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José María Rodríguez Méndez
José María Rodríguez Méndez
Was born into a modest family in Madrid in 1925. After the Civil War, his family emigrated to Barcelona, where José María completed secondary school and worked in the theatre company of the actor Francisco Melgares. He studied Law in the Universidad de Barcelona and joined the teu (Spanish University Theatre) in the Filosofía y Letras Faculty of this university. In 1950 he received a Degree in Law from the Universidad de Zaragoza, and then moved to Madrid to sit the public exams to enter the Administrative Section of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas (Ministry of Public Works), but without success. He worked as a prompter in the Teatro de Cámara directed by José Luis Alonso. After graduating in Contemporary History in the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica, he went on a long trip through Argentina with other graduates and then began work as a correspondent for the Barcelona daily El Noticiero Universal. Given his delicate economic situation, he applied to enter the Army in 1956 and was sent, in succession, to Valladolid, Zamora, Melilla and the Chafarinas Islands, participating in the conflict in Sidi‑Ifni and as defence counsel in Courts‑Martial. He graduated as a Lieutenant in the Army Reserve and settled again in Barcelona in 1958 where he joined the La Pipironda theatre group.
Despite the restrictions of censorship, he enjoyed some early success in Barcelona and Madrid between 1958 and 1964, and was hailed as part of a new wave of critical social realism in the theatre. In the years from 1965 to the end of the dictatorship in 1975, he was writing some of his most ambitious and powerful plays but all attempts to perform them were blocked by the censors. He turned increasingly to journalism and essay writing, producing fierce critiques of Spanish society, the theatrical establishment and Spanish cultural history. The post‑Franco period saw landmark productions of important works that had been banned for years, and he continued to write plays exploring Spanish society and popular culture of the present and the past. He left Barcelona for good in 1978, moving to El Barco de Ávila in 1978 and settling in Madrid in 1982. A revival of his best-known play, Flor de Otoño, at the Centro Dramático Nacional in Madrid in 2005, was a critical and popular success.
He is the founder of the poetry reviews Verde Viento (Barcelona, 1948), in which he published his first poems, and La Calandria (Barcelona, 1951).
He is the author, of the following theatrical texts, among others: El milagro del pan y de los peces [The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes] (1953), in 1963 he wrote a new version of this play which he entitled La puerta de las tinieblas (The Doorway to Darkness); Vagones de madera [Wooden Wagons] (1958); La tabernera y las tinajas o Auto de la donosa tabernera [The Tavern Landlady and the Earthenware Jars] (1959); Los inocentes de la Moncloa [The Innocents of the Moncloa] (1960); La vendimia de Francia [French Harvest] (1961); La batalla del Verdún [The Battle of El Verdún] (1961); El círculo de tiza de Cartagena [The Cartagena Chalk Circle] (1961); La trampa [The Trap] (1962), also known as Villa y Corte [Madrid: City and Court], now lost; En las esquinas, banderas [Put Out the Flags] (1963); El vano ayer [Pointless Yesterday] (1963); María Slodowska o la aventura del radium [Maria Sladowska or the adventure of radium] (1964), a libretto for an opera whose music, in the end, was never composed; El ghetto o la irresistible ascensión de Manuel Contreras [The Ghetto or the Irresistible Rise of Manuel Contreras] (1964); Bodas que fueron famosas del Pingajo y la Fandanga [The Great Day Pingajo and Fandanga Got Wed] (1965); La Mano Negra [The Black Hand] (1965); Los alegres consumidores [The Happy Consumers] (1966), a libretto for a review, now lost; Los quinquis de Madriz [Down and Out in Madrid] (1967); La Andalucía de los Quintero [Andalusia with the Quintero Brothers] (1968); Comedia clásica [Classical Comedy] (1970); Las estructuras [Structures] (1970); Historia de unos cuantos [Anyone’s History] (1971); El sueño de un amor imposible [Dream of an Impossible Love] (1971); Flor de Otoño (Autumn Flower) (1972), with a film version made by Pedro Olea in 1978 entitled Un hombre llamado Flor de Otoño [A Man Called Autumn Flower]; Spanish News (1974); El pájaro solitario [The Solitary Bird] (1974–5), about Saint John of the Cross; Isabelita tiene ángel (Homenaje dramático a Isabel la Católica en el quinto centenario del Descubrimiento) [Isabelita Touched by an Angel (Dramatic Homage to Isabel the Catholic on the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery (of America))] (1976); Última batalla en El Pardo [Last Battle at El Pardo] (1976); Literatura española (Homenaje escénico a Cervantes y la lengua española) [Spanish Literature (Dramatic Homage to Cervantes and the Spanish Language)] (1977), performed with the title Puesto ya el pie en el estribo [With His Foot in the Stirrup], and also published as El rincón de don Miguelito [Don Miguel’s Corner]; La sangre de toro [Bull’s Blood] (1980); Teresa de Ávila (1981); Reconquista (guiñol histórico) [Reconquest (Historical Grand Guignol)] (1981); El sueño de una noche española [Dream of a Spanish Night] (1982); La chispa [The Spark] (1983); Restauración [Restoration] (1984); La marca del fuego [The Mark of Fire], also known as El equis [X] (1985); La hermosa justicia [Beautiful Justice] (1986); De paseo con Muñoz Seca [Out Walking With Muñoz Seca] (1986); Barbieri, un castizo en la corte isabelina [Barbieri, A Pure‑Blooded Spaniard in the Court of Isabella] (1987), a musical; Soy madrileño (Crónica del tiempo de Luis Candelas)  [I’m from Madrid (Chronicle of the Life and Times of Luis Candelas)] (1987); Leyenda áurea [Golden Legend] (1988); La banda del Tisi habla de literatura [Tisi’s Band Talk About Literature] (1988), a short play; Otra leyenda áurea [Another Golden Legend] (1989); El laberinto de los niños estúpidos [The Labyrinth of the Stupid Children] (1994); La gloria esquiva [Elusive Glory] (1997), in cooperation with José María Antón Andrés; Real Academia [Royal Academy] (2000), a short play; La trampa de la luz [Light is a Trap] (2001); Novios de la muerte [Death’s Lovers] (2002), a short play; El marqués de Sade en Usera [The Marquis of Sade in Usera] (2003), a short play; and Estoy reunido [I’m in a Meeting] (2004).
Rodríguez Méndez has also adapted classic Spanish texts: El hospital de los podridos [The Hospital of the Corrupt], by Cervantes (1962); El cantar de los cantares [The Song of Songs], by Fray Luis de León (1988) and El príncipe constante [The Faithful Prince], by Calderón (1990). He is author of the following prose texts: Pobrecitos, pero no honrados [Poor, but not honourable] (1972), Los herederos de la promesa [Inheritors of the Promise] (1979), El cisne de Cisneros [Cisneros’ Swan] (1979), Cosas de la transición [About the Transition] (1984) as well as numerous essays: Ensayo sobre el machismo español [An Essay on machismo in Spain] (1971), Los teleadictos [TV Addicts] (1971), Comentarios impertinentes sobre el teatro español [Some Impertinent Comments on the Spanish Theatre] (1972), Ensayo sobre la «inteligencia» española [An Essay on Spanish ‘Intelligence’] (1972),  La incultura teatral en España [Lack of Theatre Culture in Spain] (1974), Los despojos del teatro [The Remains of the Theatre] (1993), etc.
His writings have been translated into English, French, German, Italian and Arabic.
He has received the Larra Prize, 1964; the Nacional de Literatura Dramática Prize, 1993; and the Max de Honor Prize, 2004.
Available titles
Flor de Otoño
Estoy reunido
Fior d’Autunno