people.

According to the Dramatist Guild of America’s recent study, plays by people of color and especially by women of color are rarely produced. I mentioned my reservations before about this survey, namely that it is too narrow and includes a theatre that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. I believe the statistics to be worse than what the DGA reported. But let’s take a look:

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FYI women make up slightly over half the US population.
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FYI white people make up about 60% of America.
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The figure on the right is current. FYI women of color make up just over 20% of the US population.

While not related specifically to the play at hand, this statistic shows how inbreedingly insular American theatre can be:

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Anti-foreigner much? Ironically the only theatre category where men and women are equal. I know nothing!

All the DGA’s stats can be found here.

While I was writing this, an Indonesian friend of mine [who used to work in statistics research] said that it wasn’t right to compare these percentages to the general US population – that they should be compared to the number of playwrights writing. I understand that argument, but I feel it’s too limited in scope.

American theatre, by producing work by (and mostly for) white males, seals off a portion of American life to other Americans (women and people of color) who may have something amazing to contribute to American theatre but are discouraged by the unbearable mayonnaise-like whiteness of US theatre culture. I see many potential theatremakers being dissuaded even before they start and that would lower the number of playwrights to begin with, which is why we should compare the US population to the playwrights produced…

It’s OK if you disagree. You can write your own blog about it.

Back to Yolanda Mendiveles, who is working near LA. LA, the city with the Mexican-Italian-Russian Jewish American mayor who calls himself a kosher burrito – let’s check out LA..

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Non-Hispanic whites make up around 30% of LA’s population, but you wouldn’t know it to look at their limp little theatre scene.

Never mind that Latinx actors make up 2% of principal roles in US theatre…

Soooo Ms. Mendiveles has her work cut out for her. But this doesn’t stop her one bit.

She is a licensed massage therapist by trade and came to the world of playwriting at the age of 52 and has been going strong for 20 years. In fact, I predict she will make it another 20 years at least. She really is an inspiration for anyone who wants to write or anyone who thinks they are starting “late” by society’s standards.

I want to also point out how positive her writing is and also just how positive she was helping me on this blog. In fact, she took the time to answer some questions!!!

How did you start playwriting?

The idea of writing my mother’s and father’s story began after my mother died in 1998.  My father had been deceased since 1958 and she kept his memory alive for us and her unfailing love for him. My mother never remarried although she did have male suitors who wanted to marry after my father died.

I was on my way to Durango, Colorado in 1999 when the idea came to me as a play and I stopped in Phoenix, Arizona to write down the ideas that had come to me and even sketched out some of the scenes. From that date on I have been taking classes in writing and playwriting.

What are your influences?

Yolanda: My influences I can say were my childhood remembrances of musicals with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney; Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire; Shirley Temple. I did not attend stage productions when I was younger. 

What is your most memorable production and why?

My most memorable production was when I joined Casa 0101, a bilingual theater of Spanish and English persuasion. Our production was in 2015. I think and talk in bilingual terms as does my family and friends. The group called Chicanas, Cholas, y Chisme writing group from Casa 0101 we had our works presented on stage for our Bilingual community and we were a hit. The reason we were a hit was because the stories told were stories the audience could relate to, the Spanish and English languages used in the stories the audience could relate to, the actors were actors that looked like the audience and they could connect with the characters as well as the actors. Plus Women’s plays are more honest and direct. My family and friends were so “PROUD” and it made them very happy. My family and friends had a wonderful experience.

What is your least memorable production and why?

I was writing a play about being a massage therapist and how the police department considers massage therapy illegitimate and a front for illegal sexual activity.  I am a massage therapist and have very high ethical standards and really resent the implication that my healing skills are construed this way. We have been fighting long and hard to get a state license and regulations that would fit our organization that would work for the police department only to find the police department resistant to our ideas. So I wrote a play about it and wanted it to be a musical but the reading did not go well. I need to rewrite it.

What’s your funniest theatre story?

My funniest theatre story was when I was the assistant stage manager for Chicanas, Cholas, y Chisme and I was moving the props on stage ( a very small stage) and as I was placing a prop at the front of the stage as I looked up my youngest sister was sitting right in the front row and we made eye contact. She was surprised to see her playwright sister doing the heavy lifting and not being the proper playwright she imagined.

What are your writing habits like?

To write I need two days-one day is to do all the running around I need to do, gathering the groceries I will need for the weekend and taking care of things so I do not need to go out the door and taking care of things I need to do around the house. The next day I can stay in my pajamas and write all day and not be interrupted.

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

I would advise new playwrights to join a group of writers or a theater or attend a school that has a strong theatrical community so that you can create your network and help and get help along the artistic journey. 

Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?

I think all writers should get attention, but presently women have great stories that need to be told from their perspective. Culture is very important and needs to be taken into consideration therefore; people of different cultures need to have their stories told. 

What are common themes in your work?

I write from experience of what I have learned and know to be true for myself. I write about life situations and characters in my life. There is as lot of material there.

What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

Yolanda: I started out writing as an older person and I would say to the young writers to go to school to learn the craft of writing.  All writers should write from the heart not to write because you are going to sell a screenplay or play to make lots of money.  A playwright’s journey is different from a screenwriter’s journey. Both are fulfilling in their own way but it is a journey and not a quick get rich scheme.

Can you please tell us about the development of Blanca Nieves’ Christmas and how it came to have a reading at Breath of Fire?

Blanca Nieves’ Christmas play came to me back in 2009 which is a remembrance of mine and my family’s. My father died when I was 11 years old and my mother was a widow and had us seven (7) children to raise on her own. She was receiving very little money from the government (Widow’s pension) and she cooked, washed and ironed, and babysat other people’s children to bring in more income. Money was worth a lot back in the 50’s, a penny was worth something and you could buy a penny candy unlike in today’s economy.  In the 50’s money was hard earned as well and the money coming in had to pay for the basics so there was little to no money for extras.  This was the same for our neighbors as we all struggled but because it was the same for everyone we made the most of what we did have as did our friends and neighbors. 

I had written the story and in 2010 I had a reading and then it got left on a shelf, then in 2015 I presented it again but because I have so many characters in it- it was rejected. I think and write for large casts- I think I do this because I come from a large family and a very large extended family and my community is very large. So it is hard for me to write a two person play or a four person play.

I joined Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble three years ago and have been writing with them when last year we needed to raise $15,000 for the 2019 year to keep our organization going. We had a fundraiser and only raided $8,222.00 dollars and so I suggested we put on my Christmas Play to raise more money and that is how we had a reading of my play on December 9th 2018.

Your writing seems very autobiographical and personal. What have been some of the reactions of your family and friends when they see these stories up on the stage?

My family and friends have been elated to see my plays. It has brought pride to them and something positive to see and talk about. As opposed to all the negative things that are said about my culture and the people who look like me.

I loved the Popocatepetl and Iztacchihuatl love story. At what point in the writing/preparation did you decide that it must be in the play?

I have mentioned earlier that culture has a lot to do with my writing and the picture of  Popocatepetl  and Iztacchihuatl were on a calendar that hung in our dining room. It is a classic picture that most people of Mexican decent know and love and have in their home. It was a natural outcome to put that story in the Christmas play. Plus I wanted to remind people that we have a rich cultural heritage and rich ancestry and should be proud of it. 

Two part question. What obstacles have you seen in getting bilingual plays produced in America and how can we get more bilingual plays on American (and possible world) stages?

The general American society is very lazy to learn another language although I do know many people who love the language and culture who are not of Mexican descent. When I was taking writing classes and a teacher or student would say to me about my script, “I stopped reading it when I got to the Spanish because I didn’t know what it said and it took me out of the story.” Just one word or a sentence would stop the person from reading further and I would stop going to the class.

I have attended workshops, town hall meetings about plays and they say about Bilingual or Spanish language themed plays, “But our subscribers (who are older Anglo Saxons) do not or would not pay to see a Bilingual or Spanish play. Or that I had too many characters and the costs would be so huge just to pay the actors.”

Here in California the stage is overshadowed by the film industry and that is another issue. Since theater is lower on the entertainment list of entertainment goers, Latina Theater is even lower on the theater list of lists.

The need and the cultural changes that the US. Is undergoing within time Latina theater and theater in general will also change and become more accessible.

What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question. 

I’d like to be asked, “How much money do you need Yolanda to put on your production of Blanca Nieves’ Christmas with the number of cast you require to fully tell this story?”

Thank you Bryan very much for this opportunity.

I sincerely wish you continued success in your endeavors.


Aww, shucks.

I told you she was positive. Wow – Thank you, Yolanda.

Here’s all our other playwrights.

Here are some links related to Ms. Mendiveles and her work:

Her website.

Her other job (massage therapist).

LA Times article.

A short musical she wrote.

A scene from a screenplay.

Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble (you should support them)



Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: No Smoking/No Fumadores (Jacinto Benavente)

This week takes us back to the halcyon days of early 20th Century Spanish farces. This is not the first time this blog has covered such material. But this author is much more famous [at least in Spain] and prominent enough that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1922.

Jacinto Benavente had a brilliant career as a dramatist, authoring at least 170 plays. In fact, his relative current obscurity could make him a future candidate for Unknown Playwrights. You can check out his English Wikipedia page, Spanish Wikipedia page and page.

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The brief one act comedy No Smoking (originally No fumadores) from 1904 concerns a lady and her daughter encountering a gentleman while on a train. The lady can talk one’s ear off and things get increasingly absurd leading to the lady throwing his baggage out of the moving train to “help” him. It’s all good fun – the monologue has the lady talking about the gentleman smoking:

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Oh, here it is in English:

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Now enjoy different actors giving it their best. Thanks!!











And there you have it!!! Join us Thursday when we profile another intriguing playwright from the past.

For complete list of monologues, click here.

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

María de Soto y Sáez

A beautiful milestone has ocurred today: we’re finally profiling our first foreign language playwright! It is also the first time we profile the author of plays for children.

Her name is María de Soto y Sáez and she truly is exceedingly unknown.

Paraphrasing from the only bio I could find, her birth and death dates remain unknown. She was active in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century in Spain and there are at least six works that she authored.

Her first play, El robo de anoche [The Theft of Last Night], survives in manuscript form.

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It survives right here. Note that it is a one act play. Her co-author was kinda prominent.

It’s possible this play was never performed (something this play has in common with 95% of my plays…teeheehee). The play was written around 1890.

On December 6, 1890 she had a one-act play, La Esperanza [The Hope] debut at Teatro Variedades in Madrid. The comedic plot concerned jealousy in a marriage and relies on puns and misunderstandings for its source of humor, which would probably qualify it for an Amazon series now, but would still be light years funnier than the worst sitcom birthed by Satan. The play was subsequently published by José Rodríguez.

It’s possible she co-authored a play, Don Juanito, under the pseudonym of Modesto Aria –

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No preview for you – from here.
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Someone compiled a bibliography of Don Juan.

In 1909, the prominent printer Saturnino Calleja y Fernández printed six of Soto’s works together in one volume, El teatro de la infancia [Childhood Theatre]. All the plays are one acts, in verse, and for children. The volume consists of:

La banda de honor [Sash of Honor] – One act. Kids competing for a “sash of honor.”

El manojo de claveles [The Bundle of Carnations] – One act comedy.

El Portal de Belén [The Entrance of Bethlehem] – One act drama, in verse. 

Welcome to Bethlehem, via here.

El recreo [The Recess] – One act comedy. Verse. Kids hanging out at recess.

El Día de Año Nuevo [New Year’s Day] – One act comedy.

Why isn’t it Old Year’s Day? From here.

La revoltosa [The Troublemaker] – One act comedy. Verse. An interesting study of the title character but also the kids who surround her. 

This is pretty much all that’s known about this author.

Several of her youth plays were also published again in Chile. This has led some Chilean sources to suggest Soto y Sáez was a Chilean author. This doesn’t appear to be the case, but with what little is known about her, she may have been.

From these one acts, we’ll profile two: The Sash of Honor/La banda de honor and The Recess/El recreo.

The Sash of Honor’s plot is pretty dang straightforward: Set in a school for girls, apparently a school for excessively cruel girls, all the girls want the sash – for which they have to be examined by a panel of teachers. Most of them are arrogant, except for poor, humble Carmela, who prays and also has a rich, kind friend in Rosa who helps her gain confidence and, and, [spoiler alert] – wins the sash!

It’s like Mean Girls set in a Spanish Catholic school in 1909.

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  1. There are parts for eight girls here. And no boys. Hehe. Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 11.05.15 AM
  2. There are some genuinely funny bits in the play.
  3. It’s in verse, specifically silva arromanzada. For those heavy into meter, these are lines, usually between 7 and 11 syllables, including 7 + 7 alexandrine schemes and assonant rhyme in even lines. All for a children’s play. Thank you to  Professor Enrique Gil Miguel for helping me with this and thanks to my playwright friend Beatriz Cabur for introducing him.
  4. It tackles the subject of bullying.


  1. It’s kinda cheesy and simplistic.


  1. It’s exceedingly Catholic. Modern schools may welcome that, others not so much.

Let’s do a walk-through of this play. Before we start, translating Spanish isn’t something I do every day and I want to thank my friend and fantasy writer (and Spanish speaker) Kristin Jackson for answering all my questions. Nevertheless, any mistakes in this translation are mine and mine alone. I tried to convey the meaning while maintaining some semblence of faux-poetry. I didn’t attempt a silva arromanzada.

Carmela is lamenting the fact that everyone is mean to her, but she has Rosita’s friendship:

(I cut some stage directions for fun)



Scene IV


I do nothing to them, oh my!

They make me upset …

Nobody has affection for me.

Except Rosita, Yes she

the most noble, who is a duchess,

the richest and most elegant,

That speaks to me so happily

and she even hugs me and kisses me.

I do not know what I would give

for being able to pay

She knows how to treat well

Those who were born poor.


My God, if I go wrong

How they are going to laugh! (kneels before the image of the Virgin)

To you, blessed Virgin,

day and night we acclaim you,

before you we prostrate ourselves,

and fix our gaze on you,

we ask in the affliction

the same as in joy,

May you be, Virgin Mary,

always our salvation.

(At the end of the last verse appear behind Clara, Luisa, Paca and Sofia mocking her)


Now the bad girls, aka demonic hellions, show up.


Scene V

Carmela, Luisa, Paca and Sofia

Clara. Look at the poor thing’s fear

Paca. Pray, girl, pray,

God does not hear you

Sofia. You win a prize?

Luisa. What a shame!

Paca. Poor thing!

Clara. Do not make yourself up …

Sofia. Don’t deceive yourself …

Clara. You do not know anything …

Paca. You’ve been a fool …

Clara. You should leave

before they see you.

Paca. With that dress

You are going to get hit …

Sofia. Poor girl.

Luisa. But how poor!

Carmela. But, my God,

I have to put up with this! (cries)

Clara. How fragile!

Sofia. No, girl, do not cry!

(the four of them surround her, mocking her)


Carmela isn’t having the best day.

But then, her pal Rosa shows up and DISHES IT OUT!


Scene VI

[Others from before] Enter Rosa, from behind. 

Rosa. What’s this, why do you enjoy yourself?

in bothering Carmela?

That is not worthy, nor is it noble,

nor good friends.

Clara. She has such a sad face!

Sofia. That seems to be punched ..

Paca. Or her cat has died …

Rosa. Shut up and go outside.

Clara. Whose order?

Rosa. Mine,

and woe to the one who does not obey …

Luisa. Well, she’s fuming! …

Clara. As the daughter of a duchess!

(The four exit.)

Carmela, despite being high-born (a duchess or daughter of a duchess) is kind and warm-hearted to the poverty-stricken [apparently] Carmela. She even gives Carmela a beautiful necklace to wear at the competition…

Later Rosa tells us exactly how the examination goes –

Scene XI pt1


Rosa. You will see. She came in and, waving

to the audience,

it was before the teachers

Waiting for them to speak to her.

She firmly replied,

without hesitation, with a clear voice,

admired by the whole world

for her sweetness and her grace.

There were many questions.

difficult, risky,

the schoolgirl replied to

all with aplomb

And seeing such a brilliant test,

the court stood up

Until she walked to them

after congratulating her,

and lavishing Carmela

a thousand words of praise on her,

On her noble chest she puts

as a great prize the sash.

All hands applauded her

before the exciting act,

and everyone congratulated her

and all admired her.

And look, the classmates

that mocked her before,

in triumph until here they bring it.

and one after the other they embraced her.


Yay for Carmela! Sadly, the mean girls weren’t boiled in oil at the end. Our next play is The Recess. The summary of this play is basically kids hanging out at recess.

50 céntimos and it’s yours! Via here.


  1. An all-girl cast. No boys allowed. Large cast of 14. How fun is that?

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2. Positive messages about appearance and body image. More on this later.

3. Very in-depth characterization.

4. Still in verse.

5. A lot of the play is like a series of monologues, with several characters getting their own solo pieces.

6. Ample use of humor.


  1. That in-depth characterization comes at a price, namely plot. The closest thing to a plot is Paca/Paquita’s struggle with Sagrario over Sagrario’s slavish fawning over the mirror.


  1. Still very Catholic.

We’ll take a brief cruise through this play. Again, I want to thank Professor Enrique Gil Miguel, my playwright friend Beatriz Cabur and my fantasy writer friend and Oaxaca native Kristin Jackson.

Again, if the translation sucks, it’s my fault.

The play opens with the recess bell. In scene 2, we see Elvira has a poetic streak, but her friend Rosario has other things on her mind. This is some of that characterization I mentioned.

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What beautiful flowers!

The view is refreshing! 

Delightful gardens,

Who does not dream to see you?


You feel romantic.


And who didn’t feel so

on hearing the chirps 

of those birds that fly;

by breathing the air

that comes embalmed with

of tuberoses, of jasmine,

of roses and violets … 

to see the butterflies

how happy they play

Kissing from flower to flower

a thousand, if a thousand are there?

Here the soul widens, 

and full of illusions

the mind was ecstatic …

If I were a poet!


You would be a boy

with blonde ringlets 

long and curly,

fine as silk;

you would play the lyre,

when your governing muse

inspires you, in the hours  

in which others dream.


That is very well said!


You do not have to be a poet

to say two pretty sentences,

If you’re stubborn.  


You have a noble soul!


Also yours is beautiful.


Come see the flowers;

the view is refreshing;

white butterflies  

like the lilies;

the crystal-clear springs;

the birds that fly.


Wow, it’s a pity

that you were not a poet!  


I die for art.


I prefer a snack.

(All three exit.)


“You go do your poet stuff, beatnik. I wanna eat.” I like Rosario’s style.

Later in the play, we learn that Sagrario is obsessed with her looks in particular and mirrors in general. We also learn that Paca hates mirrors. She tries to convert Sagrario to non-Mirrorism. The conflict arises.

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I want to take away that vice,

which is very ugly, dear Sagrario.

Holy and good that you, in fixing yourself,  

you study yourself alone in your room,

and ask the mirror for advice

to thus enhance your charms.

And once you get an answer

and be as beautiful as a day in May,  

you do not remember that there is a mirror

Don’t worry about bows and ribbons.

The woman who is honest and simple,

is the angel that God has created

to do what in his eyes of glory  

is considered in a clearer mirror.

And having that mirror in your eyes,

it’s not good to see it in your hands

a mirror that is worth very little

compared to the one I talk about. 

But there is something deeply pathological about Paca’s mirror-vengeance. As we learn through more characterization:


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PACA:….and it produces dislikes

Like someone gave me once and I won’t forget it

And it was a day that I, playful

and greedy, I took out of a closet 

a large jar of sweet syrup

that I had long ago besieged.

And that seeing the square undefended

I decided to attack,

and capture it without them knowing

because nobody came to save it.

I had eaten at least

More than half of that jar,

When I heard a … Holy Virgin! and my eyes

they turned and, speechless with horror,  

reflecting, they looked at my image

in the mirror of a golden frame,

so grotesque, so sad and ridiculous,

that until this time I have not forgotten it.

And my mother following me,  

and my afflicted face and my lips

all filled with sweet syrup

that the mirror inhumanely reflected.

I fell at the foot of my mother, tearful,

promising not to do such a sin, 

and throwing the mirror

It cracked into 20 pieces like sabers.

Since then, seeing a mirror

I look at it on two or three sides,

and bringing my mouth to her mirror  

I repeat furiously … What a fake!

And that’s why I want that she

not look in the mirror anymore,

that I have declared war

on mirrors of all sizes.  


Even though Paca is helping her friend, she has some serious latent reasons why.

Later Emilia tells a story about a grandpa, boy and donkey.

Summarizing the story: When the grandpa rode the donkey and the boy walked behind, the villagers said it was too cruel to make the boy walk. They switched. When the boy rode and the grandpa walked to the next village, the people said how cruel to make the grandpa walk. So they both walked and the next village told them how sad it was that the donkey didn’t have a load, etc. The point being people will complain no matter what you do. (Good point)

Then Emilia tells Amparo the evils of slander, using old snowball/sun metaphor:

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It is envious like slander,

as a snowball that, unsuspecting,

they are making, so that they

those who only hurt the world

enlarge it

But the Sun, shining in the sky, 

he undoes it with its pure rays,

and it turns into foam bubbles

what bad hands had made.

See how they all went

when they have seen how I speak to them.  

The truth is bitter to the people,

who in the world live with deceit.

(Very slowly the last quatrain, after which she wraps the waist of AMPARO with her arm, and they disappear slowly.)

It seems Emilia really, really likes Amparo.

Meanwhile Amelia and Teresa have a scheme worked out where Amelia cheats for Teresa in exchange for candy.

Towards the end, Sagrario has learned her lesson about looking in the mirror and society’s treatment of women.

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We live to please,

since we are born, 

and the kindness of girls

It is a gift from heaven.

If you chatted to your devil

your false mirror,

it was to correct you 

by that means.

(She takes out the mirror and brings her face closer to PAQUITA’s, making her look at it at the same time as her.)

I love you, girl

how I love you …;

look with what affection

They send us a kiss!

(They both smile in the mirror and go arm in arm.)

Looks like Sagrario and Paquita are the best of friends.

The following scenes do a brief wrap up, the bell rings and recess is done.


In preperation for this I also read La revoltosa and parts of Don Juanito.

There’s no evidence of these plays ever having been performed.

In writing for children, Soto’s has several themes in common: the plight/situation of girls in school, the role of religion and humility rewarded and there are some vicious, vicious girls in Spanish schools circa 1910.

I’m not sure what relevance these plays would have to a child of today. Perhaps some of the monologues could be used/adapted for an actor wanting to do a legit period piece.

However, these plays offer an interesting glimpse into children’s theatre in the early 20th Century in Spain. As such, they definitely should be studied and translated into languages besides Spanish. I believe theatre aficionados, scholars, teachers and playwrights could learn a lot by reading these old plays.

A couple thoughts regarding children’s theatre – it really gets no respect. Despite awesome playwrights like Don ZolidisClaudia Inglis Haas and Daniel Guyton building careers in the subgenre, there’s still not much respect. Hopefully by knowing the history of children’s theatre across cultures, languages and centuries, we can understand it more and make better theatre.

For all of our playwrights, please click here.

Before adding a link dump for Ms. Soto, let’s see what Madrid looked like in 1910:


And you can rock out to one of the most popular singers of the age, La Fornarina.


Here’s most the stuff online related to María de Soto y Sáez, all in Spanish:

Her life.

El robo de anoche

Don Juanito, a play she may have co-written under a pseudonym

El portal de belén

El recreo

La Revoltosa AND La banda de honor are here in this Chilean anthology.

El día de año nuevo







Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Laurencia in Fuenteovejuna (Lope de Vega)

And we’re back for Monologue Monday. This week’s monologue comes from the seriously prolific Lope de Vega. And prolific is an understatement – he’s credited with 500 plays on Anglo Wikipedia and his own museum credits him with up to 1,800 plays. FWIW Britannica gives him 431 extant plays. Lost works of his are still popping up.

At some point in the future we’ll probably profile him.

Meanwhile, Fuenteovejuna remains one of his most popular plays and is one of the few available in English. It is supposedly based on a true story and is set in a real town.

Summary: The Portuguese capture Ciudad Real. Two lovers from the nearby village of Fuenteovejuna, Laurencia and Frondoso, meet in the forest. The local Commander tries to rape Laurencia, but Frondoso takes the Commander’s crossbow and Laurencia.

The Commander demands Laurencia’s father allow him to have her. The dad refuses. Ciudad Real has been attacked. The Commander goes back there. Laurencia and Pascuala escape the village with a peasant, Mengo. They meet another peasant gal, Jacinta, who is escaping the Commander’s servants.

Soldiers capture Mengo and Jacinta. Mengo is whipped, Jacinta is raped. Pleasant stuff. Frondoso and Laurencia have a wedding, but the Commander interrupts it and arrests Frondoso, the dad and Laurencia.

The villagers decide what to do. Laurencia is beaten and nearly raped – she escapes and joins the villagers in disguise. She berates them for not trying to rescue her. The villagers plan to kill the Commander.

While Frondoso’s execution is being readied, the villagers kill the Commander and and one of his servants.

Flores, the surviving servant, escapes and rushes to the king and queen to tell what went down. The rulers order an investigation. The investigator tortures men, women, and young boys, but everyone just says “Fuenteovejuna” (i.e. the village) killed the Commander. The monarchs pardon the villagers when they tell their story.

Here is a TV adaptation from 1972:

Here is a site-specific production from Mexico in 2011. I wish I’d thought of restaging the play in the Mexican Revolution. Brilliant.

An adaptation by Thalia Hispanic Theatre in Queens, NY. In this version, set in modern Ciudad Juárez, Laurencia is one of the disappeared women of Juárez.

But we’re here for the monologues! This is a powerful monologue. After Laurencia has escaped the bad guys and returns to the village, she’s rightfully angry and tears into the so-called “men” of the village (you know, the ones who didn’t try to help her and stuff).

Note: In the beginning of the monologue her dad calls her  “my daughter” – she then replies with something like “Don’t call me daughter!” — then like a dork-face he says “Why?” Then she tells them off. Some of the monologues retain the beginning and some start after the dad has spoken. That’s why they’re different. And bear in mind that multiple English translations exist, so variation in text may occur.

I’m so excited…I’ll tell you why later.





So remember that part where I said I was excited? That’s because this is our first multilingual Monologue Monday – there are quite a few Spanish versions of this monologue. Let’s start!!










Those were intense. I really love studying theatre from outside the US and especially outside the Anglosphere. There’s really so much we can learn.

What do you think? Is there a difference in performance styles between languages? What can Anglophone theatre gain from studying foreign-language drama and performance?

Thanks again to all the brave actors who put themselves out there. Great stuff.

To conclude, here’s a nice video someone put up talking about the Spanish Golden Age of Theatre in general and Fuenteovejuna in particular. Join us on Thursday for an interesting playwright of years gone by.

For another Spanish playwright’s monologue, check here.

For a complete list of monologues, click here.