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The Show

Written by Fermín de Reygadas
Translated & Adapted by Olga Sanchez Saltveit
Translation supervised by Dr. Pedro García-Caro
Directed by Olga Sanchez Saltveit

Reviewed by Dr. Gordon Sayre: 

SEA 2019 Eugene blog: a colonial Spanish comedy performed in 18th-century California, and this weekend in Oregon

ASTUCIAS POR HEREDAR UN SOBRINO A UN TIO (Tricks to Inherit: A Nephew and his Uncle) is a delightful Spanish Enlightenment comedy, written in Mexico City in 1789 by Fermín de Reygadas. The satirical comedy about a miserly uncle, his love-struck nephew, and their wily servants, was banned in 1790 by the censor for its social critique and strong language.

Friday & Saturday: May 25 & 26 / June 1 & 2 / June 8 & 9 @ 7:30 pm
MATINEE: Sunday, June 3 @2:00 pm

Robinson Theatre
1231 University of Oregon Eugene, OR 97403

Post-Play ROUNDTABLE Conversation: Friday, June 8th
with Pedro García-Caro, Amanda Powell, and Reuben Zahler

The play centers on a rich, miserly old uncle, Don Lucas. With no direct heirs, he is surrounded by relatives wanting to be named in his will. None is more desperate than his nephew, Don Pedro, who needs the inheritance in order to court and marry Doña Isabel, whom he adores. Don Pedro’s wily manservant, Crispín vows to help his master, with the assistance of Don Lucas’ clever housemaid, Lucía. Of course, there are twists and turns in the plot that put the plans at risk and threaten the lives of the schemers!

The comedy’s characters owe their formation to commedia dell’arte, the Italian improvisational form whose highly physical performances by characters such as Arlecchino (Harlequin), Colombina, Pantalone, and il Dottore, have influenced Western theatre since the RenaissanceHowever, this play departs from commedia with the presence of its strong-willed women who are intellectual equals to the men at all levels of society.

Spirited north to Alta California, the play was performed at the Villa de Branciforte  by “los voluntarios de Cataluña,” sometime between 1796 and 1821, and eventually archived by Herbert Bancroft at the University of California, Berkeley. In A History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States: Origins to 1940,  historian Nicolás Kanellos cites the play as the “first drama staged in California.”

The script was recently unearthed and transcribed by Dr. Pedro García-Caro (Romance Languages & Latin American Studies), and translated by Olga Sanchez Saltveit (PhD candidate, Theatre Arts). Sanchez Saltveit sets the play in Alta California, 1796, imaging its first performance in the Villa de Branciforte. “Given its stratified and racialized society, what if the servants of Branciforte also performed in the play?” The UO TA production complicates California history by including the power dynamics of Spanish colonialism, and the hierarchies of privilege at work in Spanish society among the Peninsulars, Criollos, Mestizos, Afrodescendants, Asians, and the Indigenous people of Alta California.

“Readers and audience members should be able to imagine the heterogeneity of class, ethnicity, and gender that was originally part of the staging and reception of this work of critical and satirical entertainment. Today, [Tricks] seeks to pass on its own cultural inheritance, and to take its place not only within the corpus of late colonial Mexican literature, but also within the Latinx cultural corpus of the United States.”
– Pedro García-Caro, A Play for Branciforte”

TRICKS TO INHERIT is its first English-language translation.

Purchase the Spanish-language text!

Several shows feature live performances by Taller de Son Jarocho.



The Taller de Son Jarocho is a local arts collective that is dedicated to spreading the message of community and celebration with the music and dance of southern Veracruz. Their objectives are: To build a community of musicians, singers and dancers; to celebrate Mexican culture and its roots through music; and to use music as a bridge to unite the diverse communities of Eugene.


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