Humans like to label things, for example conveniently discreet time periods: the Age of Reason, the Year of the Dog, etc. Who knows how the 1980s will be remembered, artistically or in any other way? But for those practicing and seriously following theatre now, this could be the Decade of Translation. Not that there hasn’t been lively commerce in that area throughout the history of the art. Roman theatre is to a great degree a translation from the Greek. Shakespeare might have had “small Latin and less Greek,” but he spent his career adapting sources from both, as well as early English.
At present, though, the matter seems to be receiving particular attention. The monthly theatre production schedules routinely show not only many translated works but many new American translations. Everywhere, in theatre and out, translators are asserting themselves as especially skilled technicians and, often, as artists in their own right. As a result, bridges are being built to link cultures and languages in the theatre. Theatre Communications Group’s Hispanic Translation Project is one such bridge. The following describes some others.
The West German organization Inter Nationes’ pilot program called “Translations of Theatre Works of Modern German Authors” has been in existence since 1982. Through it one may apply to have Inter Nationes fund a literal translation of a play. For approval of the application, it is necessary that the rights to the play be held by a publisher (who generally serves the additional function of agent for the playwright) in the Federal Republic of West Germany, that the play already be produced and that it has received some acclaim, for example by winning a prize. So far, translations into English, French and Italian have been made of four plays by Tankred Dorst, Ludwig Fels, Friederike Roth and Botho Strauss. Nine other translations have been approved by Inter Nationes. Application forms are available by writing Inter Nationes e. V., Referat Buch R 3/33, Kennedyallee 91-103, D-5300 Bonn 2, West Germany.
Under the co-directorship of the two noted translator/scholars Daniel C. Gerould and Alma H. Law, the Institute for Contemporary East European Drama and Theatre, a part of the Center for Advanced Study in Theatre Arts (CASTA), publishes translations and other valuable works in the field. Key to any research on drama already translated into English are the Institute’s two annotated bibliographies of Soviet and Polish plays in translation. Both contain listings of works published and in manuscript, together with brief descriptions, production and casting requirements and contact information. There are also indices and guides to translators and selected bibliographies of relevant articles and books.
The Soviet volume, compiled and edited by Law and C. Peter Goslett, includes all drama written in the Soviet Union and translated into English from 1956 to 1981. In addition, there are plays by Mikhail Bulgakov, Nikolai Erdman and Yevgenii Shvarts, authors who wrote prior to those dates but whose works have only recently gained prominence in the West. The Polish bibliography, compiled and edited by Gerould with Boleslaw Taborski, Steven Hart and Michat Kobiatka, covers plays from the period after World War II to 1983, and from earlier periods by playwrights whose work has come into prominence since 1945. Therefore, it contains plays by pre-war writers such as Tadeusz Miciński and Stanisław Witkiewicz.
Along with the bibliographies, the institute publishes scripts by Eastern European authors brought into English by translators who include Gerould, Law and Ralph Manheim. Appearing in the series thus far are Never Part from Your Loved Ones by Aleksandr Volodin; I, Mikhail Sergeevich Lunin by Edvard Radzinsky; An Altar to Himself by Ireneusz Iredynsky; Conversations with the Executioner by Kazimierz Motzarski in an adaptation by Zygmunt Hübner: The Outsider by Ignatii Dvoretsky; The Ambassador by Stawomir Mroiek; four short plays by Liudmila Petrushevskaya and The Trap by Tadeusz Rózewicż.
The scripts and the bibliographies are $5 each (postage and handling included) and may be ordered from the Institute for Contemporary Eastern European Drama and Theatre, Room 801, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 33 West 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. The Institute has also published two volumes of Polish and Soviet theatre posters and regularly holds lectures, symposia and other events.
In addition to scheduling regular readings of noteworthy contemporary plays in translation from French-speaking countries and acting as liaison between writers and other theatre artists from these countries and the U.S., the Ubu Repertory Theater publishes a script series. Appearing thus far are Swimming Pools at War by Yves Navarre, Night Just Before the Forest and Struggle of the Dogs and the Black by Bernard-Marie Koltès, The Fetishist by Michel Tournier, The Office by Jean-Paul Aron and Far from Hagondange and Vaterland by Jean-Paul Wenzel with Bernard Bloch and Deck Chairs by Madeleine Laik.
According to artistic director Françoise Kourilsky, Ubu Repertory is dedicated not only to publishing translations, but also to facilitating the production of contemporary francophone work in American theatres. Theatres considering projects that might benefit both from the organization’s many contacts with playwrights and translators, and from its scripts (which are available for purchase), should contact Ubu Repertory Theatre, 149 Mercer St., New York, NY 10012; (212) 925-0999.
Peter Flannery is the recipient of this year’s John Whiting Award for his play Our Friends in the North, which was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company at its Other Place theatre and also at The Pit theatre. Probably Great Britain’s most prestigious prize for playwrights, the award is for £2,000 (approximately $2,900).
The winner of the 1983 Unicorn Theatre National Playwright Competition is Donald Wollner’s surreal comedy about boxing, Kid Purple. The prize includes $1,000, travel and residency subsidies and a production at the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Mo.
The Drama League of New York makes at least three grants a year of $1,000 each to works-in-progress, for which the League also helps to arrange readings or workshop productions. Recipients this year include Nancy Donahue’s The Beach House, which has been scheduled as Circle Repertory Company’s second play next season; The All American Girls, Tom Cone’s musical which will receive a reading at Playwrights Horizons; and an untitled work by Gus Edwards to be read at the Negro Ensemble Company.
Four winning plays from the sixth annual Henny Penny Playwriting Contest, all with authors between 11 and 15 years old, were produced by the Children’s Radio Theatre as live radio drama broadcasts from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., during April. The young playwrights—Christian and Jason Frietag, Cindy Buchanan and Thomas C. Dickson—were brought to Washington to take part in the broadcast to public radio stations across the country.
Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament is compiling the PAND Script Catalogue to list plays of all lengths and types that support the nuclear disarmament movement, explore feelings about nuclear issues or educate people about the reasons behind and the effects of the nuclear arms race.
The catalogue will contain script synopses and other pertinent information so that authors can be contacted directly by producing organizations. Those interested in having works listed should send PAND synopses of not more than 150 words and full production information. Deadline for entry is June 1. For further information contact Trisha Arlin, PAND, 225 Lafayette St., New York, NY.
Asolo Touring Theatre is seeking adaptations of classic literature and drama to tour high schools during the 1985-86 season. Scripts should require no more than six characters and be approximately one hour in length. Up to $1,500 will be awarded for a script. For further information contact Robert G. Miller, Artistic Direc tor, Asolo Touring Theatre, Postal Drawer E, Sarasota, FL 33578; (813) 355-7115.
For information on hundreds of contests, grants, awards and other opportunities for playwrights, translators, composers, lyricists and librettists, refer to TCG’s Dramatists Sourcebook. The 1983-84 edition can be ordered for $9.95 plus postage and handling by using the order form in the back of this issue.
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