The Season of the Dead," or "La Temporada de Muertos," is a happy and full of life religious celebration in Mexico. The ancient legend says that it's when the souls of the loved departed ones return to the world of the living, and all of them, from heaven, hell and purgatory, visit their families on Nov. 1 and 2, which are the holy Catholic days of All Saints' and All Souls' respectively.
Sugar skulls, "bread of the dead" (pan de muertos) and a large assortment of commemorative candies and gifts fill the marketplaces from mid-October until the first week of November. Costume parties and a visit to the graves of the loved ones are part of this unique celebration.
This religious and ghostly season is also celebrated in theatre with the staging of the Spanish romantic-phantasmagoric-religious drama, Don Juan Tenorio by Jose Zorrilla.
Set in Seville in 1545, Don Juan Tenorio tells the story of the arrogant and frivolous Don Juan, whose only interest in life is seducing women. Unconcerned about eternal justice, Don Juan is willing to do anything in order to get the woman he wants. One day, as a result of a bet, he puts his eyes on the innocent and sweet novice Dona Ines, whose immense love for Don Juan will live even after her death, and will save Don Juan's soul from eternal hell.
The classic verse drama Don Juan Tenorio world-premiered March 28, 1844 at Madrid's Teatro de la Cruz, and received its Mexican premiere at Mexico City's Gran Teatro Nacional on the nights of Dec. 7, 1844 (first part) and Dec 8, 1844 (second part). The tradition of mounting Zorrilla's masterpiece in Mexico for this season began in November of 1863, when the management of the Teatro de Iturbide, following the Spanish tradition; staged Zorrilla's drama with the belief that Mexican audiences would be interested in a ghostly and religious plot during the celebrations of the "Days of the Dead". That production was such a hit that the Oriente and Principal Theatres came up with their own productions of Don Juan the following year. Since then, Don Juan Tenorio has materialized every year in Mexican stages.
Along with the annual staging of Zorrilla's classic masterpiece, many non-professional satire and political adaptations that modified Zorrilla's original verses appeared throughout the years. It was until the 1960's when the first professional comedy-adaptation of Don Juan was produced. It was conceived by T.V. comedy-writer Pancho Cordova and starred Paco Malgesto and Manuel "Loco" Valdes. With several cast and script changes, that comedy version of Don Juan has played every year since those days.
Mexican composer Antonio Calvo, who composed the music for the up-coming musical Houdini, The Magic of Love, has completed a musical version of Don Juan Tenorio following Zorrilla's original verses, but there are no plans to produce it yet.
This scary season has brought to Mexico City two classic versions and two comic versions of Don Juan. The productions are as follows:
*Don Juan Tenorio, the classic version, starring Gonzalo Vega, Andrea Legarreta, Javier Herranz, Raul Valerio and Guillermo Inclan. Directed by Gonzalo Vega. This version features real horses on stage. Opens Oct. 30 at the Plaza de Toros Arroyo. Closing date TBA. Show Times: Thurs. and Fri. at 8:30PM, Sat. at 6:30PM & 9PM, Sun.at 5:30PM & 8:15 PM.
For information and tickets call (5) 573 4344.
*Don Juan Tenorio, the classic version, starring Gonzalo Correa, who has played Don Juan since 1962. Also in the cast are Claudio Baez, Alejandra Procuna and Pedro Romo. Directed by Gonzalo Correa. Opens Oct. 30 at the Teatro Manolo Fabregas. Closes Nov. 9. Show Times: Thurs. and Fri. at 8:30 PM, Sat. at 6:30 PM & 9PM, Sun.at 5:30 PM & 8:15 PM. For information and tickets call (5) 566 1644 or 566 1645.
*Don Juan Tenorio 97, El mas Comico de la Historia, comedy version starring Manuel "Loco" Valdes, Alejandro Suarez, Olga Breaskin, Rafael Inclan and Humberto Elizondo. Directed by Alfredo Solares. Opened Oct. 16 at the Teatro Blanquita. Closing date TBA. Show Times: Thurs. to Sat. at 7PM & 9:30 PM, Sun. at 6 PM & 8:30 PM. For information and tickets call Ticketmaster at (5) 325 9000.
*El Tenorio Comico 97, comedy version starring Paco Stanley, Lorena Rojas, Guillermo Rivas and Romina Castro. Directed by Francisco Stanley Pedroza. Opened Oct. 23 at the Teatro Alameda. Closing date TBA. Show Times: Tues. to Sat. at 7:30PM & 9:30PM, Sun. at 5PM & 7:30PM. For information and tickets call (5) 420 7777.
-- By Claudio Carrera