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SOLSONA DRAMATIC COMPANY

SOLSONA DRAMATIC COMPANY. The Solsona Dramatic Company (Compañía Dramática Solsona), a Spanish-language professional dramatic company, was a resident company at the Teatro Salón San Fernando in San Antonio. When first mentioned in the press, the Compañía Solsona had just arrived in San Diego, Texas, from Laredo at the end of August 1891. Attendance for the first performance on Saturday was poor because of rain, but by September 11 the company was reportedly attracting large audiences and preparing to commemorate the independence of Mexico on September 15 or 16. By November 1891 it was scheduled to perform at a benefit for a Catholic church in Corpus Christi at the Altos del Mercado. The company was reported to be working successfully in San Antonio on February 18, 1892, and by the end of March it was said to be one of the two Mexican dramatic companies vying for the public's attention. The Compañía Solsona performed every Sunday on a regular basis at the Teatro Salón San Fernando and apparently settled permanently in San Antonio. The management of the company was undertaken by Francisco Solsona, a musician from Spain, who was also the director. It was common practice for company managers also to serve as directors, but the fact that at one time the company had two managers, and probably two directors as well, is unusual. An account of November 4, 1891, mentions that the company was under the name and management of Solsona and a man named González, who appears to have been a partner and comanager with Solsona. The Solsona company consisted of eight members, each in different lines of business, a common practice referring to the types of characters that an actor always played. However, because of the company's small size, the actors played a wide range of roles. The lead roles were assigned to Solsona and his wife, Carmen Velasco Solsona. Other family members in the company were Pepe or José Solsona (possibly a son), who played juvenile leads; María Solsona, generally the ingenue; and Cuca (probably the youngest daughter), who played little girls. Occasionally local amateurs were included to fill in the required roles.

According to available accounts the company performed on Sundays in San Antonio on a regular basis, presenting a different play each week. Earlier accounts record that the company performed on other days besides Sundays. The bill included a full-length drama followed by a juguete cómico, consisting of a short comic play with songs that followed the longer dramas. The evening's fare often concluded with songs from these latter pieces or choruses from popular zarzuelas sung by the company members at the request of the audience. The bill was changed every Sunday and the addition of new plays was common. The plays were performed with intermissions between acts, the entr'acte entertainments generally consisting of songs rather than comic sketches. The repertory consisted primarily of Spanish romantic and sentimental drama, although some works by Mexican dramatists appeared as well. The plays presented by the company were of a moralistic, instructional nature with religious overtones, as evidenced by such titles as Paula o la nueva adúltera (Paula or the New Adulteress), El ángel conciliador (The Conciliatory Angel), and El esclavo de su culpa (The Slave of His Guilt). The popular drama Le conviene esta mujer (This Woman Suits Him) also appeared, as well as the historical drama Los mártires de Tacubaya (The Martyrs of Tacubaya). The Teatro Salón San Fernando operated loosely under the auspices of the Catholic cathedral, but a secular society organized for the benefit and goodwill of the Mexican-American community was the organization in sole charge of its management. Although the city still lacked extensive theatrical activity, the Compañía Solsona contributed greatly in helping to establish the theater as an important social gathering place in San Antonio. The family was the basis for the acting company, its organization and operation, and the fare was suitable for everyone. The theater became a cohesive force in the Mexican-American community, a factor most profoundly shown through the church's willingness to sponsor or participate in such activity. The theater provided a wide variety of fare for the varied audience members, and it catered to an wide spectrum of community tastes and values. See also MEXICAN-AMERICAN THEATER.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Elizabeth C. Ramírez, Footlights across the Border: A History of Spanish-Language Professional Theatre on the Texas Stage (New York: Lang, 1990). Elizabeth C. Ramírez, A History of Mexican American Professional Theatre in Texas: 1875– 1935 (Ph.D dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1982).

Elizabeth C. Ramírez

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Elizabeth C. Ramírez, "SOLSONA DRAMATIC COMPANY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kksje), accessed April 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.