- Theaters with Borders
An unscientific survey of American Theatre’s annual season review for 1999–2000 (just released at press time) reminds us why we felt an issue of new translations was important. Theatre Communications Group’s schedule covers seventeen hundred productions at its three hundred constituent nonprofit regional theaters, in all fifty states. But by our count, there are only nine productions of new translations (of any play, old or new, into English) and only twenty-six productions of new adaptations (defined as a play created with alterations from a foreign-language poem, novel, or drama, into English—which eliminated the forty-seven versions of A Christmas Carol). Our tally doesn’t include children’s theater, which derserves serious attention, but of a different sort.
Most of these new translations and adaptations are of Chekhov, or Molière, or the Greeks; there are almost none of new (or even contemporary) playwrights. New versions of the classics are always a welcome prospect, of course—but where are the new plays from Europe, Japan, Latin America, and Russia (to name a few)? Not on these stages. The most adventurous theater in this country isn’t done in the resident theaters, which are the closest thing we have to official national theater institutions. (Small theaters and festivals aren’t members of TCG.) But our utter isolation from theater in other parts of the world is clear enough; there’s a lot we’re ignoring outside our national borders, beyond the edges of the map.
Tom Sellar is associate editor of Theater. He has contributed to TheatreForum, P-Form, the New Novel Review, and other publications.