Colloquium: Anna-Lisa Halling

Date(s) - 04/04/2024
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

4010 JFSB


Associate Professor Anna-Lisa Halling, Spanish & Portuguese, will present for the Humanities Center’s weekly colloquium on Thursday, April 4th at 3:00 PM in 4010 JFSB. We hope you’ll join us. Refreshments will be served.

Title: “Your sisters’ necessary recreation”: Theatrical Performance in Early Modern Iberian Convents

During the early modern period, theater was a remarkable cultural phenomenon that spread throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and the immense popularity of this tradition created a continually increasing demand for more plays and their production. A new work debuted weekly in most of the many open-air theaters, while traveling troupes of actors used carts as stages in smaller towns in the countryside. Nobles and members of the royal family commissioned private performances within their own residences and palaces, although they also sometimes ventured out to the public theaters, as well. Even members of the clergy, who were, in theory, strictly prohibited from attending public plays due to their supposedly immoral nature, wrote plays and had their own seating area in public playhouses. These dramas also crossed national borders, with Portuguese playwrights penning pieces in Spanish, and Spanish plays adapted to the Portuguese stage. Due to the immense popularity and deep cultural impact of theater during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in both Spain and Portugal, it is not surprising that this phenomenon penetrated the farthest reaches of the peninsula, including the cloistered and marginalized space of the convent.

Although this type of cultural production remains largely ignored in literary studies, convent theater was much more than the unique peculiarity of a certain writer, convent, or religious order. Rather, it was a widespread occurrence throughout the Iberian Peninsula during the early modern period, extending even into the beginning of the eighteenth century. Textual elements such as stage directions and references to costuming, singing, and dancing within the texts themselves are evocative of a clear understanding and mastery of theatrical tropes and staging. By examining these performative elements and studying the possible performance spaces within convents, a clear picture emerges of a theatrical tradition of staging plays within convent walls and by the nuns themselves with the express purpose of both entertaining and educating cloistered women.


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