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Long lost treasure

A Spanish play lost for 400 years gets a warm reading before a New York audience

Long lost treasure

Lope de Vega

A New York moment: 

In a church basement on the Upper East Side with children’s art on the walls, a group of actors from New York Classical Theatre did a reading of a Hispanic play that had been lost for 400 years. Women and Servants (Mujeres y criados) by Lope de Vega is a play from about 1614 during the Hispanic “comedia” golden age. A researcher discovered the play buried in Spain’s vast national library in 2013. Barbara Fuchs, who leads UCLA’s project “Diversifying the Classics,” translated the comedy into English.

A Spanish writer, de Vega was a contemporary of Shakespeare and extremely popular in Spain (right up there with Miguel de Cervantes). He wrote at least 500 plays to Shakespeare’s three dozen. Women and Servants will suit modern audiences with its story of two women, facing arranged marriages with powerful men, using their wits to escape and marry the lower class men they love.

Even though actors were reading from scripts and sitting in folding chairs in a church basement, they had the audience of about 75 roaring. UCLA posted Fuch's English translation online, if you care to peruse it yourself. This is a play that can stand beside any of Shakespeare’s comedies; it’s shorter, too, at about 90 minutes, and moves at a snappy pace without long soliloquies. I hope it gets the full stage treatment here someday. 

Worth your time:  

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram did a remarkable investigation uncovering Catholic-church-level sexual abuse in independent Baptist churches across the country (the piece is a tough read with some sexually explicit content). The article shows the vulnerability of Protestantism, where abusive pastors can move from one ministry to another without consequences. 

This week I learned: 

Since the viral dragging of a United passenger off a flight, major U.S. airlines have almost entirely ended involuntary bumping of passengers. This fall, United involuntarily bumped only six passengers out of 30 million. 

A big reason is that airlines realized they have better data to predict passenger behavior, so they don’t have to oversell flights as much as they used to. Airlines also have found better incentives for passengers to voluntarily give up seats when needed, like offering a free iPad instead of airline credit. 

A court case you might not know about: 

The Southern District of New York is busy with the Michael Cohen case and more, but the frenetic Manhattan prosecutors won a major case that got less attention. A jury convicted Patrick Ho, who worked for a Chinese energy company, of bribing African leaders with millions of dollars for favorable oil deals. The U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman called the bribes “criminal efforts to undermine the fairness of international markets” and the conviction comes in the midst of high U.S.-Chinese tensions.

Culture I am consuming: 

Minnesota Public Radio has a great Christmas music stream, which I’ve had running in the background for all tree decorating and article writing activities. 

Postscript: Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback. ebelz@wng.org