As the summer heat and humidity begins to descend upon North Carolina, welcome to the unavoidably delayed Spring 2016 issue of The Mercurian. The issue begins with Karen Rosenbecker’s new translation/adaptation of Aristophanes’ Wealth. As she describes in her introduction, Wealth, while quite popular with both Jacobean and Victorian audiences, has largely been neglected by modern theatre practitioners and scholars interested in Aristophanes’ work. With its emphasis on income inequality Wealth is particularly timely for our current presidential race in which a wealthy businessman with no previous governmental experience has captured the Republican Party’s nomination. Rosenbecker’s version of Aristophanes’ comedy also transposes it to a contemporary New Orleans still grappling with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 Recession, and the consequences of both in widening the gap between rich and poor in the city.
The issue continues with Amelia Parenteau’s translation of Alain Foix’s The Last Scene. The play is a poetic and musical exploration of Martin Luther King’s influence on Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia activist and journalist currently serving a contested sentence of life without parole for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer. Foix’s play explores the connection between Mumia and MLK through a series of conversations between Mumia and the widowed Coretta Scott King. I first came into contact with Foix’s work during the Translation (Re)Convening of The Fence, The Lark and TINT (Theatre in Translation) at the O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, CT in January 2015. Both Parenteau and Foix were in attendance and The Last Scene received its first workshop readings there.
The Last Scene is followed by Catherine Styles’ fresh and highly theatrical new translation of Jean Racine’s classic Phaedra. Racine’s alexandrine rhyme scheme is always a challenge for English translation that doesn’t share French’s natural ability to rhyme. Consequently, Styles employs what she describes as a “relaxed iambic pentameter” creating in the process, to my mind, a successful mode for conveying Racine’s unbridled passion and tragic power.
The Mercurian has always welcomed not only translations of plays and performance pieces themselves, but also production histories of theatrical translation. Phaedra is followed by Sara Freeman’s article (reprinted from Theatre Historiography.org) “Researching and Directing Guillén de Castro’s The Force of Habit”, which describes Freeman and her dramaturg Hannah Ferguson’s approach to directing this Spanish Golden Age Comedia for a contemporary audience in Kathleen Jeffs’ translation. Not only is it a fascinating production history in and of itself, but Freeman’s direction of Jeffs’ translation also returns us to the early days of The Mercurian when Jeffs’ article “The Evolution of Translation Values from Pre-Production through Rehearsal” appeared in Vol. 1, No. 4 (Spring 2008).
The issue concludes with Will Harrington’s book review of the collection (A)pollonia: Twenty-First-Century Polish Drama and Texts for the Stage. Several collections of contemporary Polish drama have recently been published and we hope to review them in future issues of The Mercurian.
Back issues of The Mercurian can be found at: http://drama.unc.edu/related-links/the-mercurian/ or 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. 2 (Fall 2016) will be August 30, 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