Welcome to the Spring 2021 issue of The Mercurian! The global pandemic and calls for racial justice have made this a difficult year on many different levels. The year’s challenges underscore how imperative cultural understanding, whether within national boundaries or between them, is to the creation of equitable relationships. Theatrical translation has a role to play in that process, and I hope the four plays and one book review in this issue help us move toward that goal.
We begin with Michael Overstreet’s translation of Algerian playwright Amira-Géhanne Khalfallah’s play Woven. As Overstreet describes in his introduction, Woven investigates traditional gender roles by weaving together the thematic threads of death and marriage while criticizing them by means of a strange, oneiric dramaturgical approach that leads us to question the nature of the characters, their traditions, and their context.
Woven is followed by Željko Maksimović’s translation of Serbian playwright Filip Grujić’s play eben byers jaw. The Mercurian published Maksimović’s co-translation, with Cory Tammler, of Bosnian playwright Tanja Sljivar’s play We Are The Ones Our Parents Warned Us About in Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall 2018). eben byers jaw deals with events surrounding the “Radium Girls,” young women who got radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint at factories in New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut between 1917-1926. Their story has been told in books and a Netflix film in the U.S. Grujić takes this piece of U.S. history and renders it in his own particular style employing prose poem monologues, pop culture, and movement.
eben byers jaw is followed by Fiona Bell’s translation of Russian playwright Olga Ezhova’s play Sisters. In Sisters Ezhova satirizes members of RadFem, a Russian radical feminist group, as she questions what might and might not diminish the strength of the broader feminist movement. As Bell describes in her introduction, in the process Ezhova creates her own personal lexicon combining aspects of Russian, Sanskrit, and Japanese posing a translation challenge for Bell that she meets well.
Phyllis Zatlin’s translation of the Spanish playwrights Amaranta Osorio and Itziar Pascual’s play Little Girl My Little Girl rounds out the plays in this issue. Long time readers of The Mercurian will be familiar with Zatlin’s translation of French and Spanish playwrights including Jean Bouchard’s Is That How It Was?, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2007); Carlos Semprun-Maura’s Brandy Blues, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Spring 2009); Francisco Nieva’s It’s Not True, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Spring 2011); and Antonio Muñoz de Mesa’s Policy, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Spring 2015). Here Zatlin’s translation gives us a play that juxtaposes the creation of art in the Terezin Concentration Camp between 1942-1945 against the tribulations of a young contemporary French entomologist. Both are transformed by the light of fireflies.
The issue concludes with Beverly Curran’s review of Aragorn Quinn’s book, Performing the Politics of Translation in Modern Japan. As Curran explicates for us, Quinn’s book explores how the translation of imported terms like “liberty” and “revolution” has shaped the history of Japanese politics and performance.
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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 8, No. 3 Fall 2021 will be September 15, 2021.