The premiere of Antonio Buero Vallejo’s Story of a Staircase marked the resurgence of serious theater in Spain after the Civil War of 1936-1939. In contrast to the escapist fare that was then in vogue, Buero Vallejo’s play, which depicts the hopes and illusions of families in a Madrid tenement, reflected the painful reality of the postwar period. It incorporated a tragic portrayal of human existence generally absent from the Spanish stage of the twentieth century. Buero Vallejo’s plays—more than twenty original works—constitute a critical inquiry into the problem of Spain and its destiny; at the same time, they represent an exploration of the human condition that is universal. Buero Vallejo was one of Spain’s most acclaimed playwrights and, perhaps, the only genuine tragedian in the history of its theater.
In 1949, Buero Vallejo received the Lope de Vega Prize for Story of a Staircase. This award was followed by the Premio Maria Rolland award in 1956 for Today’s a Holiday, in 1958 for A Dreamer for the People, and in 1960 for Las meninas. He won the Premio Nacional de Teatro, Spain’s national theater award in 1957 for Today’s a Holiday, in 1958 for Las cartas boca abajo, and in 1980 for A Dreamer for the People. In 1962, he was awarded the Premio Larra for The Concert at Saint Ovide. He received the Premio Leopoldo Cano in 1966, 1970, 1972, 1974, and 1976, and the Medalla de Oro del Espectador y la Critica in 1967, 1970, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1984, and 1986. In 1971, Buero Vallejo was honored as member of the Real Academia Española. He received the Premio Mayte and Premio Foro Teatral in 1974, the Medalla de Oro Gaceta Illustrada in 1976, the Premio Ercilla and Medalla Valle-Inclan de la Asociacion de Escritores y Artistas in 1985, and the Preio Pablo Iglesias in 1986. The highest honor for Spanish and Latin American literature, the Premio Miguel de Cervantes, was granted to Buero Vallejo in 1986. A lifetime achievement award, the Premio Nacional de las Letras, was also awarded in 1986. In 1994, he received the Medalla de Oro al Merite en las Bellas Artes and the Medalla de Oro de la Sociedad General de Autores de Espana.