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Osvaldo Dragún

Personal information
Surname: Dragún
First name: Osvaldo
Pseudonyms: 'Chacho'
Born: 1929, Entre Ríos, Argentina
Died: 14 June 1999

Osvaldo Dragún was born in 1929 in Entre Ríos, Argentina, and died on 14 June 1999.  His family exchanged a rural way of life for an urban one when they moved to Buenos Aires in 1944.  Originally, Dragún studied law at university, but he abandoned his studies to dedicate his life to theatre, acting, directing and writing.  He became associated with the theatre group, Fray Mocho, in 1956 which staged a production of his first play, La peste viene de Melos (1957).    In 1957 Dragún produced a series of plays Historias para ser contadas with Fray Mocho which were a series of vignettes depicting the abuse and social injustice, provoked by the disillusionment which Peronism inspired in him.

Later came the very important Latin American Teatro Abierto movement which first began in 1981, of which Dragún is regarded as a leader.  This was a forum for theatre practitioners, who struggled to stage their plays in a climate of political repression, to gain the social and economic support to give their work expression.   It was a theatre collective whereby a group of over two hundred artists joined to produce a programme of 21 plays.   The thinking behind the large number of individuals involved was to protect artists from being blacklisted by the dictatorship, through the principle of safety in numbers.  It would not have been possible for the military to have arrested all the people who had taken part, therefore they could arrest none of them.  In this way, it was a direct repost to the dictatorship of 1976 and a confirmation of the political power of theatre.

During his career, Dragún also worked on scripts for television and feature films. Dragún spent some periods of his career in exile abroad but in 1996 he returned to Buenos Aires, after living in Mexico, to take up the post of artistic director of the teatro Cervantes.  He was responsible for reviving it as a dynamic theatre of international renown and remained in that post until his sudden death in 1999.


Osvaldo Dragún is primarily concerned with crafting a theatre which depicts an Argentine national reality and engages with the socio-political concerns of his time.  His theatre describes the individual in what can, at times, be a hostile society where there is social injustice and where the values of industry are held above those of human experience.  Humans are shown as degraded by these circumstances and at times they are dramatised as fragmented or animalistic.  Communication between characters is endlessly thwarted as they are shown as fundamentally alone.  This can be seen as the continuing reverberations of the theatre of the grotesco criollo.  To live in the city is to face cultural alienation, the inheritance of the immigrant experience.   Characters are plagued by failure, and the resulting self-deception which comes about as a way of bearing this failure; it is the anti-hero, rather than the hero, who is at the core of this drama.


Stylistically, the theatre of Osvaldo Dragún moves away from naturalism.  Time is not represented sequentially, it is disrupted and fragmentary.  The present is often juxtaposed with flashbacks as well as alternative realities.  We are also given insight into the fantasies and imaginings of Dragún’s characters, although these sequences are not in any way demarcated to indicate that they are digressions from any stable reality.

El Amasijo (Pulped) behaves at times like a piece of music, with repetitions, leitmotifs and haunting refrains.    The mothers’ calling from offstage for their pills, for example, is a chorus we come to know very well by the end of the play.  In this sense the style is expressionist, but its poignancy also derives from some elements of psychological realism.    Characters do betray some realist traits, although they are also intentionally stereotyped and underdeveloped.  In making the audience aware that what they are witnessing is the artifice of theatre, Dragún joins ranks with Brecht of the great dramatists who have used distancing techniques to create provocative, socially committed theatre.

Plays in the database
Other works
  • Dragún, Osvaldo. 1947. El gran duque ha desaparecido (The Great Duke has Disappeared) (in Spanish)

  • Dragún, Osvaldo. 1956. La peste viene de Melos (The Plague Comes from Melos) (in Spanish)

  • Dragún, Osvaldo. 1957. Historias para ser contadas (Stories to be Told) (in Spanish)

  • Dragún, Osvaldo. 1957. Historia de un flemón, una mujer, y dos hombres, (The History of a Gumboil, a Woman, and Two Men) (in Spanish)

  • Dragún, Osvaldo. 1963. Y nos dijieron que éramos inmortales (And They Told Us We Were Immortal) (in Spanish)

Useful reading and websites
  • Crew Leonard, Candyce. 1983. ‘Dragún’s Distancing Techniques in Historias para ser contadas and El amasijo’, Latin American Theatre Review, 16.2, 37-42

  • De la campa, Roman. 1977. ‘Interview with the Argentinian dramaturge Osvaldo Dragún’, Latin American Theatre Review, 15.3, 35-41

  • Gladhart, Amalia. 1993. ‘Narrative Foreground in the Plays of Osvaldo Dragún’, Latin American Theatre Review, 26.2, 93-109

  • Schmidt, Donald L. 1969. ‘El teatro de Osvaldo Dragún’, Latin American Theatre Review, 2. 2, 3-20

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 5 October 2010.

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