Rodolfo Usigli

Rodolfo Usigli (November 17, 1905 – June 18, 1979) was a Mexican playwright, essayist and diplomat.[1] He has been called "the father of Mexican theater"[2] and "playwright of the Mexican Revolution."[citation needed] In recognition of his work to articulate a national identity for Mexican theater, he was award the Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes (Mexican National Prize for Arts and Sciences) in 1972.[2][3]


Usigli was born to an Italian father and a Polish mother in Mexico City. In his early childhood, he enjoyed many plays that his parents took him to. His father aspired him to go to music school, and Usigli spent a year in the National Conservatory of Music before deciding that his real passion was theater. He studied drama at the Yale School of Drama from 1935-1936 on a Rockefeller scholarship, later becoming a professor and diplomat. It was during his time as a diplomat in 1945 that he met George Bernard Shaw in London.[4] After returning to Mexico from the U.S., he established the Midnight Theater and also became a member of the literary circle that formed around the journal Contemporary.[5] During the 1930s, he directed radio dramas.


Usigli’s theater focuses largely the history of Mexico and satirizing his contemporary Mexican society,[2]:3811 and how the Mexican middle classes were betrayed, politically and socially, by the Mexican revolution.[6]:307 His plays reflect a sense of the hypocrisies of life after the revolution, both criticizing society and offering models to emulate.[2]:3811 He called for a national theater movement that would reflect the truth of the Mexican experience and express the Mexican spirit.[2]:3811[6]:308

He is perhaps best known for his 1938 play El gesticulador (The Imposter), which critiqued social issues ravaging Mexico, such as misuse of power that the bureaucracy had got from the Revolution of 1910. The play was censored by the Mexican government banned, raising Usigli's reputation.[5]

In 1942 Usigli published another work of scathing quality. In Family Dinner at Home' his intended target were the apex strata of the Mexican social structure. Usigli experimented with crime fiction in the novel, Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal for a Crime), which in 1955 was adapted into a film, The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz, by Luis Buñuel. Usigli also wrote several essays on history, art and theater. He was also an occasional poet, writing modest but interesting poems.[5]

The award-winning Usigli believed the objective of theatre was to tell the truth about society.[citation needed] He was known for his strong representation of women in plays.[7]:181–182

Usigli designed strong female characters in several of his plays. Two of Usigli's protégées, Rosario Castellanos and Luisa Josefina Hernández, became important female voices on the Mexican stage. He was also a strong influence on his pupil Jorge Ibargüengoitia and on Josefina Niggli.[citation needed]


The Rodolfo Usigli Archive in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections at Miami University of Ohio is a repository of Usigli's papers. The Archive's website describes it as "the definitive research collection relating to Usigli's life and career, including correspondence, both manuscript and typed drafts of original plays and translations of works by other artists, personal, theatrical, and diplomatic photographs, essays, books, playbills, posters, theses written about Usigli, awards, newspaper and magazine articles, memorabilia, and ephemera."[1]

Selected WorksEdit


  • Tres comedias impolíticas (Three Impolitic Comedies), 1935[8]
  • El niño y la niebla (The Boy and the Mist), 1936
  • Otra primavera (Another Spring)[8]
  • Medio tono (Middle Class)[8]
  • Mientras amemos (As Long as We Love), begun 1937-38, completed 1948[6]
  • El gesticulador (The Imposter), 1938[8]
  • La familia cena en casa (Family Dinner at Home), 1942[8]
  • Vacaciones (Holidays)[8]
  • La mujer no hace milagros (The Woman Does Not Work Miracles)[8]
  • La función de la despedida, 1949[6]
  • Los fugitivos, produced 1950, published 1951[9]
  • Jano es una muchacha, 1952[6]
  • Las madres, 1960
  • The Corona Trilogy:
    • Corona de sombra (Crown of Shadow), 1943[8]
    • Corona de Fuego (Crown of Fire), 1960[8]
    • Corona de Luz, (Crown of Light), 1963[8]


  • Conversación desesperada (Desperate Conversation), 1938[10]
  • Sonetos del tiempo y de la muerte (Sonnets of Time and Death), 1954[11]
  • Tiempo y memoria en conversación desesperada, 1981[12]


  • Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal for a Crime), 1944[13]


  • México en el teatro (Mexico in Theatre), 1932[14]
  • Caminos del teatro en México (Paths of the Theatre in Mexico), 1933[15]
  • Anatomía del teatro (Anatomy of Theatre), written 1939, published 1967
  • Itinerario del autor dramático (Itinerary of a Dramatist), 1940[16]
  • Juan Ruiz de Alarcón en el tiempo, 1967
  • Ideas sobre el teatro (Ideas about the Theatre), 1968
  • Imagen y prisma de México (1972)


  • Conversaciónes y encuentros (Conversations and Encounters), 1974[17]
    • translated into English in a critical edition as You Have Nothing to Learn from Me: A Literary Relationship Between George Bernard Shaw and Rodolfo Usigli, 2011.[18][19]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b "Rodolfo Usigli Archive". Walter Havighurst Special Collections & University Archives. Retrieved 2020-04-22.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mattrella, Anne Laura (2017). "Usigli, Rodolpho". Critical Survey of Drama (3rd ed.). Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. pp. 3810–3815.
  3. ^ "Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes ~ 70 AÑOS ~ – Dirección General de Investigaciones". Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  4. ^ "Rodolfo Usigli and George Bernard Shaw Finding Aid" (PDF). Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "Rodolfo Usigli". Biographies & Lives. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e Ragle, Gordon (May 1963). "Rodolfo Usigli and His Mexican Scene". Hispania. 46 (2): 307–311. doi:10.2307/336998. JSTOR 336998.
  7. ^ Layera, Ramón (2006). "Rodolfo Usigli Centennial: An Interdisciplinary Commemoration". Latin American Theatre Review. 40 (1): 179–182. doi:10.1353/ltr.2006.0046. ISSN 2161-0576.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Howatt, Consuelo (1950). "Rodolfo Usigli". Books Abroad. 24 (2): 127–130. doi:10.2307/40089077. ISSN 0006-7431. JSTOR 40089077.
  9. ^ Scott, Wilder P. (November 1974). "The Genesis and Development of a Female Character in Two Plays of Rodolfo Usigli". South Atlantic Bulletin. 39 (4): 31–37. doi:10.2307/3198227. JSTOR 3198227.
  10. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo (1938). Conversación desesperada (in Spanish). México: E. Nandino. OCLC 32326616.
  11. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo (1954). Sonetos del tiempo y de la muerte (in Spanish). México: s.n. OCLC 651448289.
  12. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo; Pacheco, José Emilio (1981). Tiempo y memoria en conversación desesperada: poesía 1923-1974 (in Spanish). México: Universidad nacional autónoma de México, Departamento de humanidades. OCLC 462067844.
  13. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo (1944). Ensayo de un crimen; novela (in Spanish). Mexico: Editorial America. OCLC 1343048.
  14. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo (1932). México en el teatro (in Spanish). México: Impr. mundial. OCLC 250649306.
  15. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo (1933). Caminos del teatro en México (in Spanish). México: Imprenta de la Secretaría de relaciones exteriores. OCLC 9134367.
  16. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo (1940). Itinerario del autor dramático (in Spanish). México: La Casa de España en México. OCLC 590192018.
  17. ^ Usigli, Rodolfo (1974). Conversaciones y encuentros (in Spanish). México; Ed. Novaro. OCLC 255795431.
  18. ^ Layera, Ramón; Gibson, Katie; Powell, Kerry; Walter Havighurst Special Collections Library (Miami University) (2011). You have nothing to learn from me: a literary relationship between George Bernard Shaw & Rodolfo Usigli. Oxford, OH: Miami University Libraries. ISBN 978-0-615-50861-0. OCLC 755918142.
  19. ^ Beltrán, Edith (2013). "You Have Nothing to Learn from Me: A Literary Relationship Between George Bernard Shaw and Rodolfo Usigli by Ramón Layera and Katie Gibson". Latin American Theatre Review. 47 (1): 190–192. doi:10.1353/ltr.2013.0044. ISSN 2161-0576.