Lost and Found 19th Century Plays: “Soberbia y humildad” and “El bastardo”

The Puerto Rican Athenaeum and its National Archive of Theater and Cinema announce the recovery of two of the most prominent and successful plays of Puerto Rican Romanticism. The rescued and reconstructed dramatic works are “Soberbia y humildad o La recompensa del bueno [Pride and Humility or The reward of the good person], by poet and pharmacist Francisco Pérez y Freytes (1842-1890), which was represented on stage with resounding success at the Arecibo Theater in 1872, and “El bastardo” [The Bastard], by poet and medical doctor Gabriel Ferrer y Hernández (1857-1900), staged in 1887 at the San Juan Municipal Theater.

After their premiere, neither text was published as it was usually the custom, and the manuscripts remained private collections, where they were poorly preserved. The manuscript for “Soberbia y humildad” had lost nearly a hundred pages of the text because it had been accidentally damaged by wax from a lit candle. Being a drama in verse, the text had to be transcribed and the missing verses rebuilt in the metric and the style of the author. The text was reconstructed with close to 98% accuracy. The case of “El bastardo,” which had been forgotten and mixed up among other papers by the author, presented serious difficulties of reconstruction. The author had left several versions of the same scenes, with numerous erasures, and the scattered order of the pages prevented an easy reconstruction. However, the work was rebuilt entirely to the most plausible version used for its original premiere.

Playwright and director of the Athenaeum’s National Archive of Theater and Cinema, Roberto Ramos-Perea, who performed the restoration, explains: “Both works show the most decisive features of Puerto Rican Romanticism and its importance in the construction of identity. The active presence of nature as an expression of spiritual states, the search for individual truth, the theme of passionate love and its twists and turns, the subject of honor, and the use of the family as metaphor for a complex political situation are significant contributions of these two works or art. To salvage these works is a patriotic responsibility of the Athenaeum as part of our ongoing mission to reaffirm national culture.”

It is fortunate that these original manuscripts have survived and are now part of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Collection, the Pérez y Freytes Collection, the Ferrer y Hernández Collection, and the General Archive of Puerto Rico. Both works will soon be published by the Puerto Rican Athenaeum and the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature in the Anthology of Puerto Rican Romantic Theater.

To read these texts before publication, interested parties may request them at the Archive’s headquarters. For more information, you may call (787) 977-2307.

For full article, see http://www.prdailysun.com/index.php?page=news.article&id=1280977657

Photo of the San Juan Municipal Theater (now Tapia Theater) from http://www.pobladores.com/channels//PUERTO_RICO/area/17

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