Literary Career

Dramaturgical career

Orlando Hernández Martin’s Beginnings in the Theatre

In the mid 20th century Orlando Hernández Martín starts creating plays,  especially self-sacrificing and costumbrist works. In 1956 his work entitled Hacia Belén (To Belem) was performed during the The Three Wise Men Parade organized by the  Jesús Sacramentado school and its former students. Since then, this work has been  staged in Agüimes every year by the inhabitants of the town. On the 3 June 1959 the  costumbrist play Er diablo son las mujeres (Women are the devil) was premiered in the  cinema of Agüimes by the literary group called Sancocho Canario. On the 13 June 1962  a new costumbrist work, El barbero de Temisas (Temisas Barber), was successfully  played by the Agrupación Atlántida in Teatro Pérez Galdós, in Las Palmas de Gran  Canaria. Finally, in April 1965 the play called …Y llovió en Los Arbejales (…And it  rained in Los Arbejales) was performed in the same theatre, having great impact on the  local press of the island. According to the author, this farce is considered to be a critique to the rural society of the Canaries that accepts, with no questions, their poor socio economic situation. The author did not bring to the stage new costumbrist plays until  the 80s, when En mi pueblo mando yo (I rule my town) was performed. In the 90s two  more titles were added: La promesa, fiesta en el pueblo (The Promise, party in town)  (1992) and La verbena de Maspalomas (The Open-air Dance in Maspalomas) (1993).

In fact, he would not abandon this genre, since he still continues creating costumbrist  sketches for the radio stations of Gran Canaria. Productions such as Las aventuras de  Maestro Rafael (The adventures of Mr Rafael) and Cosas de Pepito el Árabe (Things of  Pepito the Arab) were appreciated by the audience in that time. By the way, they were  the most popular and the ones which gave him commercial success. Among them, we  have to highlight …Y llovió en Los Arbejales and En mi pueblo mando yo, because of  the great amount of times that were performed along the Archipelago.

The Rural Theatre

Orlando soon started a different type of theatre with titles such as Tierra de  cuervos (Land of Crows) and La escandalosa (The Scandalous Life), both dealing with  rural thematic but without the features of the costumbrist genre. Tierra de cuervos won  the first prize of a contest organized by Radio Las Palmas and the Teatro Insular de  Cámara in 1963. This time, Hernández digs into the roots of the problems that disturb  the farmer; the ignorance is the first reason of his tragedy. He has created prison  barriers, not physic but ideological ones, that prevent him from getting to know the  truth. Such a vital confrontation between an inherited cosmic vision and the typical  rebellion caused by the youth will be the forces from which the tragedy as only possible  destiny will occur. In this work, the influence of the poetic theatre of Federico García  Lorca can be clearly appreciated. Thus, it contains the most lyrical density among all his  production. This rural drama was welcome by the critics in its debut in the Teatro Pérez  Galdós, on the 6 July 1963.  

On the other hand, La escandalosa is about the problem of migration in which a  young boy belonging to a poor family gets involved due to the bad comments about him in the town. It was premiered in the Pérez Galdós on the 15 March 1966. The main role  was performed by the famous circus artist, Pinito del Oro.  

From the Committed Theatre to the Theatre of the Absurd and Avant-garde Theatre

Our playwright from Agüimes continues to creating costumbrist works and rural  dramas at the same time when he writes La ventana (The Window), included in the  genre of committed theatre against the social and political structure that ruled Spain in  that moment (Franco’s dictatorship.) This new style is included in the current which  was developed during the 60s and 70s in the Spanish theatre. La ventana was written in  1963, and it won the National Prize Teatro Pérez Galdós organized by the Casa de  Colón of Las Palmas in 1968. It was first played in the Teatro Pérez Galdós on the 1 April 1971, where it was on stage for three days. Some days later, on the 17 and 18  April, the press published in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Madrid includes an article  talking about its upcoming premiere in the capital of Spain, in the Teatro Club Pueblo,  scheduled in the season called «Difficult Teatre». 

The author from Agüimes undertakes a radicalization of theatrical forms, far  from the commercial fees. As a consequence, Fantasía para tres (Fantasy for Three), a  play in one act, appears. Its language is close to the absurd and the topic treated is the human comprehension. The play was first performed two years after its creation, on  1966. This was the first tittle different from the costumbrist and realistic theatre that the  author offered to the audience of the Canary Islands.  

Following the same structure, a new avant-garde work, Prometeo y los hippies,  was released in the Teatro Pérez Galdós on the 16 March 1970. This time, his dramatic work takes us to the origins of the humans: the myth and the catharsis retake their  revealed function. 

From the Parable to the Theatre Report

Following the same line of fight against tyrants, injustice and inequality, he  writes the parable entitled Con los puños frente al sol (With the Fists in the Sun) —first  called Frente a la luz (In the Light)—, which was premiered in the Pérez Galdós on the  21 May 1972. This tragic farce written in two times, according to the subtitle given by  the author, parodies all the incompetent dictators who have reached the power in order  to transform their irrational values into the cruelest human vexations to the point that  they extend to their subjects the inequality, the injustice and the slavery. A group of  disabled people rebel against the tyrant, hoping to reach freedom and equality. This play  is related to the theatre of Bueno Vallejo, specifically it is considered to be the heir to El  Concierto de San Ovidio (The Concert at Saint Ovide.)  

Hernández introduces the expression «theatre report» to refer to the dramatic  renovation suffered from him in the 70s. He is now influenced by the theatre of  Unamuno (Fedra y el otro —Fedra and the Other.) First, the stage is characterized by  the presence of very few objects. Second, drama does not lie in action, but in words.  Thus, our author creates both El encuentro (The Meeting) and Zarandajas. One single  character starts a monologue —«monodialogue», according to Hernández— to have a  conversation with himself and with other imaginary characters. El encuentro was  perfomed in Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote along 1972. On the 5, 6 and 7 May  1973, it was played together with Zarandajas on the stage of the Pérez Galdós. 

National Performances

The actor Paco Acosta and the author scheduled a tour around Mainland to  introduce El encuentro y Zarandajas. The first performance took place in the same ship  that was taking them to Cádiz. Then, they continue their tour in different towns and  cities in Spain until the 7 December 1973. Their last performance took place in Teatro  Club Pueblo, in Madrid. As a key outcome to the tour, Hernández gets the prize «Sol de  Oro de España», given by the critics from Málaga. One year later, on the 24 and 25  May, the prize was officially celebrated in the Teatro Pérez Galdós, after the premiere of Teo juega al tenis con las galaxias (Teo Plays Tennis with the Galaxies.) In the  middle of such great news, El encuentro y Zarandajas (1974) and Teo juego al tenis con  las galaxias (1975) would be edited by Escelicer. 

Teo juega al tenis con las galaxias stresses the dismantling of the classical  precepts of the dramatic arts. The logical relationship among the characters disappears, while reason and unreason come and go or vice versa; this is how our playwright  explains the idea in an interview carried out by J.M.C. under the title «How did Cain  die?», published in La Provincia on the 22 May 1974: «I play with different shots from  Calderón to Brecht; thus, dream and reason get confused.» The language splits and a  new meaning appears; the word is the key which opens a dream world to the humans.  Definitively, it is the end of an economic world, alienated, that lets another world past, where the human being recognizes, a world based on comprehension.  After having experienced metaphysic freedom, creative purification, Orlando  Hernández returns to the stage with the debut of a realistic drama, Cigüeñas en los  balcones (Storks on the Balconies), in the Pabellón Victoria, in Teror on the 14 September 1974. Some days later, on the 30 September, the play will be performed in  the Círculo Mercantil. In it, a couple’s true love, forged from individual freedom, differs from the one of a married couple, whose miserable coexistence is based on ancient  moral rules.  

As the 70s pass, Hernández plays are highly performed: in 1976, La ventana was  premiered in Zamora by the Grupo Niebla and in May, Teo juega al tenis con las  galaxias did the same in Albacete. In the summer of 1978, Prometeo y los hippies was  on stage thanks to the Círculo Mercantil of Arrecife and in October, our playwright  travelled to Venezuela to celebrate the Gran Gala de la Hispanidad-78. Some of his  productions were played there. New performances of Zarandajas and El encuentro took  place in different towns of Gran Canaria; in Lérida, too, by the group La Pandilla. In La  Oliva (Fuerteventura), the group Guañoht performed Como en un sueño (Like in a  Dream), in the 70s and in 1980 and 1984 this group of actors and actresses show again  …Y llovió en Los Arbejales.  

Historical Theatre

In 1980, a new line in his works is discovered. He deals with a historic topic for  the first time: the figure of the king Charles II. The author separates from the historic  character in El hechizado (The Enchanted) to explore the humanity in the inside and be  able to find its vital conflict. Our playwright feels sorry for the character: the society  demands the king a descendant, but this imposition is impossible for him to achieve.  The play was released in the Pabellón Victoria, in Teror, on the 20 September 1980. Once more, it was directed by Sergio Calvo. The costume was designed by José Gopar,  a painter from Lanzarote.  

On the 29 May 1982 a new play was on stage, El hombre que nunca fue (The  Man who Never Existed). This work will open the brand new Cine-Teatro de Los Salesianos from Las Palmas. This was one of the events included in the programme  designed to celebrate La Fiesta de la Unión organized by the Salesianos ex-students.  The text is a long monologue that reflects on the nature of the human being, the  regression of our species, to testify the deep crisis we suffer. 

The Diverse Topics from the 80s and 90s

Up to 1983, Hernández returns to costumbrism. He writes En mi pueblo mando  yo (I rule my town), that was premiered in the theatre of Colegio Salesianos in Las  Palmas on the 4 June 1983 by the hobbyist group La Chalana.  

The farce called Comedia del Carnaval y de la buena Fortuna (Carnival and  Good Fortune’s Comedy) consists of a new metatheatrical proposal. As Calderón did  before, the author pretends us to think about what is the most authentic life: the one  lived outside or inside the theatre? This farce was performed in the Teatro Pérez Galdós  on the 6 March 1986 by the group above mentioned. It was directed by the same author.  

In September 1991, a new costumbrist production appears: La promesa, fiesta en  el pueblo (The Promise: a party in the town). It is considered by the author himself as  ‘multitheatre’, term that is used to define those comedies that, up to a general idea, are  adapted to the playful-religious celebration of every town. In Easter 1992, the religious  play …Y era el Hijo del Hombre (…And He Was the Man’s Son) was performed along the streets of Agüimes. This play was ordered by the Asociación de Antiguos Alumnos  La Salle. This work brings to life a tradition that had disappeared in the town due to  different reasons. The play is about what happened to Jesus, starting with his miracles  and ending with his sentence and crucifixion. More than hundred people took part and, 

as it has been usual since that time, the main character in this celebration is the town of  Agüimes.  

Also this year, Hernández comes back with a new comic sketch called La verbena de Maspalomas (The Open-air Dance in Maspalomas), that is reminiscent of  the zarzuela called La verbena de La Paloma. This play was performed in the Centro  Cultural de Maspalomas in June. The set was developed by two artists, Roberto  Capello, from Italy and Juan González, from the Canaries. This play is structured in two  acts and it shows the sociological changes that took place in the 70s, when the  agricultural areas from Maspalomas (south of Gran Canaria) were turned into touristic  places.  

Finally, two new titles related to the conquest of the Canary Islands were  released: published in 1994, Loa a Juan is a dramatic poem set in the city of Las Palmas  de Gran Canaria by means of a historical tour from its foundation as La Real de Las  Palmas; Ansite, elegía viva, cantata about the peace in Ansite, was performed in the  natural sceneries of Llanos de la Paz (Santa Lucía de Tirajana) on the 29 April 1995.

Narrative career

In 1960, Hernández published a narrative text for the first time. Sancocho consists of six costumbrist tales. No more editions dealing with narrative style appeared  until 1975, when his first novel, Catalina Park, came out on the market. Plaza & Janés  published a first edition with 8,000 copies which were immediately sold out, so new  editions came out. Considering the news published in the media and the interviews  made to the author, we must say that the novel had a big impact. It was presented in the  Círculo Mercantil in Las Palmas on the 30 July, and in September, the writer travels to Madrid and Barcelona, where he presented the novel to the media and to the audience in  general at the national level. In his narrative, the same as in his theatre, the irony, the  satire and deformation that characterize his works remind us to Francisco de Quevedo  and Ramón María del Valle-Inclán. 

Hernández would make a reference on this last-mentioned author when his  second novel was published. Máscaras y tierra (Masks and Land) was edited in 1977  by the same editorial. While he was being interviewed by the Eco de Canarias on the 17  February 1977, he declares that, although he had developed a magic realism, his novel  does not belong to the mimesis created by the South American writers but «it fits in, or  at least that is what I believe, with the Spanish tradition as for novel creation is  concerned. Maybe it follows the steps of Valle-Inclán, after having read a lot of authors  before». In 1984, he published Lolita Pluma o el sueño de una ilusión (Lolita Pluma or  the Dream of an Illusion), where reality, biography and fantasy of the character are  mixed together. Finally, last work belonging to this genre was Con las manos llenas de  sol (Hands Full of Sun). It was written at the end of the 70s but it was published in  1989. The novel contains illustrations of Borges Linares both in the cover and in the  novel itself. The story is about the conflicts suffered by the youths and it shows how the  individual personality is developed during a vital stage for every human being. 

Poetic Career

Some of his poems were published in the daily press. However, he has to wait  until 1964 to see the edition of his first book of poems, Claridad doliente (Sorrowful  Clarity). This book contains a compilation of his early writings in which the poet sings to his land, to his island, to hope, to beauty, to the daily monotony. The writer wants to  get known by the other, to coexist in order to become their shared voice.  In the 70s, Poema Coral del Atlántico (Chorale Poem to the Atlantic) arised in  collaboration with Juan José Falcón Sanabria. It was inspired both by the pictorial series  created by Néstor de La Torre and the lyric piece Chácaras blancas (White Chácaras).  The music was set by the master composer above mentioned. 

Finally, in 1985 A la fiera amada y otros poemas (To the Loving Beast and other  Poems) was published. The cover was decorated with a drawing made by the versatile  Jean Cocteau —poet, playwright, filmmaker. Inside the book there are different  drawings made by Pedro Antonio, a young painter from Gran Canaria. This poem book  was presented in Club Natación Metropole, in Las Palmas. This club and Real Club  Victoria cooperated in the edition of this work. The remarkable part of it is the one  which contains Lorca’s title reminiscence «A la oscura manera de la claridad lorquiana» (To the Dark Way of Lorca’s Clarity). It consists of a collection of sonnets about the  absent and therefore painful love where the freedom of sexual encounter is expressed. A  passionate love with the others told from a bitter memory of a lost eroticism that is  longed for.

Research career

In his role as a researcher of the autochthonous from the Canaries, his analytical  gaze focuses on everything from the celebrities coming from his home town and  folklore to the study of the features dealing with Canarian speech. In 1961, the essay  called Tras la huella de una señora (Following the Trace of a Lady) is published. It is a  study dedicated to Ms María de Jesús Melián y Alvarado and her dedication to the town  of Agüimes. As for the Canarian speech is concerned, different glosses under the title Decires canarios (Canarian Speech) are being included in Diario de Las Palmas up to  1974. Such glosses will continue in El Eco de Canarias from 1980 and in Canarias 7 from 1983. Those texts analyse the features that characterize Canarian expressions and  they will be compiled in two volumes in the 80s; the first volume will be edited  specifically in 1982 and in late 1989, the second volume will be published. Both of  them will be published under the same title: Decires canarios. His concern for studying  in more detail the people of the Canaries and their history encourages him to participate,  among others, in the promotional committee of the association Patronato de Ansite that is established on the 26 March 1979. Our writer is one of its board members and its  president is Vicente Sánchez Araña. Orlando will also look into the origins of the Carnival in Gran Canaria, its development and features, resulting in a new study entitled  El carnaval de Gran Canaria. 1574-1988.

Traducido al inglés por © Esther Suárez Sosa