Sauthoring the scene, playing the role: mothers and daughters in griselda gambaro's la malasangre sharon magnarelligre sharon magnarelli one of the most respected playwrights in argentina, griselda gámbaro is perhaps

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SPRING 1994 5
Authoring the Scene, Playing the Role: Mothers and Daughters
in Griselda Gambaro's La malasangre
Sharon Magnarelli
One of the most respected playwrights in Argentina, Griselda Gámbaro is
perhaps best known for her four early plays: El desatino, Las paredes, Los
siameses, and El campo, written and staged between 1963 and 1968. As these
works indicate, her principal thematicconcerns are oppression—political or
interpersonal, direct or indirect—and our capacity to victimize others. Indeed,
Gámbaro maintains that the only two postures available to human beings are
those of oppressor or oppressed (Magnarelli, "Interview" 821). She carries this
notion further in some of her plays by dramatizing the possibility that one
assumes the role of oppressor in response toone's prior experience as the
oppressed. Nonetheless, Gambaro's early plays were criticized for her apparent
lack of concern with the oppression of women. The playwright has responded,
"para hablar de las mujeres no hay nada mejor que hablar de las relaciones entre
los hombres" ("¿Es posible?" 21).1 Significantly, however, her later works evince
a higher incidence of female characters, a changethat seems motivated by her
recognition first, that our sociopolitical structures and their tendency for biological
essentialism mark women as more likely victims of oppression, and second, that
women rather than men might represent the norm, human beings in general,
"everyperson."2
Particularly successful in bringing female characters from the wings to
center stage are three of her worksfrom the 1980s: Real envido, La malasangre,
and Antígona furiosa. Although the immediate, historical referent for each is
unquestionably the sociopolitical situation in Argentina during the 1970s, the
plays also address the question of oppression in more universal terms.3 At the
same time, however, if indeed more subtly, all four also probe the position of
women in contemporary society andportray the female as an actress. Although
not always conscious of it, the woman in these Gambaro's works is inevitably
compelled to assume a sociopolitically acceptable role predicated on oppression
6 LATIN AMERICAN THEATRE REVIEW
and victimization, generally her own.4 In the coming pages I would like to
examine La malasangre, written in 1981 and staged in 1982. In it the two female
charactersserve dual functions. First, they depict "everyperson" and what
Gámbaro perceives as "everyperson's" alternately subject and object relation to
oppression and the abuse of power. At the same time, however, they function as
synecdoches, in both the biological and the sociopolitical realms, of what are
specifically feminine roles, mother and daughter, roles which, as Gámbaro
demonstrates, arejust that in the sociopolitical arena: parts to be played.5
Gámbaro is not to be accused of biological essentialism here, however, for her
point is that although biological factors may mark the actor/actress's suitability
for a given role, the role itself is still unquestionably superimposed, an assumed
mask, created by and dependent on perceptions that have been framed and limited
by an oftenunacknowledged agent (director/author).6 And while dramatizing the
role playing of the female characters, Gámbaro subtly underscores the fallibility
and fragility of the roles as author(iz)ed by our sociopolitical structures.7 We find
not only that we paradoxically perceive the "mother" role alternately as both the
romanticized, perfect madonna (the ideal that Dolores perhaps would become)and the Freudian castrating mother (the reality that the mother seems to have
become), but that the images themselves are projections, literary creations,
author(iz)ed by either fear or wishful thinking. No female is either, yet every
female at times assumes each of these antithetical roles.
Set around 1840 at the height of the Rosas's regime in Argentina, La
malasangre is the dramatization...
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