Volume 7, Issue 1 (Spring 2018)
Welcome to the Spring 2018 issue of The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review!
This issue focuses upon seventeenth century Spain and France, with closing nods to eighteenth century and contemporary French theatre. We begin with Ben Gunter and Kerry Wilks and Samuel (Chip) Worthington’s differing translations of Francisco Bernardo de Quirós’s Spanish Golden Age entremés El muerto. Long-time readers of The Mercurian will remember Oliver Mayer’s contemporary, street-wise translation/adaptations of Miguel Cervantes’ entremeses Dirty Fraud, The Widowed Pimp, and The Divorce Court Judge (Vol. 3, No. 2 Fall 2010). As their introduction describes, Gunter and Wilks/Worthington’s respective translations of El muerto, Better Wed Than Dead and Dead or Wed, are the result of different approaches to theatrical translation. Gunter’s Better Wed Than Dead was created for presentation by his theatre company Theatre with a Mission (TWAM) and, as such, its translation choices are primarily driven by performance considerations including the original performance context, the strengths and limitations of the acting company, and touring considerations, among others. The translation choices made in Wilks/Worthington’s Dead or Wed, in contrast, are primarily driven by dramaturgical research that uncovered lost stage directions and undocumented textual variants of the published Spanish script that influenced their translation. While their points of departure are different, both Gunter and Wilks/Worthington are seeking theatrically viable translations of the same entremés. Publishing them side by side here for the first time provides readers with a fascinating look at two different kinds of theatrical translation and demonstrates that historical and textual analysis, as well as performance considerations, are all essential components in the process of theatrical translation.
The issue continues with Mechele Leon’s Molière at Versailles, a translation/adaptation that combines Molière’s one-act Impromptu at Versailles and his comedie-ballet The Imaginary Invalid into a single piece of theatre. Having dramaturged David Ball’s adaptation of Imaginary Invalid, directed by Dominique Serrand, for PlayMakers Repertory Company in 2012, I was particularly intrigued by Leon’s approach here. The Mercurian has always taken a big-tent approach towards distinctions between translation and adaptation, preferring to focus upon what works in practice. Leon’s introduction describes how her transformation of Impromptu at Versailles into “The Rehearsal” and The Imaginary Invalid into “The Hypochondriac” creates two halves mutually dependent upon each other for a new whole. Her Molière at Versailles investigates historical, cultural, and dramaturgical aspects of Molière’s original texts, making them legible to contemporary audiences in new ways.
Molière at Versailles is followed by Jonathan Marks’ translation of Molière’s The Learned Ladies. Like his own earlier translation of The Imaginary Invalid, Marks’ translation of The Learned Ladies was made for his own production of the play at Texas Tech University. As he describes in his introduction, he set both himself and his designers “the task of creating a world that never was, blending elements of the here and now, the seventeenth century in France, and anything in between, or in the future or on another planet.” This leads Marks to foreground, rather than disguise, the fictional, familiar, and fabulous nature of Molière’s world, creating an analogous experience for us to that of Molière’s own seventeenth-century French audience.
The issue concludes with two book reviews, Daniel Smith’s review of Tom Weber’s translation of Pierre de Marivaux’s The Beau’s Lesson, and Amelia Parenteau’s review of Contemporary French Plays, edited and translated by Chris Campbell. Smith, whose own translation of Marivaux’s Love in Disguise appeared in The Mercurian (Vol.4, No. 2 Spring 2012), places Weber’s translation of Marivaux’s Le Petit-maître corrigé into the larger context of translations of Marivaux’s theatre in general. Parenteau, whose own translation of contemporary French playwright Alain Foix’s The Last Scene appeared in The Mercurian (Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2016), describes in her review how Campbell’s collection of four plays gives us a glimpse of the breadth of theatre written and produced in France today.
Back issues of The Mercurian can be found at: https://the-mercurian.com/.
As the theatre is nothing without its audience, The Mercurian welcomes your comments, questions, complaints, and critiques. Deadline for submissions for consideration for Volume 7, No. 2 (Fall 2018) will be October 1, 2018.