Rodolfo Usigli was born in Mexico City, Mexico, on November 17, 1905, the product of Italian, Austrian, and Polish ancestry. Usigli demonstrated his interest in the theater at an early age. When he was eleven years old, he worked as an extra in the Castillo-Taboada troupe at Mexico’s Teatro Colón. He wished to study drama, but there were no established schools of drama in Mexico at that time. Therefore, he designed his own curriculum whereby he read and analyzed on a daily basis six plays by well-known dramatists. He then attended local performances, at which he compared the dramas he studied with the actual stage productions. His commentaries were published in Mexican newspapers. By the time he reached the age of twenty, he had become a respected theater critic.
Usigli met with little success in finding producers for his first dramatic attempts. His difficulties with managers, producers, and critics may perhaps be traced to unhappy childhood experiences. Usigli was born with slightly crossed eyes, a person the Spaniards call bizco. His classmates punned on the word and nicknamed him Visconde (Viscount), which also alluded to his conviction of being superior to them. He later underwent corrective surgery for his eyes but never lost his conviction about his superiority, which often expressed itself in an arrogance and defensiveness that theater authorities found unappealing.
From 1932 to 1934, Usigli offered courses in the history of the Mexican theater at the University of Mexico and served as director of the Teatro Radiofónico, which broadcast plays in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. During this period, he was also associated with the Teatro Orientación, which was created to introduce Mexico to the masterpieces of world theater, performing plays translated from French, Italian, English, German, and Russian. Usigli prepared the Spanish versions for the stage. In 1935, Usigli was awarded a scholarship to study dramatic composition at Yale University. During this period, he wrote El gesticulador (the pretender), one of his greatest works. On his return to Mexico, he was appointed director of the school of drama and theater and...
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