Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Rise and Fall of the Inquisition

In Red Tape’s adaptation of The Dog in the Manger the Countess Diana’s chief suitor has been re-imagined as a member of the Spanish Inquisition whose influence in society is waning. The Inquisitors included laymen as well as clergy among their ranks so the scenario is not unthinkable. Though the Inquisition was still in power in Lope de Vega’s lifetime it grew unpopular when Spain’s economy began to sink.

In 15th Century Spain the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, sought to unite the regions of Portugal, Castille and Aragon, by declaring Christianity the dominant religion. Thousands of citizens “voluntarily” converted to keep their place in society. In 1478 the Monarchs established the Inquisition to investigate these conversos. By 1492 the Jews were officially expelled from all regions of Spain. The elimination of the Jewish middle class and the opening of American territories allowed the fortunes of the nobility to climb as Spain entered a Golden Age.

The Arts thrived in the economy of 16th Century Spain. Meanwhile the Inquisition proceeded to cut Spain off from all foreigners. Historian Henry Kamen writes that “Thereafter the closed society found that it had exhausted its own resources… The disappearance of the Jews and the persecution of the conversos created a void in the world of capital which was never satisfactorily filled by Spaniards. ” (The Spanish Inquisition, New American Library, 1965).

By the 19th Century the Golden Age had long since ended and the Inquisition had fallen out of favor. Spain’s military losses to France and England, and a failed attempt at a republic, had injured the economy. Spain’s parliament, the Cortes, saw the Inquisition as an obstacle to the countries reformation and began to cut off authority and finances. Personnel shrunk as inquisitors complained of unpaid wages. Their last official execution for heresy was recorded in 1825. Kamen writes “a formal decree was eventually issued on 15 July 1834 by which the Inquisition was definitively suppressed, all its properties and canonries applied to the extinction of public debt, and just payment of salaries made to all its formal officials.” By this point the Inquisition’s influence was so small that the decree was considered “little more than a formality.”

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

For more information on The Dog in the Manger click here:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hearts, Wings and Exposition

We’re two weeks and four drafts into our workshop of The Dog in the Manger. The plays title is taken from a fable by Aesop. It is briefly explained in the play and in a previous blog. However another fable, or myth, is also referenced in the play: the story of Icarus. One actor in our workshop suggested we cut the retelling of the myth saying that our audience would already be familiar with it. Another responded that she’d not heard the myth till reading our script. (I myself have known the story for some time, but was introduced to it in 1986 by the Nintendo game Kid Icarus which took… liberties.)

This discussion led to the larger issue of exposition. The conventions of de Vega’s time allowed for a great deal. Our adaptation has attempted to streamline this, looking for opportunities to show rather than tell. James, our playwright, has begun to explore a visual language for the piece including a giant heart, a crucifix and other moving set pieces that become associated with particular characters. As the workshop progresses the visual elements have taken on a larger role as the dialogue continues to pare down. How we’ll realize these in performance is yet to be determined though Red Tape has had some positive experiences with video projections.

James quote of the week: “I never thought I’d find an excuse to write the stage direction 'the heart breaks.'

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

For more information on The Dog in the Manger please visit

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Workshop Report: The First Readthrough

And we're off! On Saturday we heard a group of actors read through our adaptation of The Dog in the Manger. These folks have generously agreed to join us over three weekends, some switching between multiple roles, as we workshop and tweak the fledgling script. It ran 90 minutes, a manageable length, and told a story in the process. The foundation is there.

Now it's time to build up. The discovery that a key character has only "half an arc," and that a second character disappeared midway through, segued into a discussion of the plays ending. Lope de Vega's play ends abruptly and our draft follows suit. While a certain level of ambiguity can be useful, some decisions will need to be made. Will our leads romance end on a note of hope or cynicism? Will their exes be left to rage like Shakespeare's Malvolio, or will their rage be soothed? And what of the Spanish inquisition? How much danger is everyone in now that our Ricardo is an inquisitor? The consensus around the table was that, while no one wanted a strictly "happy ending," we would like to see what happens when we tie up some loose ends.

Now we'll begin table work, focusing on Teodoro's relationships with his loves and his servant. By the time we reach our second read-through we'll have a different set of scenes and a different combination of actors to read them. The possibilities are exhilarating.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Auditions will be held July 23 and 24, 2008. For more information on auditions and performances of The Dog in the Manger please visit