Out of the Wings

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Alonso Alegría

Personal information
Surname: Alegría
First name: Alonso
Born: 1940, Santiago, Chile

Alonso Alegría was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1940.  He moved to Lima as a child, where he went to school.  While studying architecture at the Universidad Católica in Lima, Alegría started working in theatre and eventually decided to pursue this as his career.  He founded his own theatre company, Alba, in 1960, directing many of its productions.  Some years later, studying at Yale, Alegría became heavily involved in the Yale Repertory Theatre.

In 1971 Alegría was appointed director of Teatro Nacional Popular, the national theatre in Peru.  Robert J. Morris points out that Alegría ‘did not intend to elaborate a plastic, absurd, or conceptual drama.  His goal in keeping with the design of the organisation, is to foment theatre as a viable form of communication among the various segments of the populace’. (Morris 1976: 50)

Alegría has maintained a bilingual and bicultural identity between Peru and the United States.  His last play, Daniela Frank, was originally written in English.

  • Morris, Robert J. 1976. ‘Alonso Alegría: Dramatist and Theatrical Activist’, Latin American Theatre Review, 9, 49–55


A theme which pervades Alonso Alegría’s work is the exposure of some deception of man by the social system in which he is living.  This results in a struggle as his characters strive for transparency.  Alegría sets up a tension between the external values which society places on man, and the values which, while they may not announce themselves, derive from the integrity of the individual.

His first play, Remigio el huaquero (1965), tells the story of a ‘haquero’, an uneducated labourer who locates and excavates treasures from pre-Inca and imperial Inca periods who is paid a fraction of the selling price by the crook who sells the valuables on to private collectors.  Meanwhile, the government stands by and does nothing to protect its national artefacts.

Alegría critiques consumerist society and the role which art can play within this system of consumerism.  This is clearly depicted in Crossing Niagara, a story which questions what it means to have integrity as an artist and the theatrical possibility which is unleashed when the need for commercial success no longer exerts its tyranny.

Alegría’s is a theatre with a clear social and political conscience which promotes human values.


Overall, Alonso Alegría can be identified as a playwright who deals in naturalism and his plays have a strong narrative drive which leads us towards a conventional notion of ending.  Alegría’s plays also are influenced and inspired by a historical narrative, such as the real life figure of Jean François Gravelet (1824 – 97) in Crossing Niagara.

At times Crossing Niagara teeters on the brink of the absurd, for example when Carlo suggests to Blondin in all seriousness that he could learn to fly, but Alegría keeps these tendencies on a tight rein, never allowing them to fall completely outside of the realm of realism.  Alegría’s characters are depicted psychologically.  They are introspective, often reflecting in monologue-like speeches on their history and their experiences.  In the scene in which Blondin and Carlo actually cross Niagara, dialogue is interwoven with interior monologue to interesting dramatic effect.  At times Alegría’s language can be poetic.   When Blondin and Carlo discuss the ‘void’ which lies below the tight rope, the audience senses that the characters are talking also about a symbolic space which goes beyond the physical reality of Niagara Falls.

Plays in the database
Other works
  • Alegría, Alonso. 1965. Remegio al huaquero (The Buried Palace) (in Spanish)

  • Alegría, Alonso. 1981. El color de Chambelén (The Colour of Chamberlain) (in Spanish)

  • Alegría, Alonso. 1982. Daniela Frank

Useful reading and websites
  • Luchting, Wolfgang A. 1978. ‘Proliferation’, Latin American Theatre Review, 11, 2, 69-80

  • Luchting, Wolfgang A. 1981. ‘Getting Better: Perú, Latin American Theatre Review, 14, 2, 89-90

  • Luchting, Wolfgang. A. 1982. ‘The Usual and Some Better Shows: Peruvian Theatre in 1981’, Latin American Theatre Review, 15, 2, 59–63

  • Morris, Robert J. 1976. ‘Alonso Alegría: Dramatist and Theatrical Activist’, Latin American Theatre Review, 9, 49–55

  • Morris, Robert J. 1984. ‘Alonso Alegría Since The Crossing’, Latin American Theatre Review, 17, 25–9

  • Podestá, Bruno A. 1973. ‘Teatro Nacional Popular: Un teatro popular o la popularización del teatro?’, Latin American Theatre Review, 7,1, 33-41

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 5 October 2010.

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