Volume 9, Issue 1 (Spring 2022)
Welcome to the Spring 2022 issue of The Mercurian! As Spring blossoms here in North Carolina and the global pandemic, barring any significant new variants, seems to be on the wane, I hope this new issue of The Mercurian brings joy and light as you explore the worlds these playwrights and translators have crafted.
The issue begins with Atar J. Hadari’s translation of Marat Parkhomovsky’s Hebrew one-act play 1948 that explores, both historically and currently, the effects of actions taken by both Palestinian and Jewish armed groups in 1948 that partitioned land, erased Palestinian villages, and led to the creation of the state of Israel. Israel’s “War of Independence” is the Palestinian Nakba or “disaster” and never the twain shall meet. In his introduction Haradi discusses the issues involved in translating not only a politically charged text, but one that attempts to turn an historical analysis of 1948 into a theatrically viable text in English for an audience not necessarily well versed the historical and/or cultural events of 1948.
1948 is followed by Biljana Ktanovska’s translation of Macedonian playwright Sasho Ognenovskii’s play Citadel. Ognenovskii’s play, with its absurd aspects, places a seemingly random group of people in a brand-new hotel at the top of a mountain during a heavy snowstorm. With lingering elements of a who-done-it, Citadel brings all the characters together at the end of the play for the classic revelation of the murderer, only to make clear that the question to be solved is not the homicide but the nature of existence itself.
Next comes Marc Silberman’s translation of German playwright Thomas Köck’s play atlas. Commissioned for the thirtieth anniversary of the Leipzig protests of 1989 that anticipated the fall of the Wall, atlas delves into a multi-generational history of “socialist solidarity” in which thousands of Vietnamese, primarily women, were brought to East Germany to work in factories where they were kept isolated from the rest of the population and where pregnancy, amongst other offenses such as interaction with the locals, meant swift deportation back to Vietnam. Slilberman’s introduction discusses several translation issues that he encountered, including the lack of punctuation or capitalization in Köck’s text, its visual appearance on the page, and the incorporation of Vietnamese and English into the original play, along with his solutions for his American English translation.
atlas is followed by Doug Zschiegner’s translation/adaptation of the nineteenth century French playwright Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac into CyranA. Zschiegner has both shortened the length of Rostand’s classic play and swapped the gender of the play’s main characters, as well as many others. CyranA (Cyrano) and Christiane (Christian) are now women and Robin (Roxanne) a man. While the adaptation is done with the laudable goal of increasing the number of robust classical roles for women, it also raises a number of questions regarding gender roles and identity when the characters’ behavior has not been altered from that of Rostand’s original. As Zschiegner puts it, “How would women behave in an entirely female power structure where there’s no culture of deferring to men? And what would men be like in a world without inherent, systemic privilege? Our title character combines wit, aggression, self-less dedication, literary and military skills, and panache—but has one enormous self-esteem problem.How does this imagined past resonate today?” Readers can decide for themselves if the adapted text itself provides the answers, or if further directorial exploration of the gender dynamics inherent in the play would be necessary when producing this adaptation.
This issue concludes, serendipitously, with another interpretation of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, LuisDa Molina Rueda’s translation of Argentine playwright Guillermo Baldo’s The Girl Who Was Cyrano. As Molina Rueda describes in his introduction to the translation, Baldo’s play for children and adults alike reworks Rostand’s Cyrano and Roxanne into two young girls, Valentina and Roxi, who become inseparable. When Roxi discovers Valentina one day exploring her gender identity by wearing her brother’s clothes, Roxi falls in love with the boy that she thinks Valentina is and, as in Rostand’s play, they exchange a series of letters exploring their new relationship. Baldo’s children’s play creates an LGTQIA+ love story that sweetly upends the heteronormative structure of Rostand’s original while simultaneously paying it homage.
Back issues of The Mercurian can be found at under the “Archives” tab on our website: 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 9, No. 2 Fall 2022 will be September 15, 2022.