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Chekhov for the 21st Century. Carol Apollonio and Angela Brintlinger, eds. Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2012, 247–67.       The Cherry Orchard in the Twenty-First Century: New Adaptations and Versions Ronald Meyer In  his  survey  of  “The  Cherry  Orchard  in  English,”  published  eighty  years  after   the   play’s   first   performance,   Andrew   Durkin   writes   that   “there   have   been   more   than   a   dozen   translations”   of   the   play   into   English.1  The   astonishing   number  of  new  English  translations  and  versions  of  the  play  since  the  publi-­‐‑ cation   of   Durkin’s   article   clearly   shows   that   Chekhov   remains   the   foreign   playwright   translated   most   often   for   the   English-­‐‑speaking   theater.   A   half-­‐‑ dozen  new  versions  or  adaptations,  as  opposed  to  translations,  of  Chekhov’s   last  play  have  been  given  their  first  performance  since  the  anniversary  year  of   2004   and   published   in   book   form.   These   are   in   addition   to   at   least   six   new   volumes  of  translations  of  Chekhov’s  selected,  collected,  and  complete  plays   over  the  past  decade  and  a  half.2  My  purpose  here  is  to  survey  the  new  ver-­‐‑ sions  by  leading  English-­‐‑language  playwrights  and  adaptors  (Tom  Donaghy,   Tom  Stoppard,  Tom  Murphy,  Mike  Poulton,  and  Andrew  Upton)  as  well  as   the  translation  by  Curt  Columbus  (Associate  Artistic  Director  of  Steppenwolf   Theatre   in   Chicago   when   his   translation   of   the   Four   Major   Plays   was   pub-­‐‑ lished).3   My   focus   is   on   the   work   of   people   in   the   theater   as   opposed   to                                                                                                                             1  Andrew  R.  Durkin,  “The  Cherry  Orchard  in  English:  An  Overview,”  Yearbook  of  Com-­‐‑ parative  and  General  Literature  33  (1984):  74–82.   2  Anton   Chekhov,   4   Plays   and   3   Jokes,   trans.   Sharon   Marie   Carnicke   (Indianapolis:   Hackett  Publishing,  2009);  Plays,  trans.  Peter  Carson  (London:  Penguin  Classics,  2002);   The  Essential  Plays,  trans.  Michael  Henry  Heim  (New  York:  Modern  Library,  2003);  The   Plays,  trans.  Paul  Schmidt  (New  York:  HarperPerennial,  1997);  Complete  Plays,  trans.   Laurence  Senelick  (New  York:  Norton  Critical  Edition,  2007);  Five  Plays,  trans.  Marina   Brodskaya  (Stanford,  CA:  Stanford  University  Press,  2011).   3  Anton   Chekhov,   The   Cherry   Orchard   by   Anton   Chekhov,   adapted   by   Tom   Donaghy   from  the  literal  translation  by  Ronald  Meyer  (New  York:  Broadway  Play  Publishing,   2006),  first  produced  by  the  Atlantic  Theatre  Company  in  June  2005;  The  Cherry  Or-­‐‑ chard,  adapted  by  Tom  Stoppard  from  a  literal  translation  by  Helen  Rappaport  (New   York:  Grove  Press,  2009),  first  performed  at  the  Brooklyn  Academy  of  Music,  January   2009,  a  collaboration  of  the  Bridge  Project  Chekhov;  Cherry  Orchard,  adapted  by  Tom   Murphy  from  two  literal  translations  by  Chris  Heany  (1998)  and  Patrick  Miles  (2000)   (London:  Methuen  Drama,  2004),  first  performed  at  the  Abbey  Theatre,  Dublin,  on  17   March   2004;   The   Cherry   Orchard,   in   a   new   version   by   Michael   Poulton   (New   York:   Samuel   French   Ltd.,   2008),   first   performed   in   October   2007   at   the   Mold   Theatre,   248 RONALD MEYER academia.  In  particular,  I  want  to  consider  the  multiple  ways  of  reading  and   translating  a  play,  whether  the  goal  be  a  reading  text  that  scrupulously  fol-­‐‑ lows   the   original—without   consideration   of   performability—or   whether   the   work  is  being  translated  specifically  for  performance—not  to  mention  all  the   gradations  that  lie  between  these  poles.     The   authors   of   the   texts   I   have   chosen   to   discuss,   save   Columbus,   are   working   either   from   specially   commissioned   literal   translations   or   earlier   published   translations—a   very   common   practice   now   when   it   comes   to   Chekhov  on  the  stage.  Early  translations  of  Chekhov  for  the  stage  were  com-­‐‑ missioned   from   translators   who   knew   the   Russian   language   and   culture,   though  they  were  not  necessarily  conversant  with  the  language  of  the  stage.   That  this  has  become  more  of  a  disadvantage  over  time  can  be  gleaned  from   an  appraisal  in  the  Encyclopedia  of  Literary  Translation  into  English  of  the  major   publications  from  1912  through  1964:     Fell’s  translations  of  the  plays  (1912)  show  how  much  matters  have   improved  over  time.  They  are  full  of  errors  and  sound  unnatural  but   are   of   some   historical   importance.   […]   Garnett’s   translations   of   the   plays   (1922–23)   are   certainly   serviceable   despite   mistakes   and   fre-­‐‑ quent   awkwardness,   and   many   readers   are   devoted   to   them.   Fen’s   translation   (1951)   can   be   considered   superseded.   It   is   plodding   and   yet  not  faithful:  she  tends  to  cut  the  text  without  warning  or  indica-­‐‑ tion.  Dunnigan  (1964)  had  a  tendency  to  be  too  literal.4     The  translations  of  Constance  Garnett,  who  singlehandedly  translated  the   entire   canon   of   nineteenth-­‐‑century   Russian   classics   and   campaigned   vigor-­‐‑ ously  to  get  Chekhov  on  the  British  stage,  are  certainly  more  accurate,  read-­‐‑ able  and  stageworthy  than  those  by  Marian  Fell  and  Elisaveta  Fen.  In  fact,  in   A   High   Art...


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