Welcome to the Spring 2019 issue of The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review! This issue contains translations of plays from Mexico, Indonesia, and China; as well as two book reviews, all of which present unique aspects of theatrical translation.
The issue opens with Jacqueline Bixler’s translation of the Mexican playwright Alejandro Ricaño’s play, Hotel Good Luck. Both Bixler and Ricaño’s work have appeared previously in The Mercurian, with Bixler’s translation of Emilio Carballido’s play Photograph on the Beach published in Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall 2014, and Ricaño’s play Pork Kidneys to Soothe Despair appearing in Daniel Jáquez’ translation in Vol. 5, No. 4, Fall 2015. Hotel Good Luck is another example of this contemporary Mexican playwright’s innovative theatricality. As Bixler describes in her introduction, the play is an example of what Ricaño describes as “narraturgy”—a theatrical style that relies “on the spoken word and a hybrid mix of narration and dialogue.” This dark comedy posits the existence of parallel universes where characters are dead in one reality and alive in another. All of these characteristics create a style of dramaturgy in Hotel Good Luck that might be described as sweetly absurd.
Hotel Good Luck is followed by Bryan Stubbles’ translation of Indonesian playwright Dhianita Kusuma Pertiwi’s play Night Market for Brojo, a play that shows the effects of the massacre of between 500,000—3,000,0000 supposed Indonesian Communist Party members by the military in the mid-1960s through a young boy’s loss of the experience of visiting the night market with his mother. The play somewhat resembles the working-class drama form ludruk studied by James L. Peacock in Rites of modernization: symbolic and social aspects of Indonesian proletariat drama (University of Chicago Press, 1987) in its investigation of the combination of politics and class struggle in twentieth century Indonesia.
Night Market for Brojo is followed by Junjie Jiang’s translation of Chinese playwright Guo Shixing’s play Toilet. As Jiang’s introduction makes clear, the play, which takes place in three different acts portraying three different time periods in China, presents a number of translation issues including the portrayal of historical and cultural context, urban vs. rural accents, and the suggestive, humorous and/or sarcastic nature of the characters’ names in Chinese. Readers can assess for themselves Jiang’s solutions to these issues as the play portrays a public toilet attendant’s evolution from the early 1970s to the late 1990s.
The issue concludes with two book reviews. Vladimir Zorić reviews Selected Serbian comedies, a new collection edited by Branko Mikasinovich, whose previous edited volume, Selected Serbian Plays, was reviewed in Vol. 6, No. 4, Fall 2017. Penny Black reviews Geraldine Brodie’s The Translator on Stage, an investigation of the theatrical translator’s art and position that analyzes ten productions of translations on London’s commercial and subsidized stages.
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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. 4 (Fall 201) will be October 1, 2019.