Welcome to the Fall 2015 issue of The Mercurian. The contents of this issue represent the results of a number of ongoing relationships and collaborations related to theatrical translation that I have engaged in over the past few years. The issue begins with Andy Bragen and Kyoko Yoshida’s co-translation of Shu Matsui’s Proud Son. Commissioned by Joan Robbins, Artistic Director of Ohio Northern University’s International Play Festival, the translation has its genesis in the Theatrical Translation as Creative Process: A Conference Festival I co-organized here at the University of North Carolina and Duke University in 2012. Bragen and Yoshida’s earlier co-translation of Yukiko Motoya’s Vengeance Can Wait (previously published in Vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall 2008) of The Mercurian) was given a staged reading there. Robbins and Bragen met in Chapel Hill and began to lay the groundwork for the project at Ohio Northern. Subsequently director Desdemona Chiang, who has directed several times for both our professional company, PlayMakers Repertory Company, and for our Summer Youth Conservatory, was brought on as director. Matsui’s Proud Son is a playful and absurdist depiction of the Japanese phenomenon of hikikomori, in which someone, typically an adolescent male, chooses to isolate himself from the world. The translation itself is preceded by an introduction in which Robbins (as dramaturg), Bragen, Yoshida, and Chiang collectively reflect upon the challenges of cultural transference of theatre, the process of co-translation, and the difficulties encountered in developing the piece with student actors.
The issue continues with Oliver Mayer’s Blood Match, a refashioning of Federico García Lorca’s Blood Wedding for the present day. The Mercurian readers will be familiar with Mayer’s earlier translation/adaptations of Miguel Cervantes entremeses Dirty Fraud, The Widowed Pimp, and The Divorce Court Judge for a contemporary Los Angeles audience, published in the Vol. 3, No. 2 (Fall 2010) issue. As Eric Mayer-García discusses in his introduction to Blood Match, “El grito de la seguiriya ranchera: Roots of Lorca’s Theatre in Oliver Mayer’s Blood Match,” Mayer does something similar here as he moves Lorca’s play across “time, culture, and language” from 1930s Andalusia, Spain to twenty-first century Sinaloa, Mexico.
Next comes Thomas Simpson’s translation of Saverio La Ruina’s controversial play Dust. Simpson was also present at the Theatrical Translation as Creative Process: A Conference Festival in 2012 and his translation of Marco Martinelli’s Noise in the Waters was published in the Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring 2012) issue of The Mercurian. Simpson’s introduction discusses the challenge of finding an English style of speech that in the source text “presents itself as innocent and candid but is in fact loaded with violence.” Simpson also discusses the dual reception the play has received from both Italian and English-speaking audiences. Dust was developed in consultation with women who were victims of domestic abuse. When performed at Italian Women’s Shelters and anti-violence centers for men who have been perpetrators of violence those audiences have been quite receptive and praised the way that the play depicted “the dynamics at work in violent couple relationships.” When performed for more general audiences, however, the play has been condemned for perpetuating and condoning those relationships on stage. Readers here have the opportunity to make their own decisions regarding the play.
The issue concludes with Daniel Jáquez’ translation of the contemporary Mexican playwright Alejandro Ricaño’s Pork Kidneys to Soothe Despair. As Jáquez describes the play it is “A dark comedy. Paris 1940s. Fact and fiction intertwine to tell a story of complicated love, artistic obsession and murder. Gustave, a fan of Joyce’s Ulysses, is an unsuccessful writer; Marie is undeniably in love with him. Together they stalk Samuel Beckett to protect him and ensure that his masterpiece Waiting for Godot is completed.” I first encountered this funny and touching play during the Trans (re) lation Convening, a joint event of the Theatre in Translation Network, The Fence, and The Lark at the O’Neill Theatre Center in January 2015 when Jáquez asked me to play Gustave in a staged reading of the translation.
Back issues of The Mercurian can be found at: http://drama.unc.edu/related-links/the-mercurian/ or in the Index. As the theatre is nothing without its audience, The Mercurian welcomes your comments, questions, complaints, and critiques. Deadline for submissions for consideration for Volume 6, No. 1 (Spring 2016) will be February 1, 2016.
Neil Blackadder, Knox College
Catherine Coray, hotINK at the LARK/New York University
Richard Davis, George Mason University/Theater of the First Amendment
Jean Graham-Jones, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York
David Johnston, Queen’s University, Belfast, N. Ireland
Kirsten Nigro, The University of Texas-El Paso
Caridad Svich, Playwright/Translator
Paul Walsh, Yale School of Drama