Biography of Rodolfo Usigli

Rodolfo Usigli was born in Mexico City in 1905, the son of immigrant parents. His father's death and the difficulties of life in Mexico during the Revolution forced him to leave school and find work at an early age, but his determination to become an intellectual and playwright focused his efforts to educate himself. In 1935 he received a Rockefeller scholarship to study drama direction and composition at Yale University. Returning to Mexico he taught drama at the university and worked for the Institute of Fine Arts, reviewed plays, translated poetry and drama from both English and French, and wrote his own plays, including his signature piece El Gesticulador (The Impostor). He had reasonable commercial success with some of his plays but, generally, his controversial treatment of political and social themes did not find favor with a rather provincial and intolerant public. Despite his limited success, he believed strongly in the role of theater to reflect and influence the character of a nation and sought to develop a truly Mexican dramatic style.

Unable to establish himself as a dramatist and encountering political opposition, Usigli entered the diplomatic corps and served for over two decades in France, Lebanon and Norway. During this diplomatic exile he continued to write essays and drama, completing his great trilogy of Mexican history, the Corona plays (Corona de fuego, Corona de luz, and Corona de sombra). Throughout his career he was also able to meet and correspond with European and American artists and intellectuals such as Henri Rene Lenormand, Jean Cocteau, T.S. Eliot, George Bernard Shaw, Bruno Traven, Clifford Odets and Elmer Rice. Not a bad record of intellectual and artistic accomplishment for someone who never attended college and had to complete the last two years of secondary school education taking night courses normally reserved for workers and the poor. Upon his return to Mexico in 1972, Usigli was honored with Mexico's highest literary award, the National Prize for Literature, and acknowledged as the founder of modern Mexican theater. He died in 1979. The "Centro Nacional de Investigacion, Documentacion e Informacion Teatral "Rodolfo Usigli," (CITRU)," the most important center dedicated to the study of the dramatic arts in Mexico bears his name.

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