Writer’s Diary: Sarah Grunnah—Adaptor and playwright

Oxford Writers' HouseEssays2016OctoberWriter’s Diary: Sarah Grunnah—Adaptor and playwright

To pitch an article, please log in/create account

Writer’s Diary: Sarah Grunnah—Adaptor and playwright

Tirso de Molina (1579-1648) was one of the greatest playwrights of Spain’s Golden Age. Little is known about him, but we do know that his real name was Gabriel Téllez, he came from a humble background, and by 1600 he had become a Mercedarian friar. Of the more than 300 plays that Tirso wrote, fewer than 90 survive today, and only a handful have been translated into English.

Unanswered questions and anxieties remain: are characters as pleased as they claim to be with the outcome? And how much do the standards imposed on women in this world really matter?

This November, though, the Keble O’Reilly theatre in Oxford will host the first-ever English-language production of Tirso’s c. 1622-23 play Jealous of Herself, the story of a young woman whose biggest rival in love is herself. Like many of the women in Tirso’s plays, Magdalena is strong, smart, and resourceful. While the story is comic in structure, a dark tone permeates the world of the play. It concludes with what is ostensibly a happy ending, but—in an appropriately paradoxical fashion—unanswered questions and anxieties remain: are characters as pleased as they claim to be with the outcome? And how much do the standards imposed on women in this world really matter?

The issues central to Jealous—female objectification and idealisation, the expectations and restrictions of gender roles, notions of beauty, male desire--and how certain moments are staged will feed into my current D.Phil. research which examines the contemporary English-language translation and performance of Tirso’s writing through the lens of gender and sexuality. Our rehearsal process, led by director (and finalist) Ell Potter, will focus on improvisation, collaboration, and (as this is the first time the play will be tested on the stage) (re)writing.

At the heart of this process will thus be an intense, eight-week-long full-company collaboration as we take Jealous of Herself to the English-language stage for the first time.

Jealous has never before been staged in English, but Professor Harley Erdman (my former graduate supervisor at the University of Massachusetts) translated the play in 2012. Though my script for this production draws in part on Erdman’s translation, it will—in its final form—be something more of a hybrid translation-adaptation. The plot is streamlined, and I have merged characters and cut several lengthy speeches. In the place of entremeses, the staple inter-act entertainment of Spanish Golden Age drama, our composer (and second year student) Alice Boyd has written original music to be performed by an ensemble of physical actors and musicians. At the heart of this process will thus be an intense, eight-week-long full-company collaboration as we take Jealous of Herself to the English-language stage for the first time.


Sarah Grunnah

Sarah Grunnah

Sarah Grunnah (née Brew) is a dramaturg and translator, and has assisted in the literary departments of several theatres in the U.S. At present, she is a second-year D.Phil. student in Spanish. She holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and a BA in English from the University of North Carolina (Charlotte).


This site uses cookies! We set cookies so you can manage your account and navigate the site. To accept cookies, just keep browsing. Click here to find out more.