Saturday, March 26, 2016

Remembering Tamiris, Part 2: "Adelante"

(A WPA poster promoting Adelante, 1939. Image courtesy of George Mason University, Special Collections & Archives.)

In the WPA's dance theatre production of Adelante (which means "forward" in Spanish) Helen Tamiris played the girlfriend of a peasant soldier. The play was based on the Spanish Civil War, and the horrors of war more generally it would seem. One reviewer said of the production, "over it all hangs the air of the fantastic and the nightmarish." There were all sorts of political and religious aspects to the Spanish Civil War, and so Adelante went through a fairly rigorous editing process to stay within the content guidelines of federal funding. Hallie Flanagan, the director of the FTP, told Tamiris to focus on the tragedy of war, in a more general sense, as opposed to clearly supporting one side over the other. Tamiris's politics were left-wing and anti-fascist but, at the time, some American citizens, industrialists, and politicians held pro-fascist and even pro-Nazi views.

After a successful two-week run at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre, Adelante played at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

(See, Lisa Jackson-Schebetta, "Corporeal Disasters of War: Legibilities of 'Spain' and the Jewish Body in Helen Tamiris's Adelante!," in Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix (ed.), Theatre History Studies 2014, Vol 33: Theatres of War, University of Alabama Press, 2014, pp. 35-55.)

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