Congratulations on your debut. What a blessing! No longer will I have to rely on the single pages of Time, Newsweek, and New York magazine, or piece together the random press releases of the daily newspapers for theatrical news. Finally a “national geographic” for the American theatre has come to the rescue.
New York City
American Theatre greets me across time and space and assures me that the American theatre is very much alive and kicking—and reminds me of the old days when Theatre Arts, in its own time and manner, was doing the same thing. Cheers and good luck.
Past president, International Theatre Institute Worldwide, and former editor, Theatre Arts Monthly
James Leverett posed some important and provoking questions in his article on Twyla Tharp (April ’84) and the disparity between “theatre of the world” and the “world of the theatre.” Here in Spain, I find the theatrical pulse less in the theatre than in the streets—festivals, flamenco, satirical revues and a carnival that was an unforgettable communal experience. The article articulates a strange but true phenomenon.
I was to disappointed to read that Lanford Wilson (April ’84), who seems to have been quite conscientious in approaching his translation of The Three Sisters, maintains the old exclusionary line: foreign classics can only be rendered by playwrights. Exactly. But doesn’t he realize that the translator-playwright is a theatre artist in his own right? The playwrights have their own work, but unhappily they want it all—out the window goes the mutual respect that should be the fellowship of art.
White Plains, N.Y.
I want to be one of many to let you know how handsome and intelligent the first issue of American Theatre is. I also cannot let the opportunity of raising one question go by. Is the Brecht poem (Centerstage, April ’84) a translation? If so, shouldn’t the translator receive some recognition? As a translator, I still worry about such things.
Director, Literature Program
New York State Council on the Arts
Editor’s Note: Our omission. “On Everyday Theatre” was translated by Edith Anderson, one of 35 translators whose work is included in John Willett and Ralph Manheim’s landmark collection Bertolt Brecht Poems 1913-1956.
In an essay called “Coming Home” (Theatre Communications, Jan. ’84), Martha W. Coigney, director of the International Theatre Institute of the U.S., calls for more creative interchange among the theatre communities of America and the rest of the world. I should like to offer another view on the subject, based on my work here in France.
Europe has a tradition of interest in other cultures. On the other hand, to most Anglo-Saxons, other cultures seem either quaint (a good place to get cheap folk art) or unreal and vaguely dangerous (Agatha Christie’s “dark foreigner,” always the prime suspect). Most young Americans who spend a year studying in France hardly touch the world of the French; many rarely speak French outside their classrooms. Most Americans living abroad for business purposes stick socially to their own community of peers and hang onto an attitude of thoroughgoing superiority to their foreign surroundings. Europeans are sharing active cultural exchange, and even the uneducated have a genuine interest in the problems and opinions of other nationals. I believe it is due to the U.S. national characteristic of self-interest, the basic U.S. socio-political orientation, that very few American theatre people care what is happening currently in the theatres of other countries.
This self-interest and related competitiveness are not truly enriching. I disagree with Coigney’s assertion that “our most inventive theatre intelligences” are nurtured and cradled in other countries. The U.S. abounds with creative, working theatre people who never left home. But even if the assertion were true, why should it be “embarrassing”? Why should the U.S. be ambitious to be “the most exciting theatre community in the world”? Us and Them, the competitive instinct. It is out of place in any art form. What is done in art exists for itself, not to put anybody up or to put anybody down.
The overblown self-centeredness, the obsessive competitiveness that infects all aspects of life in America—and reaches even into the roots of personal relationships—makes everything foreign seem threatening, everything un-American seem evil, or at least unimportant. This must be thrown off or all possibility of creative interchange and its consequent stimulus to growth is suffocated.
Director, Atelier Theatre Bilingue, Theatre Program in France
American Theatre welcomes comments from its readers. Write to the Editor, care of Theatre Communications Group, 355 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10017.
Support American Theatre: a just and thriving theatre ecology begins with information for all. Please join us in this mission by making a donation to our publisher, Theatre Communications Group. When you support American Theatre magazine and TCG, you support a long legacy of quality nonprofit arts journalism. Click here to make your fully tax-deductible donation today!