Although Rodolfo Usigli is recognized principally as a playwright, he has worked in other genres as well. His theoretical works on the theater, in general, and the Mexican theater, in particular, include: México en el teatro (1932; Mexico in the Theater, 1976), Caminos del teatro en México (1933; paths of the theater in Mexico), Itinerario del autor dramático y otros ensayos (1940; itinerary of a dramatist), and Anatomía del teatro (1966; anatomy of the theater). He has also produced two theoretical essays on the theater titled “Ensayo sobre la actualidad de la poesía dramática” (essay on the actuality of dramatic poetry) and “Epílogo sobre la hipocresía del Mexicano” (epilogue on the hypocrisy of the Mexican). Usigli’s poetry is collected in a volume entitled Conversación desesperada (1938; desperate conversation). He has also produced a novel, Ensayo de un crimen (trial of a crime), which was published in 1944.
Rodolfo Usigli has been hailed as the father of Mexican theater. He introduced authentic dramatic representations of Mexico through works that addressed its history, its politics, and the psychological makeup of its people. The psychological factor is the core of his theater.
Usigli does not merely criticize the Mexican people and their society: Rather, he seeks to ennoble them by offering them models of their own potential greatness. Usigli accomplishes this by introducing the concept of myth formation. The concept of myth formation has its roots in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s conception of the historical process as a series of syntheses that revolve around transcendental historical figures such as Maximilian and Montezuma, who represent superior cultural symbols. From a cultural and theatrical perspective, a myth is a transcendental synthesis embodied in one of these figures that offers a new perspective, a positive direction for the country’s future growth. Its direct appeal to the faith of the Mexican audience causes them to reevaluate their mythical past and to experience a catharsis of nationality with those national sentiments and values that most ennoble it. In recognition of his efforts to create a Mexican national theater, Usigli was awarded the Premio Nacional de Letras in 1972.
Usigli’s determination to forge a sense of national identity for Mexico, his sense of the Mexican spirit and the originality with which he expresses it in his plays, and the increased awareness he offers Mexican audiences of their national identity, culture, history, and values constitute his most important achievements.
Beardsell, Peter R. A Theatre for Cannibals: Rodolfo Usigli and the Mexican Stage. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992. A study of the dramatic works of Usigli and of the Mexican theater of his times. Bibliography and index.
Jones, Willis Knapp. Introduction to Two Plays: “Crown of Light,” “One of These Days,” by Rodolfo Usigli. Translated by Thomas Bledsoe. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971. In his introduction to the translation of two of Usigli’s plays, Jones provides information on Usigli’s life and dramatic works.
Savage, Ronald Vance. “Rodolfo Usigli’s Idea of Mexican Theatre.” Latin American Theatre Review 4, no. 2 (1971): 13-20. This essay examines the Mexican theater according to the viewpoint of Usigli.
Tilles, Solomon H. “Rodolfo Usigli’s Concept of Dramatic Art.” Latin American Theatre Review 3, no. 2 (1970): 31-38. A discussion of drama as conceived by Usigli.