Delmira Agustini (1886–1914), one of the most important Uruguayan poets, was assassinated by Enrique Job Reyes, her ex-husband and lover. She is asked in the play to “take charge of [her] time. Feminism hasn’t arrived yet.” But as her biography and this play show, she neither gave up her passion and desire nor accommodated her life to the rules of the time.
Marianella Morena, playwright, and director, in her play I Will Bear No Child, I Will Bear Verses, which won 2014 Florencio Prize, focuses on transgression. The main character is Delmira Agustini, the first woman poet to write erotic poetry in Latin America, at the beginning of the twentieth century. In a creative and highly original way, Morena puts at the play’s center the dramatization of desire and sexuality. After only a month and a half of marriage, Agustini divorced and abandoned Reyes: “You interrupt all the time, interrupt my mind . . . I want a divorce . . . I want to go . . . I want to wake up alone in my bed . . . I want to go. . . .” She was interested not in marriage but in erotic pleasure.
The play has three parts and employs three different theatrical languages. Three actors and three actresses, who embody the characters of Reyes and Delmira, act, sing and dance to deliver a scene of passion and eroticism. This is a theatrical device that shows the different aspects of these two characters. In the original 2014 Uruguayan staging at Auditorio Nacional del Sodre in Montevideo, directed by Morena (with Laura Baez, Domingo Milesi, Leonardo Noda, Mané Pérez, Lucía Trentini, Agustín Urrutia), a huge bed is at the center of the scene, where actors and actresses display the incompatibility between Delmira’s aspiration to freedom, her sexual desire, and the traditional ideology of Reyes, who wants marriage at all costs.In the Argentinean production (2016) at Timbre4 Teatro in Buenos Aires, directed by Francisco Lumerman (and featuring Jorge Castaño, Diego Faturos, Malena Figo, Iride Mockert, Germán Rodríguez, Rosario Varela), the six actors are deployed across the stage on a floor scattered with Delmira’s poems. The next lines seems to sum up this first part: “There are wars of many millions of thousands, there are wars of countries, continents, tribes, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, military minorities, political minorities, there are wars that are of one-person . . . there are wars that are of two, there are wars that are of a man and a woman.” The characters of Reyes and Delmira are triplicated in the bodies of the six actors in a beautiful corporal and musical choreography.
The second part portrays Agustini’s family, and talks of the impossibility of a realistic reconstruction of the 1900’; at the same time, however, it highlights the social roles imposed on the Uruguayan family of that time. The father’s condition exposes explicitly Morena’s belief about the futile task of reconstruction: “How is a reconstruction done? Do we go slowly, do we go fast? Do we talk, not talk, what happens? Is there an archeology of memory? Is it a theater of the lost? Is it any academic shit? . . .” Morena avoids the anecdote, and the stage clearly breaks the illusion. The director inserts narration into the scene and a performance that, without reaching the level of a parody, is anti-naturalistic. This part talks about the absurd roles adjudicated to the members of a regular 1900’ Uruguayan family and the impossible task of reconstructing old times in theatre scenes.
In the third part, the play moves to 2010 and takes us to an auction of lost objects. With a totally contemporary style, the two characters, a photographer and a policeman, tell us what they bought: a tape recorder, the gun used by Reyes to kill Delmira and himself, and some letters in which poetry and passion are present. The two characters seem to represent the young generations that ignore Delmira Agustini’s life and work and discover them just by chance.
I Will Bear No Child, I Will Bear Verses surprises the spectator with its premise. The play conveys the importance of Delmira as a poet but goes beyond that, since its core is the transgression of a woman who breaks the codes of her time. The play dramatizes the transgression through the desire openly exposed in the poetry of Delmira, but carried through the actions and decisions of her life. All this led to her death at the hands of her ex-husband and lover, who, after killing her, committed suicide.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.