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May 1, 1936

The Experimental Theatre’s presented the English première of Fuente Ovejuna (The Sheep Well), written in 1619 by Spanish playwright Lope de Vega. Representatives of Warner Brothers studios were, according to The New York Times, in the audience for the second performance, as were the play’s translator, American author and producer John Garrett Underhill, and Professor Federico de Onis, founder of Columbia University’s Spanish Letters Studies.

Based on an historical incident in the late 15th century, the action of Fuente Ovejuna revolves around the predations by a feudal lord on the women of a rural village, Fuenteovejuna, and his murder by the villagers who, when under pain of torture to confess, uniformly claim “Fuenteovejuna did it.” When no single guilty party is identified, King Ferdinand pardons the village. “There is neither hero nor heroine,” The Times wrote of Vassar’s production. “Characters merge into a common mass and their actions are strangely prophetic of the twentieth century.”

Reviewing Underhill’s translations of four plays by Lope de Vega, Theatre Arts Monthly noted also the play’s contemporaneity, commenting that Fuente Ovejuna was the “most likely to find its place in a modern program…the portrait of a town and its people, whose political portratiture lends itself easily and with slight change of stress to modern political and social applicatiion.” Mr. Underhill declared that the Experimental Theatre’s production “eliminates three hundred years. I never saw a classic—especially a foreign classic—so vividly, so vitally done,” and Professor de Onis said, the “dramatic conception of justice, of human quality which breathes through Lope’s pages was admirably realized in the composition and movement of the scenes, in the music, in the impersonations of the actors as well as in every detail of the production.

Fuente Ovejuna was produced again at Vassar in 1980.

The Miscellany News, Theatre Arts Monthly, The New York Times.

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