38 / CHRONICLESnTo make theater more accessible tonstudents, workers, and the less affluent,nsome theaters offer “two-for-one”ntickets; others give free admission ton-certain .groups at certain performances.nIn an attempt to extend their run,nsome plays are scheduled for onlynthree or four nights a week. Theaterncompanies also tour the provinces tontap new audiences, some of whomnmay one day be found “out-front” innMexico City due to the constant migrationnfrom the countryside to thencapital city.nMost Mexican impresarios considerntheater a business and not an art. Theyntend to stage known quantities, such asnhits from the United States or Europen—Auntie Mame, The Odd Couple,nand The Madwoman ofChaillot, all ofnwhich were on Mexican stages thisnfall. They are less sure of the box-officenappeal of new works by aspiring Mexicanndramatists. This “box office mentality,”nshared by some Mexican directors,nis regularly scored by Mexicannplaywrights, who regard theater as lessna business than a means of givingnartistic expression to concerns aboutncontinuing problems at the local andnnational levels.nStill, a healthy cross-section ofnMexican playgoers seem to prefer foreignnto Mexican plays. They go to thentheater for entertainment rather thannexposure to social and politicalnproblems.nAs a result, Mexican playwrightsnmust often have their works producednoutside the commercial network—innworkshops, clubs, union halls, universities,nor in theaters subsidized by suchngovernment organizations as the “InstitutonNacional de Bellas Artes”n(INBA), the “Instituto Mexicano denSeguro Social” (IMSS), and then”Secretaria de Educacion Publica”n(SEP).nWithin the past three years, however,nprospects have improved for Mexicannplaywrights. According to criticnOlga Harmony:nThere are more new plays bynMexican authors beingnproduced here now than evernbefore. This is due to the factnthat the rights to foreign playsnmust be paid in foreignncurrencies. And they arenextremely expensive.nClearly, the most promising developmentnin Mexican theater over thenpast three years has been the emergencenof the “New Mexican Playwrights.”nAs many as 37 dramatistsnhave been identified as belonging tonthis movement, headed by VictornHugo Rascon, Sabina Herman, FelipenSantander, Jesus Gonzalez Davila,nand Oscar Villegas. Theirs is a “theaternof commitment,” a theater at thenservice of socio-economic change.nMost have learned their craft in workshopsndirected by such older, establishednplaywrights as Emilio Carballido,nHugo Argiielles, and VicintenLenero.nThe “New Playwrights” show a preferencenfor farce, melodrama, thendocudrama, or a hybrid genre. Theynwrite in a realistic or poetic-realisticnvein, employing colloquial dialogue.nThey eschew the “well-made play”nand the local color piece. Theirnthemes range from the failure of thenMexican Revolution (1911-1917) tonattain several of its goals, the futility ofnstrikes, the exploitation of miners andnpeasants and political bossism in thenrural sector, to the social consequencesnof extreme urban poverty.nFor inspiration and cultural solidarity,nthese playwrights look to their fellownLatins to the South. With Colombia,nVenezuela, Nicaragua, and othernLatin countries, they share a commonnethnic background, similar social andnpolitical problems, and the continuingneffects of cultural and economicnimperialism.nFelipe Santander, a leading “NewnPlaywright,” saw his melodrama ElnExtensionista (The County AgriculturalnAgent) top the 2,000 mark in performancesnlast fall. Following its 1978ndebut, the play was performed widelynthroughout the country before labornand farmer groups, in clubs, schools,nand university centers. In 1984 it settiedndown for a long run in a smallnMexico City theater.nIn this social protest work, Santandernemploys “agitprop,” expressionist,nand Brechtian effects to dramatize thenplight of a group of peasants who arenvictimized by the local political chieftainnand government officials—hardlyna novel theme in Mexican literature.nA Narrator-Balladeer introduces thenplay by telling the audience what is toncome. Even before the action begins.nnnhe draws back the curtain to reveal andramatic scene in progress. Stoppingnthe action, he advises:nWatch for thisnscene. . . . You’ll see itnlater . . . and you will be askednto judge what’s to be done.nAs the action gets underway, Cruz,nan idealistic, newly minted agronomistnfrom Mexico City, comes walking intona desolate rural community to whichnhe has been assigned. He is greetednwarily by the peasants, who later tellnhim of their many lean years, theirndependence on the local politicalnchieftain “El Maximo,” and theirnanger at not receiving title to “theirnlands.” Cruz, with youthful enthusiasm,ncomes up with a number ofntextbook solutions to their problems;nall are rejected as impractical. In timenhe realizes he will need the cooperationnof “El Maximo” and a local governmentnofficial to carry out his ambitiousnplan to shift the peasants’ cropnfrom corn to cotton. Reluctantiy, thenpeasants agree to go along. “El Maximo,”nwith a single sentence—“I supportnthe agronomist’s plan” —nconvinces the local banker to lend hisnsupport. Yet, the distrustful peasantsncontinue to plant corn; only later,nwhen they become convinced ofnCruz’s expertise, do they switch toncotton. By this time they desperatelynneed sizable loans, which they securenat exorbitant interest rates. Finally thenpeasants rebel against their exploitation,nbut the local militia move in tonquell the disturbance, arresting twon”agitators”: Cruz and an old peasantnleader.nLater comes word that the two havenbeen killed while in custody. Thenpeasants, pitchforks in hand, resolve tonmarch on the local constabulary. Atnthis point, the Narrator-Balladeer,nwho throughout the play has offeredncommentaries on the action, moves toncenter stage.nIt’s up to you to finish thenwork.- . . . We’ll listen to yournopinions. What should bendone?nWith the actors looking out expectantly,nmembers of the small audience vienwith one another to offer theirnopinions:n