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DRAMA 307 Drama RICHARD PAUL KNOWLES A year that sees the publication of no less than six new plays by George F. Walker, three by Jason Sherman, two each by Daniel Macivor, Maureen Hrmter, and Guillermo Verdecchia (one coauthored), and one by each of JudithThompson, Joan MacLeod, and DjanetSears can't be all bad. Masked by that good news, however, is a production and publication situation for new writers, for experimental work, for Theatre for Young Audiences, for radio and screen plays, and for plays in translation, that is considerably less encouraging. (This review does not take into account the republications by Playwrights Canada and Talon of a number of important scripts from the now-defunct Coach House list and elsewhere, nor does it consider a number of chapbook publications of scripts available on order through Playwrights Canada's important PUC Play Service, and listed in their catalogue.) The most unusual volume of newly published work (for the most part), and ofwork :in translation, is Leonard E. Doucette's historical collection, The Drama ofOur Past: Major Plays from Nineteenth-Century Quebec (University of Toronto Press, 328, $24.95), which represents the first publication in English of five historically important plays, plus five short paratheatrical political satires from the daily press (the so-called 'Status Quo Comedies'), all translated, edited, introduced, and usefully contextualized by Doucette as products of carefully located historical and cultural moments ranging from 1803 to 1865. The plays, all written by men, are published in chronological order, encouraging the reader to construct traditionalist narratives of historical development that Doucette's contextualizing apparatus reinforces. But for this reader the most interesting connections within the volume emanate from its literal and figurative centre,.Pierre Petitclair's A Countn; Outing. This very odd, somewhat unpleasant, and neglected little play is by the same author as The Donation, the second play in the collection, a sentimental melodramatic romance - Tartuffe without the bite or complexity. It also shares a theme- the aping of English styles in fashionable nineteenth-century Quebec society- with the first play in the volume, Joseph Quesnel's Anglomania, which Petitclair has been wrongly accused of plagiarizing. Finally, it anticipates, :in the dedication of the proceedings of its first production in 1857 to the construction of a commemorative monument to the battle of Sainte-Foy, the subject of the collection's final play, Archibald Cameron ofLocheill, an anonymous adaptation of Aubert de Gaspe's novel Les Anciens Canadiens. All three plays, moreover, deal with the still-familiar topic of English-French relations within Canada, with Archibald Cameron ultimately aligning the Scots with the French Canadians in a shared perception of English treachery. And like Anglomania and 308 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Archibald Cameron, A Country Outing shares this focus on English-French relations with what is arguably the best play in the collection, Louis Frechette's Felix Poutre, about the Papineau rebellion of 1837 and based on a popular memoir published by a participant. Doucette's title, of course, quite deliberately raises questions of whom its first-person plural pronoun refers to, and thereby extends the debate about relationships between francophones and anglophones into the 1990s, as does his selection of further readings, which are overwhelmingly dominated by Englishlanguage texts. But the publication of this collection makes available for study in English a range of material, some of which has been hitherto difficult to find even in French, that can only enhance cross-cultural understanding, in however limited a way. Sadly, and astonishingly, Doucette's book is the only publication of Quebec plays in translation to appear in 1997. (The partial exception to this is the first single-volume publication of Robert Lepage and Marie Brassard's Polygraph by Methuen Drama, in England [56, $16.99]. The multilingual Polygraph has been previously published in English c ·anada on three occasions, however (never in Quebec): in Canadian Theatre Review, the CTR Anthology, and, in a radically different version, volume 2 of the second edition of Jerry Wasserman 's Modern Canadian Plays. The film version is still more radically different from any of the published versions. It is the Wasserman version that is used by Methuen. All published versions are translations...


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pp. 307-328
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