About Dolores Prida
Dolores Prida is a well-known Cuban play writer, poet, director and editor who was born on the 5th of September 1943 in the Caribbean (Cuba).
When she was 17, she immigrated to the United States together with her family after the revolution in Cuba and Castro reaching power.
When she was young she wrote poems and short stories, but it was in the United States that she developed her skills for arts, and specially, for drama.
Because of her humble origins, she ensures he had never seen a play or exposed to literature or gone to see a play until she immigrated to New York City, where, instead of earning a university degree, she took literature courses at Hunter College night school, and started a successful career in journalism, writing and editing for New York’s Spanish-language daily, El Tiempo, as well as Visión, Nuestro and AHA!. This last one was the monthly newsletter of the Association of Hispanic Arts.
“I love learning and I’m an avid reader,” Prida said, “but for writing, you don’t need a diploma-it’s not like being a dentist.”
In 1967, she published her first work Treinta y un poemas. Two years later, un 1969, she received the Excellence in the Arts Award for her work.
Throughout her career, Prida has been awarded in numerous occasions. She is specially well-known for winning the Cintas Fellowship award for literature in 1977, which she used to publish and produce her first play: Beautiful Señoritas. It was an overwhelming success.
L.Wallace Essay: Why the arts and humanities are important The arts and humanities include disciplines such as history, design, religion, law, archaeology, English literature, modern languages and "those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods." (Bennett, 1984). The arts and humanities are important in our world, as they can contribute to boosting ...
Much of her work was written for the experimental theater Duo in New York, but she also wrote for groups such as the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. Prida also continued to work as a journalist, with her work appearing in numerous publications. At times she also worked as an editor and a speechwriter. She also taught and lectured on writing at a number of colleges and universities, and became a contributing editor for Latina magazine, which was launched in 1996.
She also received the CAPS Playwriting Fellowship and several INTAR fellowships and taught playwriting for several educational groups, companies around New York, organization and was a play-write residence for INTAR (one of the United States’ longest running Latino theaters producing in English).
Prida also travelled several times to Havana when living in the United States in order to try to heal the relations between Fidel Castro and the exiled Cubans. Her trips led to social and politica reforms and, thanks to her work, exiled people were allowed to return to Cuba to visit their relatives.
However, her plays were boycotted and even canceled sometimes due to the strong feminist and Hispanic identity views that she expresses throughout her works.
Despite this fact, Dolores Prida is one of the most important Hispanic female play writer of the last century.
Major works of Dolores Prida
As I pointed out before, Prida’s first published works were poetry, but she also has published over ten works of theatre and many scholarly articles, together with documentary film scripts.
Beautiful Señoritas was her debut as a playwright. It was first represented in New York in 1977. This work (as later on did others) explores the issue of feminine stereotypes in the Hispanic community.
She also explores social issues such as the relationship between the Catholic Church and women. She did this by using humor and satire, as it was a delicate matter to talk about.
Beautiful Señoritas won critica acclaim and was later on performed all across the United States.
After this one, Dolores Prida wrote more plays in the following years, including Beggar’s Soap Opera in 1979, a musical that was based on Bertold Bretcht’s Threepenny Opera, and La Era Latina (Victor Fragoso as co-author) in 1981.
The Essay on To what extent do luck and hard work play a part in leaving home successfully and settling in a new place?
Leaving home successfully and settling in a new place, in other words, emigrating, goes far beyond its meaning as it requires not only hard work, but also luck. Hard work is the effort and diligence of a person to obtain success. Luck, on the other hand, means the good fortune or the force that seems to operate for the good or ill in a person’s life. Everybody desires to be in their comfort zone, ...
She also wrote *Coser y Cantar, a play that focuses on a Hispanic woman living in the United States and how she attempts to deal with living in two very different worlds.
This play was subtitled “A One-Act Bilingual Fantasy for Two Women,” the play has two characters, “She”, who speaks English throughout the play, and Ella, who speaks Spanish.
It becomes clear to viewers that “She” and “Ella” are not actually two different characters, but the two sides of the same woman.
Throughout the play these two sides of the same woman argue, each trying to gain control over the other.
In the end, they come to the realization that the separate elements complement each other. While She and Ella will never be “one” person, the two sides they represent make for a strong individual.
During the following decade, she continued writing plays. Among others, Pantallas, Botánica, and Hola Ola!
CAREER1963-1969: Schraffts, employee magazine editor,1969-1970: Collier-Macmillan International, correspondent1970-1971: Simon and Schuster, editor1971-1973: National Puerto Rican Forum, director of information services1973-1974: El Tiempo magazine, managing editor1975-1976: Visión magazine, correspondent1977-1980: Nuestro magazine, editor1980-1983: INTAR, literary manager1996-: Latina magazine, senior contributing editor
WORKSBeautiful Señoritas,1977Beggar’s Soap Opera, 1979Cosar y Cantar, 1981Pantallas, 1986Botánica, 1991Hola Ola!, 1996Casa Proprio, 1999Four Guys Named José… and Una Mujer Named Maria, 2000.AWARDSCintas Fellowship Award for Literature, 1976Creative Artistic Public Service Award for Playwriting, 1976Excellence in Arts Award, given by Manhattan Borough President, 1987Doctor of Humane Letters, Mount Holyoke College, 1989
Style and technique, recurrent themes
A characteristic thing of her works is her use of irony and humor, which are tools that she uses to help the audience to start questioning serious social and personal issues.
The incorporation of music in her works is another well-known characteristic, as she did in Coser y Cantar, where she included poetry, boleros and popular songs in order to illustrate the bicultural importance of music. The theatricality of her works is reached through the integration of elements of popular culture, being music a good example of it.
The poems “A Stone’s Throw” and “The Woman Who Speaks To The Man Who Has Employed Her Son” both deal with different views of women and how they are treated. The speakers in each poem have different attitudes towards women and various devices are utilized to illustrate the treatment of women in each poem. In the poem “A Stone’s Throw”, a group of self-righteous men earnestly wanted to stone and ...
It is fascinating the way she is able to go from melodrama to comedy.
In addition to her style and technique, she is recognized for introducing feminist (Hispanic female themes for being more specific) in her works. She speaks about women, body image and the spread Hispanic female stereotype.
A recurrent issue in her work is that of identity: Self- identity, national identity and sexual identity. She questions the American dream and the immigrant experience resulting from it, together with themes of class-consciousness, race and transculturalism, gender, sexuality, modern ambiguity, prejudice and injustice. All over the years she has been writing, she has analyzed and questioned into the state of the Latino experience in the United States.
Moreover, although she has already made a mark in Latina and feminist theatre, she continues to question, analyze and learn about Latino’s people search for identity in the United States nowadays.
Another important feature of her work is the way she uses bilingualism, by incorporating both Spanish and English to her works.
Coser y Cantar, for example, is a bilingual monologue presented by two female characters but who are in fact two cultural selves of the same women. One of them represents an American woman named “SHE” who only speaks English. The other character is “ELLA”, which represents the Cuban self and only speaks in Spanish.
In Prida’s plays, usually, some characters speak only in Spanish or only in English, but often the main characters codeswitch as they try to define themselves in the bicultural and bilingual world they are living in and where they are trying to survive.
We can find this codeswithching feature also in another important Prida’s plays such as Beautiful Señoritas or Botanica.
Codeswithching plays a major role in the development of the characters as well as in the resulting portrait showed to the audience. Being such an important feature of Prida’s work, it is important to understand what exactly is the “codeswitching phenomenon”, as well as analyzing some examples of it from her work, and making clear the distinction between “codeswitching” and “borrowing”.
A person’s language is often connected to his or her social status. A person from a higher status will have a different dialect of the same language than someone from lower status. People brought up in poor surroundings or poverty are keen to swearing and have little concern to speaking properly as their language was intended. People from high society are the opposite. They are very much concerned ...
Sometimes, individuals use switching between languages in order to express the deepest significance and importance of meaning is everyday situations. Bilingual speakers employ codeswitching for a variety of social, psychological, and linguistic reasons; and although codeswitching took place across cultures and throughout history, it is only recently, within the last sixty years, that the field of sociolinguistics has considered codeswitching as a respectable field of research. In the United States, codeswitching between Spanish and English is one of the most commonly studied combinations as Hispanic immigrants are among the largest group and consist of 13.3% .
A variety of names and labels describe codeswitching (CS) and the related events, which occur during CS. Currently ‘codeswitching’ is the most commonly accepted form in both spelling and meaning of the term.
Currently the most widely accepted theory is the Matrix Language Framework Model (Myers-Scotton, 1993), which holds that in codeswitching there is a Matrix Language (ML) and an Embedded Language (EL).
The ML dictates the grammatical structure of an utterance when a codeswitch occurs; although specific words come from the EL the phrase must conform or at least match the ML structure.
Code-switching is the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation. Multilinguals—people who speak more than one language—sometimes use elements of multiple languages in conversing with each other. Thus, code-switching is the use of more than one linguistic variety in a manner consistent with the syntax and phonology of each variety. (Wikipedia definition)
Codeswitching vs. Borrowing
When languages come into contact, there is usually an interchange of ideas, cultural norms and linguistic forms. Speakers, both monolingual and multi-lingual, borrow words from other languages into their own and use the borrowed words as new and independent lexical items.
Character Essa After reading Arthur Miller's play "A view from the bridge,' I am convinced that the most striking character is Marco. He is an Italian immigrant that moved illegally to the United States with his brother Rodolpho to work as longshoremen, since at the time (the play was written in 1955) his country of origin, Italy, was going through a major economic depression because of the ...
This phenomenon of borrowing is distinct from codeswitching. When speakers use words from another language in this way they do not codeswitch, but rather borrow specific words into their own language. A speaker must be bilingual in order to truly codeswitch between two distinct languages.
The disparity between codeswitching and borrowing is resolved for most linguists, though scholars continue to revisit this topic on occasion. Gumperz defines borrowing as “the introduction of single words or short, frozen, idiomatic phrases from one language into another” (Gumperz, 1982, p. 66).
COSER Y CANTAR , Dolores Prida (1981)
Coser y Cantar is a work that has been written in order to be performed in a very specific way. It is so important the way the work is performed in the stage that the author wrote an introduction note to the script in order to specify the following:
“This piece is really one long monologue. The two women are one and are playing
a verbal, emotional game of ping-pong. Throughout the action, except the final
confrontation, ELLA and SHE never look at each other, acting independently,
pretending the other one does not really exist, although each continuously
trespasses on each other’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. This play must
NEVER be performed in just one language” (Original emphasis, Prida, 1991,
When the play is performed, the audience attending the play sits in front of a split stage. To be more specific, the stage is divided in two areas. The right area is ELLA’S and the left area is SHE’S.
ELLA and SHE are the only two characters in the play and, as Prida puts it, ELLA is “a woman” and SHE is “the same woman”.
The action takes place in an apartment in New York City.
As I pointed out before, there are only two characters in the play: “SHE” and “ELLA”.
“SHE” is wearing jogging shorts and sneakers while “ELLA” is wearing a short red kimono.
As the audience early realize, “ELLA” speaks in Spanish while “SHE” uses English to express herself.
As the stage is divided in two areas, the audience can appreciate how the area belonging to each character differs in terms of props.
The connection between language and culture ha been considered by many scholars, and at present it has become an axiom that national culture manifests itself in national language. Language, being a unique storage of the cultura heritage of the nation, serves to transmit the collected wisdom of the nation from generation to generation. Specifically, people's beliefs, views of life and values ...
Moreover, as the play develops the audience realizes the differences between the characters.
For instance, in her area of the stage, there are cosmetics, a Virgin with a candle and a pair of maracas, while we can find fashion and psychology magazines, vitamins and a pair of skates in SHE’s area. Props have been clearly introduced by the playwright so as to function as evident embodiments of their cultures.
SHE and ELLA are the two cultural sides of the same personality, which are: a Cuban immigrant (a woman with a strong, present cultural heritage) represented by “ELLA” and her Americanized self, (with no or very small cultural heritage) represented by “HER”. This is the way Prida’s has chosen in order to exemplify the personal struggle that Latina (and many immigrants) people live when they are caught in the middle of two cultures: that of her own birth country and that of the country they have emigrated to and they are now living in. The contrastive bilingualism of Coser y Cantar suggests that language choice informs not only culture, but personality too.
Structure of the play
As said in the introduction, the play is a long monologue between the two characters: SHE and ELLA.
It is a long discussion in which the characters are rapidly answering each other (pingpoing each other in words of Prida), each of the characters using a different language as explained in the “characters” section.
In order to be able to grasp all the meanings of the play, the audience (or the readers) must be bilingual. It is a bilingual-audience-directed play.
Language is in fact the element used to articulate this drama, this conflict between Hispanic and American ways of living and values that many immigrants face every day. It is the battle between languages what is used by Prida to show the audience the struggle people (women in this case) feel inside them as they try to find a perfect balance between their realities, that of being an immigrant that does not want to lose her memories, her origins, and that of wanting to integrate in the society they are living in today.
Each of the characters refuses to address each other directly, but anyway, their discourse alternates between memories charged with nostalgia or bitterness, and lots of proverbs and puns:
“ELLA: I remember when I first met you shimmer in your eyes . . . there was a shimmer in your eyes…
SHE: Y tú tenías una sonrisa…
ELLA: And with that shimmering look in your eyes and that smile…
SHE: …pensamos que íbamos a conquistar el mundo…
ELLA: … But …
SHE: …I don’t know… (SHE goes to her table and picks up a bottle of vitamins.) Did I take my pills today?
SHE: Vitamin C?
ELLA: Of course… because camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.
SHE: A shrimp that falls asleep is carried away by the
ELLA: No . . . that doesn’t make any sense. “ (Page 60)
It is in this fragment of the play when SHE speaks Spanish and ELLA speaks English for the first time. It is in this moment that the two characters find the perfect balance and they are able to reconcile and become one person. Language is no longer a barrier.
This fragment can also be used to illustrate how, as the characters themselves realize, there are many cultural complexities in language, because making sense of a culture requires more than merely translating words.
Although the tone of the play is comic and satiric, there are many moments of tension that undercut the satirical tone.
Because of the fact that the play is a discussion between to characters, there are many pauses, unfinished sentences, hesitations and questions that remain unanswered as the characters try to avoid them when the topic seems threatening to them. All these devices serve to increase dramatic tension along the play.
The author uses the cultural differences in the same person as a “polarinzinc comic device” that gives the play a satirical tone that will at some points move to drama coming from the anguish the characters feel not knowing “who they are”.
Fear and identity
The apartment is the only setting of the whole play. It feels to the reader that the characters are afraid of going out of the room.
The sirens, screams and screeches coming from the outside portend a hostile world.
As an example, SHE’s first words in the play are the following ones:
“No one is safe out there. No one. Not even those who speak good English. Not even those who know who they are . . .” (51).
These words reveal the existing link between language identity and fear.
This is also the reason why they are desperately seeking for the map during the whole play: they don’t dare to go out of their room without the map. They do not know what direction to go. Neither of them.
“¿Dónde habré puesto el mapa?,” and later, “Tengo que encontrar ese
mapa” (Page 53)
There is somehow a fear to the external world which is what makes the two women realize that they need to stay together, the two personalities are need to be brought together to survive in this new and hostile world: New York.
The author pretends through this work to show the Latina immigrants the path to stop struggling because of their circumstances. In order to be happy they have to react to the oppression they feel and reach a balance between both identities, the Latina and the American.
Assimilation of cultures
All through the play, the two women (personalities) continuously try to assume total control over the other one. They do it by trying to impose their tastes and their views regarding food, music and moral principles. Neither of them accept the other, neither of them assimilate the other. This behavior seems to indicate that, at least at the author’s view, assimilation is not the solution to all this feelings we have portrayed that makes the characters afraid and not knowing where to go and how to behave.
It is at the end of the play that Prida gives what she thinks is the solution to the situation of Latina immigrants in EEUU. The characters realize that they are dependent on the other, and that they need to be together for their survival:
ELLA: …Yo tengo mis recuerdos…Yo tengo una solidez. Tengo unas raíces, algo de que agarrarme. Pero tú… tú de qué te agarras?SHE: I hold on to you. I couldn’t exist without you.ELLA: But I wonder if I need you. Me pregunto si te necesito…SHE: I was unavoidable. You spawned me while you swam in that fish tank…ELLA: Tú no eres tan importante. Ni tan fuerte. Unos meses bajo el sol, y, …desaparecerías…Yo soy la que existo. Yo soy la que soy. Tú no sé lo que eres. SHE: But, if it weren’t for me you would not be the one you are now. No serías la que eres. I gave yourself back to you. If I had not opened some doors and some windows for you, you would be still be sitting in the dark, with your recuerdos…! (Page 66)
This quotation meaning that they are not opposites, instead, they complement each other. There is no need for assimilation they need each other.
Probably the case was that ELLA created SHE when she went to the EEUU to help her to overcome the experience of emigration and not letting her sink in her nostalgia from the past.
Sexuality, American Values
Both women feel lonely and both of them have sexual fantasies. They both discuss about the morality of this sexual fantasies.
ELLA is more romantic, she masturbates while she listens to boleros, but then she censures talking explicitly about sex.
SHE is promiscuous and is accused by ELLA for this reason.
“Te acuestas con demasiada gente queni siquiera te cae bien” (Page 59)
They both have sexual needs but they feel oppressed by society and by culture. As it happens to most women nowadays, they look for some kind of “approval” of their sexual activity and fantasies but, in this case, any of them looks for it in a different culture.
When they discuss about sex ELLA calls out to the Catholic Virgen del Cobre while SHE calls out to God.
At a moment of the play, they receive a call of their lover (that they share) and they react differently to he leaving them. SHE implores him to stay while ELLA starts insulting him and finally says him some words coming from the lyrics of a bolero:
SHE: “Oh, please, let’s try again! . . . Look . . . I ‘ l l . . . I ‘ l l . . .” (Page 65)
ELLA: : “¡Miénteme, pégame, traicióname, patéame, arrástrame por el
fango, pero no me dejes” (65)
ELLA behaves more intensely during this situation, this has to do with the belief that Latinos express their emotions more openly, but both women, although their differences, humiliate herself for love.
As represented by the memories of the character when remembering a Greek party, society allow men to express himself by dancing and breaking things but women are not supposed to they are trapped and judged by society. They are neither free to express their sexuality without being judged.
Symbolism, imaginery and metaphors
The map represents the central metaphor of the pay, standing for the displacement in culture, place and time the characters feel.
They seek for the map during the whole play. The map is a symbol of them not knowing what direction to take, where to go, they are paralyzed.
This is the reason why the apartment is the only setting of the play. They don’t dare to go out of the room until they find the map: what direction to go, how to confront their fears.
The outside world is frightening to them. Only these common fears from the outside bring them together. They have to realize that they need each other, that they need to find the perfect balance before being able to confront the new world they live in.
The fish tank
The fish tank is a metaphor that stands for imprisonment, of oppression. ELLA remembers her leaving her country this way. Being in the airport as being in a fish tank, the anxiety of not knowing what will happen, what will you find in the new country:
“Una pecera llena de peces asustados, que no sabían nadar, que no sabían de las aguas heladas . . . donde los tiburones andan conpistola . ..” (53)
Later on, the two characters are also imprisoned in their apartment unable to go out and feeling alienated of this new world which is New York for them.
The title “Coser y Cantar” brings in mind an image of the sewing circle, the play begins and ends in a circle of fear.
The characters are in a psychological imprisonment as in the fishing tank, the apartment represents also a life surrounded by fear.
The bilingualism and symmetrical imagery in Coser y cantar expresses the duality of a Latin woman and her American alter ego at a psychological level. They represent the same woman, which is alienated of the outside world but also of her inner self.
The symmetrical imaginery begins with the split of the stage, which is very visual to the audience. Later on, the audience will realize that the symmetrical imaginary conducts the whole play through the juxtaposition of the characters, their cultures through their views and tastes.
This is expressed through recurrent metaphors of food, music, body care and the psychological development of the characters.
ELLA listens boleros while SHE likes imagining she is Barbara Straisand. Music is an important representation of culture and functions as a way of evocating the roots, the culture, the past the character is missing.
Prida strongly expresses in her plays her passion of her Cuban heritage and the Caribbean and African music that is so much a part of the Island’s past. She tries to point out the bicultural importance of music.
The same happens with food, SHE driks diet Pepsi while ELLA’s choice is a guarapo, a Cuban typical drink. The gurapo reminds her of her culture and she remembers a song “Songo Borodongo”, by Celia Cruz. In a food conflict after having been singing this song, SHE ends eating a Cuban food proposed by ELLA.
About Dolores Prida …………………………………………………………………………………………. 1
Major works, career, awards ……………………………………………………………………………. 2,3
Style, technique, recurrent themes ……………………………………………………………………. 4
Codeswithching ………………………………………………………………….. 5
Codeswitching vs. borrowing ……………………………………………… 5
COSER Y CANTAR , Dolores Prida (1981)
Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………. 6
Characters ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 6
Structure of the play ……………………………………………………………………………. 7
Tone ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 8
Main themes …………………………………………………………………………………… 8,9,10
Symbolism and imaginery ………………………………………………………………… 11,12
An analysis of:
COSER Y CANTAR by Dolores Prida
Ruth Vicent Labordeta