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CARLOS VILLALONGIN DRAMATIC COMPANY

Elizabeth C. Ramírez

CARLOS VILLALONGÍN DRAMATIC COMPANY. The Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company (also known as the Compañía Cómico Dramática Carlos Villalongín and the Compañía Lírico-Dramática Villalongín) originated as the Compañía Hernández, founded in Jalisco, Mexico, in 1849 by Encarnación Hernández. Originally the group consisted of five actors, but in 1885 the number increased to six. Upon Hernández's death around 1888, his wife, Antonia Pineda de Hernández, took over the management of the company, which was renamed Compañía Hernández-Villalongín. The Compañía Villalongín was based primarily in Nuevo León, although it toured throughout northern Mexico and the southwestern United States for many years, producing plays then popular in Mexico City. In 1900 the troupe was invited to perform at the new San Antonio Grand Opera House; perhaps prior appearances in the area had warranted a reputation there. The tour also included appearances in Houston, Victoria, and Dallas. By 1904 Carlos Villalongín had married one of the Hernández daughters, Herlinda, and taken over the company after Antonia Hernández retired. The Compañía Villalongín included two prompters, a play copier, a scenic technician, a property master, a costumer, ten to twelve actors, and six to eight actresses. The Villalongín children and those of other troupe families played the children's roles found frequently in the repertory. The company was organized around at least three families, those of Villalongín, Hernández, and Cristóbal Berrones. For the most part, Villalongín and Concepción Hernández were the source of the group's popularity. Their performances included a large repertoire of tragedies, dramas, melodramas, and comedies.

In May 1911 the company arrived in San Antonio, where Villalongín had contracted to perform at the Teatro Aurora for nine months. The theater, a converted saloon, occupied the second floor of a building at 113 South Santa Rosa Avenue. The first performance, on May 22, 1911, featured the first three acts of Chucho el Roto, a drama in five acts and an epilogue by the Mexican dramatist Antonio Fuentes. The initial nine-month residency at the Teatro Aurora met with such success that the company continued to work there for a year and a half. The troupe had expected to return to Coahuila, after completing its agreement at the Aurora, but the Mexican Revolution made Carlos Villalongín, his family, and several other actors decide to remain in San Antonio. Upon his arrival in town or shortly thereafter, Villalongín formed a partnership with Carlos Saldaña. Their venture was called "Compañía Lírico-Dramática Villalongín y Saldaña," and Saldaña had the leading role in performances on May 22 and 23, 1911. By September 30, 1911, however, Saldaña's name no longer appeared on the company's broadsides. In 1911 or 1912 the Compañía Villalongín merged with the Compañía Juan B. Padilla and took a long-term engagement at the new Teatro Zaragoza, which was owned by Sam Lucchese. The Compañía Villalongín worked with the Compañía Padilla in San Antonio for about five years, but it continued to tour occasionally under its own name.

Villalongín prided himself on establishing the practice in San Antonio of presenting a full-length drama in a single evening, with no incidental entertainment. He wanted to educate and entertain his audiences with performances that were moral, emotionally and intellectually rich, and suitable for entire families. The success of his company produced a demand for high-quality performances in Spanish-language theater not only among Spanish-speaking audiences, but also in Anglo, Italian, and other communities. The troupe gave performances in Brownsville in 1913, in Elmendorf in 1916, and in several other South Texas communities before dispersing in 1924. Villalongín, though he officially retired from professional acting in 1924, continued to direct and produce performances for charity and religious causes until shortly before his death in 1936. See also MEXICAN-AMERICAN THEATER.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

John W. Brokaw, "The Repertory of a Mexican-American Theatrical Troupe: 1849–1924," Latin American Theatre Review 8 (Fall 1974). Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company Collection, 1848–1945, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin. Elizabeth C. Ramírez, Footlights across the Border: A History of Spanish-Language Professional Theatre on the Texas Stage (New York: Lang, 1990).

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Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Elizabeth C. Ramírez, "CARLOS VILLALONGIN DRAMATIC COMPANY," accessed August 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kkc01.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 17, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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