Out of the Wings

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Antonio Gala Velasco

Personal information
Surname: Gala Velasco
First name: Antonio
Commonly known as: Antonio Gala
Born: 2 October 1936, Ciudad Real, Spain

Antonio Gala (1936) is one of Spain’s most well-loved and well-respected cultural figures. Although born in Castile-la Mancha, he moved to Córdoba when he was very young, and is widely regarded as Andalusian. As a highly-intelligent teenager, Gala enrolled at Seville University to study Law at the age of just 15. During his student days he published his first poems and helped establish a number of arts magazines. After completing his university studies Gala took further exams in Law, only to abandon this career to enter the monastic community of the Carthusian Order. However, such a sequestered life did not suit him, and Gala claims he was eventually expelled from the Order. He then spent some time living a bohemian life around Spain and Portugal until he settled in Madrid, teaching Philosophy and History of Art in schools and writing newspaper articles and plays. He moved to Italy in 1962, where he spent about a year publishing his poems in Spanish-language magazines. In 1963, after he had returned to Spain, Gala won the first of many awards – the Las Albinas prize for his short story Solsticio de verano (Summer Solstice). That same year he also received his first theatre award, the prestigious Calderón de la Barca prize for Los verdes campos de Edén (The Green Fields of Eden). He has since won numerous literary awards, including the National Literature Prize for Los buenos días perdidos (The Bells of Orleans) in 1972 and the Planeta Prize in the 1990s for his novel El manuscrito carmesí (The Crimson Manuscript). In 2002 Gala founded the Antonio Gala Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides support for young artists and writers.

For many years, Antonio Gala has enjoyed one of the highest public profiles of any modern Spanish playwright or writer. A near-fatal illness in the 1970s left him with a limp, and he now walks with a cane. Gala has over a thousand canes in his collection, and his use of them is one of his most distinctive features. He is also recognisable to audiences through his many television programmes in which he has charted the history of Spain. The outspoken opinion pieces he has written in the press over the years have often caused controversy, leading to death threats against him in the 1970s. In fact, in 1976 Gala’s murder was falsely reported by the media. One of Gala’s most-loved newspaper columns was Charlas con Troylo (Chats with Troylo). This series featured Gala’s imaginary conversations with his dog, Troylo, with whom he was often seen out in public. Troylo was so well known as Gala’s companion that when he died in 1980 the nation mourned his passing. This is a reflection of the celebrity status Gala has enjoyed and continues to enjoy in Spain. Phyllis Zatlin effectively captures the level of Gala’s popularity when she writes:

Most Spanish playwrights, even the most famous ones, can walk down the street unnoticed. Such is not the case for the charismatic, dapper Antonio Gala, whose celebrity status places him on a par with movie and television stars. […] In short, Antonio Gala is a phenomenon. (Zatlin 2008)

  • Zatlin, Phyllis. 2008. ‘Antonio Gala: The Art of Words’, Western European Stages, 20.3, 63-7

Further information

More information on this charismatic playwright is available by clicking on the Antonio Gala website (accessed March 2010).


Gala’s theatre dramatises characters’ struggle to break free of the constraints that society and family have placed on them, as Phyllis Zatlin explains:

Gala’s theatre blends sparkling surface humour with an underlying tragic reality. His protagonists typically seek a paradise of political and personal freedom where they may love the person of their choice. They champion the cause of the disempowered: women, Jews, homosexuals. (Zatlin 2008)

The tragedy that marks a number of his plays revolves around the fact that, in many cases, Gala’s characters ultimately do not manage to liberate themselves from their repressive and oppressive environments.

  • Zatlin, Phyllis. 2008. ‘Antonio Gala: The Art of Words’, Western European Stages, 20.3, 63-7


Although Gala’s works often have tragic endings, they are nevertheless full of humour. In particular, his plays are packed with comic colloquialisms and wordplay, creating a dramatic language that has been described as the ‘juxtaposition of prosaic and the poetic’ (Cibreiro 1995: 1). To complement his thematic interest in the familial and social constraints that prevent characters from finding happiness, his plays tend to take place in closed, oppressive spaces (Gala 1987: 30). Strong female characters feature prominently in his work, and in fact Gala often writes roles with specific actresses in mind.

  • Cibreiro, Estrella. 1995. ‘Tensión antitética: estilo y contenido en el teatro de Antonio Gala’, Hispania, 78.1, 1-12 (in Spanish)

  • Gala, Antonio. 1987. Los buenos días perdidos. Anillos para una dama, ed. Andrés Amorós. Madrid, Editorial Castalia (in Spanish)

Plays in the database
Useful reading and websites
  • Zatlin, Phyllis. 2008. ‘Antonio Gala: The Art of Words’, Western European Stages, 20.3, 63-7

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 6 October 2010.

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