Out of the Wings

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Conozca usted el mundo (2005), Lluïsa Cunillé Salgado

English title: Get to Know the World
Date written: 2005
First publication date: 2010
First production date: 28 October 2005
Keywords: identity
Genre and type: tragicomedy

Three characters, three hotel rooms. They can check out anytime they like, they can even leave. But in Get to Know the World nobody seems to want to go anywhere, preferring the thought of getting to know the world, rather than actually doing it.


In a dilapidated hotel room, a woman sleeps. She is the Singer, who has come to town to audition for the local opera company. In the room beside her another woman – the Train Driver – sets down her luggage, having just arrived at the hotel. She hears opera music coming from the adjacent room and strikes up a conversation with the Singer across the hotel room wall. They complain about the poor state of their rooms and the Train Driver decides to leave. When she first arrived she wanted to leave, too, admits the Singer, but for some unfathomable reason she is still there. Similarly, the Train Driver puts down her luggage and sets about making herself as comfortable as possible in her shoddy hotel room. She will not be there long, she explains to the Singer, since she is embarking on a round-the-world trip. She only has to deliver her parakeet to her sister in the city, and she will be off. As they talk, another hotel guest returns to his hotel room. This is the Stuntman. He has been bickering through the walls with the Singer for several days. His television is too loud, she insists; her opera music is irritating, he retorts. The Stuntman has returned from yet another day’s filming, yet another day yearning after Monique, the beautiful actress who he hopes one day will notice him. And so, the three characters are introduced to the audience. Each one has taken up temporary residence in the hotel before moving on, they hope, to better things.

In scene 2 the Singer performs opera songs in the street. Suddenly, Maria Callas appears. She gives the Singer the bad news that the city’s opera house has closed down, so there will be no auditions. The Singer is even more dismayed to learn of Callas’s low opinion of her vocal talent: good enough for a chorus, never for a soloist. Despite this setback, the Singer insists that she will not give up on her dream. Impressed by her resolve, Callas tells the Singer to return to the same spot tomorrow to sing for the director of an esteemed opera company. Perhaps this will be the Singer’s big break.

Back at the hotel, the Train Driver is having difficulty composing her resignation letter. The Stuntman returns after a day of filming. He accidentally fires off a pistol, sparking off another room-to-room conversation between the characters. The Stuntman complains about the hotel – he thinks that it is ‘the pits’. In fact, in the Stuntman’s opinion, everything is ‘the pits’. In contrast to the Stuntman’s foul mood, the Singer returns from her encounter with Maria Callas in good spirits. She is excited about her possible big break, convinced that she will soon be joining the opera company of La Scala, Milan. Soon, the conversation between the three hotel guests turns to their respective physical appearances. Both the Stuntman and the Train Driver are young. The Singer is much older, but claims that she looks very like Maria Callas. In celebratory mood the Singer suggests they all meet up to toast her forthcoming success. The other two decline the offer, making feeble excuses.

In scene 4 the Stuntman is on the film set, struggling with a recalcitrant horse. An Extra dressed up as an Indian tries to help him, but having no luck with the horse she agrees to help him translate a letter into French to give to the lovely Monique. In return, the Stuntman helps the Extra perfect her ‘falling down dead’ technique. For authenticity, he fires his gun at her. She falls down perfectly, too perfectly, as the gun was loaded with live rounds. Before we see what has actually happened to her, the Stuntman returns to his hotel room. The Singer is back in her room, the audition not having gone well. The two argue, both in bad spirits, but eventually end up talking about their respective plans. Thankfully, the Extra survived the gunshot. Filming is ending tomorrow, so the Stuntman will be leaving to film the no-doubt equally bad sequels of Frontier of Death in different parts of the world. The Singer, her ambition remaining strong, hopes to leave for La Scala where she may get another audition. The Train Driver, too, plans to leave the hotel tomorrow. She has finally found the perfect guidebook, Get to Know the World, and will be setting off in the morning. Once again, the Singer suggests that they all meet up and, once again, the other two refuse. And so, each bids the other farewell still without having met face to face. The Train Driver and the Singer go to sleep, and the Stuntman phones Monique to serenade her with music. His efforts are in vain, she is asleep.

In the final scene of the play the Train Driver arrives at a run-down train station. The Station Mistress greets her, and we learn that the two women are sisters who both grew up on the railroads. The Train Driver gives her sister her bird to look after, as well as the guidebook, Get to Know the World. The Train Driver is not going around the world after all. Instead, she is going to Zurich to drive slow trains following a tragic accident that happened when she was driving a fast train. Soon, the Singer arrives. She strikes up a conversation with the Train Driver, neither one of them recognising the other. The Stuntman arrives, again unrecognised, and they all wait for the midnight train. The train approaches, but does not stop. The Stuntman, annoyed, exclaims that the trains are ‘the pits’. On hearing this, both the Singer and the Train Driver look at him, surprised. It seems that they are all together once more, rootless, and going nowhere fast.


The Singer meets Maria Callas in the course of the play. Maria Callas (1923-77) is one of the world’s most famous sopranos. During her conversation with the Singer in scene 2, Callas mentions her hallucinations of the soprano Renata Tebaldi and the conductor Arturo Toscanini. Tebaldi and Callas were fierce rivals during their careers.

Critical response

Conozca usted el mundo (Get to Know the World) has been performed in theatres throughout Spain, produced and directed by members of Cunillé’s theatre company, the Compañía Hongaresa de Teatre. An edition of the play was published in 2010 with an introduction by the writer and journalist Juana Escabias.

  • Cunillé, Lluïsa. Conozca usted el mundo. 2010. Madrid, Fundación Coca-Cola; Huerga & Fierro Editores

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 5 October 2010.

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